17.12.2009 - 28.12.2009 32 °F
Miles travelled 870.
Landing in Rimini proved to be a little of a shock. I told Sara that I expected Italy to be around 55 degrees, but when we landed it was snowing and about 32 degrees. Rimini turned out to be a cute seaside town that was mostly shuttered for the winter season. We had a nice meal and rested up before making the drive through the Appenine mountains to Assisi the next day.
The drive turned out to be amazing. The roads were clear and easily navigable as we made our way to Perugia to drop off the car and pick up the local train. We saw lovely Italian hill towns and snow clad mountains through the whole trip.
Unfortunately there was some confusion on our part about the train “to” Foligno or “from” Foligno, and we had an hour long train detour going the wrong way! On the plus side, we got to see the beautifule Lake Trasimeno, which is to the north west of Perugia. It was a real stunner in the sunset.
Finally, we made it to Assisi after dark and had a really hard time locating our Hotel.
We asked a slew of people and hiked nearly the length of the town with our luggage. Finally, a girl in a nice homey restaurant gave us a map and pointed us to the exact spot. The meal was delicious, black truffle on home made strangozzi. We also had a salad and a liter of wine that cost $3. AWESOME. After that we headed to the hotel and walked right up to the door. Luckily, the hotel turned out to be fantastic. The staff was great and the location was perfect. Hotel Hermitage is the place for anyone who needs one!
So, for those of you who don’t know, St. Francis began the tradition of the Nativity in 1223. Needless to say, there were countless nativities of every variation spread about the town and in every church. We even went to the theater and saw a play about how St. Francis was inspired.
We enjoyed every minute of our time in Assisi. Sara and I each made several hikes. Sara went to Mass in about half the churches in town and visited almost all of them. We went to Christmas mass in the lower Basilica of St. Francis. Sara said she almost felt like she had the gift of “ears” since she understood nearly all of the homily which was in Italian. I told her I was not sure if there was any such thing as the gift of “ears” even though hers are very cute!
Among the new stops we found most enjoyable were the crypt of St. Clare and Mass at St. Stephen’s on his feast day. St. Stephen’s church was simple, small, and adorable. The bishop presided and a heavenly choir serenaded the forty of us gathered there with amazing music.
The crypt of St. Clare houses several amazing artifacts: a mass vestment made by St. Clare around 1300, bits of one of the original habits of Clare and St. Francis, and the original rule of the Franciscans. The portion of the crypt that housed the relics of St. Clare was beautifully decorated and very prayerful.
Other highlights were the Hermitage on Mt. Subasio (where we saw St. Francis’ prayer cave), the Rocca Maggiore,
and the crypts beneath San Rufino cathedral. The hike up Mt. Subasio took us through beautiful winter woodlands. The hillsides were festooned with green, brown, and orange making a delightful backdrop for our grueling two hour hike all uphill! Sara said the countryside reminded her of one of Bob Ross’ paintings with “happy little trees” placed here and there, and then scolded me for not knowing who Bob Ross even was! We also had the joy of feeding grass and petting some miniature donkeys along the roadside….so cute!
One of Sara’s hikes took her down off the hill of Assisi to the Sanctuary of the River Torto. She found amazing joy in hiking across the Italian countryside and finding a cute spot to have coffee in the little town with the old men that were playing cards!! Nearly every place we visited or walked during our first week we were the only tourists. The solitude refreshed us both.
A local Italian woman who works at the pastry shop befriended us. Christmas evening, we spent hours talking with her in the shop about the adventures of her life. It was a nice way to spend our holiday!
It was a hard day when we took the bus to the train station to go to Rome. Our previous experiences in Rome had left us with mixed emotions about the eternal city, but that is where we were headed for our final three days in Italy.