Posts Tagged With: long distance trekking

The Way of St. Francis: Snapshots from a rainy day

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As we said “ciao” to the flowered hilltop city of Spello before 8 a.m. today, Trevi beckoned from its mountaintop perch 12 miles away. Several hours of mostly forgettable city and suburb walking followed; a bar stop for coffee and lunch supplies was the highlight. The expected rain began, so we hurriedly donned rain gear for the first time on our trek to Rome.

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A left turn on the Way of St. Francis took us gradually uphill to an afternoon of snapshots for the memory book. Olive groves, with red poppies bursting beneath them. Large shade trees sheltering the packed gravel farm road. A tiny medieval village looming high above. Lunch on a bench next to a monument offering a place for rest and contemplation. And, the best sandwich of the trip: ham, egg, and mayo on a flaky-crusted squishy roll.

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The rain drops got bigger as the trail narrowed and entered a thick forest. Geese scolded from behind a fence. The path eventually opened to a narrow road through a handful of homes. Three young people in a tiny car gave us enthusiastic thumbs up from behind their hard-working windshield wipers.

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Rounding a corner, we caught a glimpse of Trevi above the olive trees. It looked so close. But it was not going to be an easy catch. A treacherously steep single-track path remained as water dripped from our wide-brimmed hats. In medieval Trevi, GPS led us to our hotel, where our host quickly ushered us into our warm, modern room. A large, tiled, walk-in shower became our best friend. In the hotel dining room, hot English breakfast tea and a plateful of cookies provided a crowning snapshot of our day.

 

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The Way of St. Francis: A puzzling Assisi reception

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Our arrival at one of the most important religious places in the world did not go as expected. It left us puzzled.

The Basilica of St. Francis stands on the mountaintop in Assisi and sets a high bar for spectacular settings. We had completed the 109-mile pilgrimage from another icon of Catholicism, La Verna.

Now it was time to receive our Testimonium Viae Francisci, an official document honoring our walk on the Way of St. Francis.

“Come in, sit down,” said the brown-robed Franciscan monk, perhaps 25 or so.

A man in his 50s, in civilian dress, sat at a small table across from us in the Pilgrim Office in a building next to the grand Basilica. He was straight-faced, hands folded in front of him.

“Have some water, all you want. Drink, drink,” the monk implored us, pointing to several bottles and glasses on a counter in the tiny room. He burst into laughter. “Have some candy, have some candy,” he said as he waved a bowl in front of us. Laughing harder.

“Thank you, thank you, but we are fine,” we responded, turning our attention to the man at the table.

The older man said a few sentences in Italian and slid two forms across to us with pens. Sue handed him our pilgrim passports, which contained stamps from each of the nine places we had stayed on our journey.

As we filled out the forms, the monk continued to chuckle as his colleague seemed to battle bursting into laughter himself.

When they noticed that we wrote “Roma” for our destination, the monk said, “You will receive your testimonium at the Vatican then.” More laughter.

He saw the disappointment in our eyes.

“Would you like the blessing of St. Francis?”

He reached under the table. Was he going to sprinkle us with holy water? I looked at Sue, who returned my questioning look. I figured it would be rude to refuse.

“Yes, by all means,” I said.

I wondered what was next. Rather than a splash and solemn prayer, the monk pulled out two small certificates. More laughs from the monk and more Italian directed at us from the older man, still controlling an urge to giggle.

They both looked at us. Hmmm. The papers must be the blessing, I figured. As we got up to leave, we thanked them.

“You know, he speaks English,” the monk said, pointing to the man at the table. He laughed again. The other guy cracked a smile.

I am still puzzled by our visit. No questions about our journey. No “Why did you do the pilgrimage?”

Had we been part of a slapstick comedy routine? It was not what I expected after completing a walk that honors a saint.

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The Way of St. Francis: Packed and Ready to Go

Ready or not, we’re off to Italy where we’ll begin The Way of St. Francis, a pilgrimage that traces the pathway traveled by St. Francis of Assisi in the early 13th century.

Our journey begins in the eastern portion of central Tuscany in Chiusi Della Verna, a small community located below Santaurio (Sanctuary) Della Verna. It was in this area that St. Francis is said to have received the stigmata. We’ve allowed two nights here to explore the history and beauty of the region…and to catch our breath after what promises to be two pretty hectic travel days.

Then we start walking, traveling mostly southward, with a goal of reaching Vatican City (not quite 300 miles away) by mid-May.

Many thanks to Sandy Brown for allowing me to use the above map, his incredibly detailed trekking guide, the links and foolproof instructions for downloading the GPX tracks onto my phone app and for hosting the Way of St Francis (Official Group) Facebook page. The information is invaluable!

As always, we will post on our blog when we’re able, so feel free to follow along on our journey as we walk The Way of St. Francis.

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The Way of Saint Francis: Training Begins

I stopped for a quick photo this morning as Reg and I neared the top of the 500 foot climb behind our home.

With our upcoming Italian pilgrimage (The Way of Saint Francis) just around the corner, today seemed like a good day to reacquaint ourselves with our backpacks. If the weather cooperates, we should have a couple months to work out any kinks!

Categories: The Way of Saint Francis, The Way of St Francis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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