So my dear tumblrees, I’m sorry that it has been so long! There is tons to catch you up on and this will truly be a testament of my memory, let’s begin :D
Monday, May 2nd - we embarked on our journey, destination Assisi proper. Our train left super early in the morning, we all passed out, briefly woke up to take a quiz, scribbled something down, and returned to peaceful slumber. We actually figured out quite a cozy fix for the uncomfortable sleeping situation, which consisted of a criss cross leg pyramid between Russel, Sabrina and me - it was wonderful, though I’m pretty sure my next investment is a giraffe pattern airplane pillow, which shall be a train pillow and ferry pilow when we go to Greece! but more on that to come ;) We arrive in Assisi after about 2.5 hours, as I hopped off the train the first thing I saw when I looked up was the city, high up in the hills, beautiful. I will never forget walking through that main arch, into the center of town, surrounded by buildings frozen in the medieval period with the pink and white striped church of St. Claire at the end of the piazza to our left and to our right, uncharted territory, adventure!
We arrive at our hotel and meet RODNEY (yes I wrote that with a British slash Australian accent) our tour guide for the next four days. We dropped our bags off and started our first day in the lovely Assisi. We walked out of the city walls and down a stepped hill (which I vowed I would never climb, a vow I was soon forced to break, twice) down to the monastery of St. Claire. The view was breathtaking - there were olive trees growing in the field to our right, the people of the town claim that they have the finest olive oil, but then again so does every city in Italy. We walked down an earth path along the hill’s edge and stopped by a statue of St. Francis sitting cross legged and there we received our first bits of Franciscan church history. I was asked to read part of The Canticle of St. Francis aloud in Italian and was actually quite proud of the pronunciation I’ve been able to develop. We talked in that spot for a bit, then walked back to the monastery, took a quick peek inside at their courtyard, then all us starved college students demanded to be fed, well, in a growing baritone of mumbles and grumbles hahah - we ate some pizza at a little pizzeria at the bottom of the hill. We then went on to visit the cathedral dedicated to St. Francis which contained the original chapel that Francis worshipped in. Assisi is a pretty important stop for people on pilgrimage and nuns! loads. I quite enjoy seeing them. All this must be such a different experience for them, people who have dedicated their entire lives to a cause and are now seeing where it all began, rather than an American Brazilian girl ooing and ahhing at all the pretty paintings, it’s fascinating how the same experience can be so different when you factor in people. We took the bus back up the hill, and then some hidden escalators! HAH escalators can never hide from me, I live for rolly stairs J After we reached the top we said our goodbyes to Rodney for the day and since we had been walking from 9am until 5pm some of the girls and I thought it would be a great idea to explore the town (needless to say I melted into my bed that night) We walked from the main piazza down the street where I finally found a red vespa! Beautifully parked, just begging for me to hop on it and take a picture. As I was about to do so a man came out of the store and looked at us, I asked if it was his scooter and he said no but urged me to hop on it anyway, showing me that it was sturdy and wouldn’t tip over hahah. So we took a few pictures as the random stranger, non- owner of the scooter stared with a dumb smile. We continued down a bit further and then made our way back since our tummies were already thinking DINNER. As we walked out of our hotel we ran into none other than Rodney! Who was meeting up with our teacher for dinner, and after turning bright red and suffering through our ooh la la’s, he recommended a little restaurant in the piazza that was good and cheap. Dinner was wonderful, the wine was great as was the so claimed best olive oil. We then returned to our hotel rooms to take a little nap, it was only 9pm and we wanted to get a feel for the night life, maybe find an Irish pub J When we woke up at 9am! We decided our nap had been a fail but it was the best night of sleep I’d gotten in weeks so it evened out.
Our second day in Assisi was even more beautiful, we started out the day with breakfast at our professor’s hotel, and walked to the church of St. Claire. It is made of white and pink stone, which can only be found in Assisi (I found two little pieces of it by the side of the road and was super excited!) The church, like all other churches we have been to, was beautiful inside and out and it was great to have a tour guide who knew what everything meant and could explain to us the intricacies of the history depicted on its walls. We then walked over to St. Francis’ basilica and explored it in depth. The really cool thing about this place was the fact that you could make relics, secondary relics, BUT relics nonetheless, just by touching something to St. Francis’ tomb. I purchased his canticle from the cathedral, made it into a relic by touching it to the tomb, and also had it blessed by a Franciscan priest J It is probably one of my most treasured possessions right now. After the basilica, we took a bus to the highest point in Assisi, to the house of St. Francis, or one of the places in which he had lived and preached. His house was so tiny! Then again most people at that time were much shorter than they are now, though people in Italy do tend to be smaller than people from the U.S., that is one of the main differences that I’ve noticed while being here. Not only just thinner but also just smaller built, I’m not sure why. BUT we hiked around the park for a bit, and ended up resting in an area with a tiny little chapel, a few wooden benches, and nothing around us but nature and the soft chatter of birds. It was great to be able to enjoy Assisi in the way that Francis likely had. As we began our descent down the hill, I was constantly struck by how beautiful this place was, I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. Looking down on the valley and the town, the sky that perfect sapphire blue, the sun shining and surrounded by great company – the walk down the hill actually turned out to be one of my favorite things J About two thirds of the way down, a tourist bus filled with jolly old Italians stopped for us to see if we wanted a ride to the bottom – I was stoked! It was like they hadn’t ever seen young foreigners before because they were so happy to have us aboard! We waved them goodbye at the bottom and hung out there for a bit while we waited for the rest of the group who walked down to catch up. While waiting, I took a few steps away from the group and saw a double rainbow! Two arches surrounding the sun, making it look like a beautiful gigantic eye, as if God were literally looking down on me, or at least that’s what I told myself J When as the rest of the group started catching up we split yet again into those who wanted to rest and those still looking for adventure, you can probably guess which one I belonged to – I mean it was either sleep or getting to climb inside a castle! So we climbed yet again, up another hill, inching closer and closer to the huge stone structure I had caught a glimpse of that first day from the train station. It was just as awesome as it sounds – A CASTLE! Looking out over the entire town and valley below, with its huge stone walls piercing the sky, and there I was right on top of it. Due to my lovely fear of heights however, I only stayed on the tower for a little while then had to climb back down and appreciate the view from below. After exploring every nook and cranny, we headed back down, singing and giggling as American tourists do. Sabrina, Susie and I then finished up our trip in the most perfect way I thought possible. We walked around town in search of a restaurant for a quiet dinner looking out over the twinkling valley. We sat down and gave our order to the waiter, a few minutes later an older woman from a nearby table came over to us with a great big smile on her face and began speaking to us in English, super excited because she had originally thought we were Italian and was happy to find people to talk to. We invited her to have dinner with us and spent the rest of the night talking, sharing food and drinking wine until the restaurant closed. Her name was Elizabeth and she was traveling through Italy as a gift from her kids for her 65th birthday; this was her first time out of the country and I was so proud of her courage to come alone. We said good bye to Assisi the next morning as we continued our journey North to Florence.
(I know it’s taking me forever to recount all my adventures - I’m in Europe, there are distractions, give me a break MOM! <3)