We’ve been home for a month now and despite my best efforts, there is no more time to write about our trip to Italy. Instead, these are my notes and reflections of our remaining days in Assisi and Rome in Italy.
We boarded a train for Assisi and found our way down the tracks for two hours.
We arrived under a sprinkle of rain and looked out the window to see the city of Assisi resting on a hill. The city looked like something from a textbook.
We arrived and met our host Francesco at the cafe that he his father and brother owned.
Our check-in was magical and even recorded for posterity.
We spent our first day wandering around and eating a late lunch or early dinner at the little pizzeria next door to our place.
We downloaded a tour from the laudable Rick Steve’s Europe website.
We followed the first tour around the city.
The next day took a tour of the church named after the town’s most famous resident, Saint Francis. The theme that was recurring during the tour and in almost all representation of Francis were the examples of how Francis was willing to surrender the comforts that he had grown up enjoying. for his entire life until that moment.
The repeated story was that Francis confronted his father and removed all of his wealthy clothing as a physical example of his renouncement of all worldly things.
His wife Claire. Followed his bath and with her Poor Claire’s she created a women’s nunnery that lived by the same example that Francis founded his monastery.
We left Assisi and our friend Francesco behind with a sadness. Assisi felt magical and welcoming in the same breath.
We started with an afternoon landing at the train station. When we checked in and put down our belongings we went outside to find somewhere to eat. then we went to the Vespa rental and secured a pair of two wheels to let us get around town. That evening we drove out to the Coliseum and then around town. It was a challenge to recognize the way the Italians drove.
Lane-splitting is common back home, but there is still an adherence to the need for the double-yellow line. In Italy, lane-splitting is a flexible concept. The double-yellow line is more of a suggestion than a hard rule. When traffic backed up or was just moving too slowly the scooters would dip and drift around and between the cars. It was very common to see a scooter coming straight toward another vehicle. Sometimes it was another scooter, other times a large truck.
We started at the Coliseum. It was really breathtaking to walk around the stones and see the way they fit together like carved pieces. Our tour guides were a little unimpressive. But, the knowledge we gained was decent and we moved on.
Next came the forum. It was probably the most peaceful place I have ever been.
For all the crowds and the growing heat of the day, it felt so comforting. I had the sense that if I needed or just wanted to I could lay down there on a block of stone or a just the ground. I felt like the arms of the place like the past of the place would keep me safe and warm and at home.
The next day Tracy had arranged for us to take a private tour of the Vatican. Our guide was wonderful. She understood where we need to pay the greatest focus. She often pointed to the ways we could stop and rest and enjoy a drink of water.
When we reached the place that stood above the place where St. Peter’s tomb lay there were no pictures allowed and no talking. Our guide warned us that when we entered we would be able to turn around and see the beautiful paintings by Michelangelo.
Later we walked down to the post office and bought postcards for our parents. We took video and stared in wonder at the beauty of the thing.
The church was originally the place where the body of Peter was kept. Peter was one of twelve disciples of Jesus. When he joined up his name was Thomas. Jesus told him that he would be the rock and cornerstone that the Catholic Church would build upon and changed his name to Peter. When planning for the Vatican expanded the church to include an outdoor arena there was an intent made to make the extensions curve so they appear to look like two large arms. The hope was that each person who entered the arena would feel the welcoming embrace of the church.
Our final stop was the Pantheon. It is the largest domed structure to pre-date Roman construction. The width of the dome is the same as the base of the building.
It houses the statues of many old gods and after it was repurposed for the Catholic church it began to hold the bodies of saints. The light through the stained glass at the top was soft and dreamy.
Our trip was over. We dropped off the scooter and had dinner at the same restaurant where we ate every night since we had arrived.
In the morning we gathered our luggage and took a taxi to the airport. We left the city where we first landed more than a week ago. The plane lifted off into the air and we carried memories of Florence, Assisi, and Rome into our hearts.
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