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A Moveable Feast: Assisi, outside the city walls

Yesterday we spent the day — two days, really — wandering around the city of Assisi. Today we’re going to venture outside the city walls. On our second day in Assisi, we visited the Hermitage of St. Francis, the Church of San Damiano, and a fantastic winery-agriturismo outside Assisi in the town of Montefalco.

Our trip to the Hermitage of St. Francis (Eremo delle Carceri) was well worth the early drive via taxis (because the road is too narrow and winding for a tour bus) to the retreat on the slope of Mount Subiaso. This is where St. Francis and his friars came to get away from the busyness of life and pray in silence and solitude. The views were stunning, but the fact that we were able to touch the walls of the cell where St. Francis once slept was pretty overwhelming. Here’s a quick visit to the hermitage in photos. Read more

A Moveable Feast: Inside Assisi, a slice of heaven

My pilgrimage to Assisi began long before I walked the streets and knelt before St. Francis and St. Clare this October. Although I have always loved St. Francis, the pull to go to Assisi and stand where this great saint lived and prayed and worked became stronger and stronger with every passing year. I read books about it. I dreamed about it. I decided in my mind that there was no way I was going to miss getting to Assisi one of these days. The first time I went to Italy, I wanted to make a quick day-trip to Assisi from Rome, but my schedule at Santa Croce University was too packed, and I didn’t want to rush Assisi. I was right to wait. Assisi is not something you rush. It’s something you savor, slowly, over a couple of days, if at all possible. Read more

A Moveable Feast: Coffee and wine and beer, oh my

To tide you over until I can pull all the Assisi photos together for posts on Monday and Tuesday, here are some shots of the many wonderful beverages you’ll find as you travel across Italy.

This is, of course, just a sampling of what we had. Multiply what you see here by 13, the number of days were were traveling. Even on the plane (Alitalia), wine is free and free-flowing. It’s a beautiful thing. So many beverages, so little time. Read more

A Moveable Feast: Enchanted by Siena

When I put Siena on our pilgrimage itinerary, it was mainly because I wanted to visit the church where St. Catherine of Siena’s head rests. (The rest of her body is at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome, and I had already been there. I wanted to be able to say I had seen ALL of her.) Anyway, that was the motivation for making sure we had at least a half-day in the city of Siena, but, oh, once we got there, how I wished we had more time.

I loved Siena. It was so much more manageable than Florence — quieter, not as crowded, fewer panhandlers and potential pickpockets, more medieval. I could stay in Siena for a few days and just soak up Italian life from my seat at an outdoor cafe in Piazza del Campo. Read more

A Moveable Feast: A day in Florence

I had waited to go to Florence for a long time, since I took an art history class in college, since I read E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View and then fell totally in love with Florence after seeing the wonderful movie adaptation of that book (starring one of my favorite actresses, Helena Bonham Carter). So when we arrived in Florence on the first full day of our pilgrimage and came out of one of those fantastic little Italian alley-like streets to find ourselves in front of the Duomo, I just stopped in my tracks. Really. Read more

A Moveable Feast: finding family far from home

It’s been almost three weeks since I returned from Italy, and I still haven’t managed to write any posts about the experience or trade my Euro for U.S. currency. That changes today. Well, the writing part does, at least. I’m holding onto the Euro as seed money for the next pilgrimage.  I’ll try to serve up several Moveable Feast posts in days to come about various cities and favorite moments from our fabulous pilgrimage. To get us started, here’s my latest Life Lines column…

It’s interesting how, even when we’re far from our loved ones and friends, we often find ways to create family right where we are, without blood connections, without a shared history. Whether we’re students living in a college dormitory, workers temporarily assigned to a far-off location, or pilgrims traveling in a strange land, we tend to seek out community, a place where we feel accepted and protected, or at least a little less alone. Read more

Pilgrimage: A journey of the heart and soul

It’s easy to romanticize the idea of a pilgrimage, to turn it into something larger than life, something we think we can experience only when have the money, time and stamina to travel to a far-off country to see one of the great spiritual sites. We imagine Lourdes, the Holy Land, Rome, Assisi, and file our pilgrimage plans away on some sort of spiritual bucket list.

But the reality is that true pilgrimage doesn’t require a passport. In fact, it doesn’t really require any travel at all. True pilgrimage is as much an interior journey as a geographical one. If we approach our entire lives with a pilgrim mindset, we can find places that will feed our hearts and spirits just about everywhere we turn – from the little shrine in the next town to the cathedral in our diocese to that historic church near our favorite vacation spot. Read more

Italy: Five weeks and counting…

Five weeks from today, our Italy: A Feast for Body and Soul pilgrimage will depart from JFK airport bound for Rome. The 40 of us will spend 13 days making our way from the beautiful spa town of Montecatini to Florence, Siena, Assisi, Rome, Naples, Salerno, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Massa Lubrense (the small town where my grandfather was born), and finally to the Isle of Capri. I know how fast these next few weeks will go with start-of-school events and work deadlines to meet before leaving. It’s going to be here before I know it.  Read more

In the footsteps of St. Benedict…

In honor of the Feast of St. Benedict, I thought I would re-post my Time Union reflection on my trip to the Monastery of St. Benedict in Subiaco, Italy, four years ago. 

With a breathtaking valley stretching out below and an ancient monastery clinging to the cliffs above, Subiaco, Italy, feels as though it is a world away from the chaotic streets of Rome, only 40 miles to its west. And, in a sense, it is.

Steeped in history that stretches back to the Roman Empire and the earliest centuries of the Roman Catholic Church, Subiaco is a place out of time, giving visitors a chance to step into the very same cloisters, caves and gardens that were once home to ancient saints and medieval monks. Read more

A romantic getaway 10 minutes from home

Dennis and I decided we wanted a romantic night away from home, but with three kids and busy schedules, we didn’t see how that was going to happen any time soon. And then we had an Aha! moment. We didn’t have to go far to get away. Maybe romance was right around the corner. And so we set out to give ourselves a 16-hour escape only 10 minutes from home. Read more