Buongiorno a tutti! That greeting can mean only one thing: I am heading back to Italy on a Holy Year of Mercy pilgrimage for another fantastic combination of great food, beautiful scenery, and spiritual inspiration, and this time our chaplain will be my good friend and vicar general for the Diocese of Albany, Father David Berberian. Bonus: Our beloved tour guide from last October, Isabella, has signed on for this pilgrimage, so we will be in the very best hands.
We’ll be hitting some of the highlights from my last pilgrimage, with the addition of some must-see cities we missed the first time around. Here’s the brief run-down of where our Holy Year of Mercy Food & Faith in Italy tour will take us between May 15-26, 2016: Rome, Castel Gandolfo, Orvieto, Assisi, Siena, Bologna, the Emilia Romagna region, Padua, and Venice. Read more
Thanks to a perfect storm of vacation, childcare, and Marriott reward points, Dennis and I turned this Easter weekend into an early 20th anniversary celebration. (Our real anniversary is April 29, but we didn’t see the possibility for a big celebration at that point.) With Noah in Italy for 10 days, we had only to find a place for the girls to land, which we did — at their grandmother’s apartment in Manhattan. It turned into quite the excursion for them as well. As Dennis and I wandered around midtown and Greenwich Village, the girls experienced the Radio City Spring Spectacular after a dinner out. Big doings for them. They loved it. Here are some of the highlights from our weekend, Twisted Tuesday done in Manic Monday style. Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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