After spending more hours than I care to remember on a plane and then a bus, we finally arrived in Assisi this afternoon. We met our band of fellow pilgrims, with our pilgrimage directors, Fr. Steve McMichael and Sr. Nancy Celaschi, right outside of the Customs area at Da Vinci airport outside of Rome. Once our numbers were complete (there are 17 of us including Fr. Steve and Sister Nancy, on this Pilgrimage) we boarded the bus to Assisi.
The drive was about three hours long, which, given our lengthy time in planes, seemed a bit daunting, but the time went surprisingly quickly. As we moved into the Umbrian region I was struck with the number of little villages that literally hug the top of a mountain or foothill. Some of them had obviously seen better days, but they still managed to clutch the side or top of a foothill, a testament to their tenacity. As we began to drive through a more populated area (Perugia) Nancy alerted us to our first glimpse of Assisi.
Have you ever tried to take a photograph in a bus that’s clipping along a highway? Let’s just say it’s an exercise in frustration Though I managed to get a few photos. As we drew closer to Assisi, I could clearly see the Basilica of St. Francis on the far end of the hillside village and in the valley below, the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels which contains the Porziuncula, or “Little Portion,” St. Francis’ favorite chapel, and the site of his death in 1226.
Our bus driver, Rincon, who is originally from Bangladesh, navigated the hairpin turns and the staggering uphill climb of the road until we reached our drop off point. Steve collected the luggage with a driver and road to our lodging, Casa Papa Giovanni, and the rest of us walked with Nancy to the Casa.
I was surprised by how much (and how little) I remembered as we walked through the narrow, winding streets of Assisi. Once we entered the Piazza Minerva, a flood of memories came back to me from my previous two times in Assisi.
After taking a few minutes to figure out the lock, which utilizes a combination of a key and a push button, I settled in my room, showered (ah what bliss, though the shower was tiny even for me) and met with the others for our orientation.
While all of us were tired, most of us decided to take a walk up to the Piazza and stretch our legs. It was a lovely evening and despite it being a Friday, the cafes only had a handful of people in them.
Tomorrow, we visit San Damiano (the site of the chapel with the cross that spoke to Francis) and Santa Chiara (the Basilica of St. Clare).