I have never been more amazed in my entire life than when I went to Assisi this past weekend. What do I even say?? There was beauty everywhere, and I felt so blessed to be there. I couldn't believe that for some odd reason God decided to give me, of all people, the chance to see such a holy place, with two other great friends by my side.
We started off the weekend on Thursday afternoon, by catching a train from Rome Termini to Assisi. The ride was about two hours long, but by the time we arrived, I was so proud of us for even getting there! This was Jamie, Angela, and I's first trip in Italy by ourselves....it was also our first free weekend in the country. Every move we made, we analyzed, or scrutinized, because we were so worried about making a mistake and ruining everything! However, we made it to Assisi right on time, because the minute we stepped off the train, we had to run to catch a local bus that would take us up the hills of Assisi to our hotel. At first we thought we missed our bus because a bunch of taxi drivers kept trying to get us in their cars. Needless to say, we weren't feeling this. We freaked out checking the bus schedule, in disbelief that we had missed it. Then...I spotted a nun that was on our train. She seemed to be waiting for the bus as well, so I went up to her and attempted (in the best Italiano that I could muster) whether or not she was waiting for the bus. She said yes, and then I tried to tell her that I think that the last bus had already come. Once she heard this, it didn't take her long to put herself into action, stomp over to the schedule, leading me over with her, and show me that the bus should be coming any second. We got so excited! We didn't miss it! We wouldn't have to pay for a taxi! All of the above! The next thing I knew the bus was pulling around the corner and the three of us (four if you count the nun) were getting on the bus...next stop the hills of Assisi!
Our hotel was beautiful and so so cute. Just like a movie:) We all slept pretty well, had complimentary breakfast at the hotel, and then we set off to explore! Our first stop was San Francesco Cathedral (St. Francis). In a few words: probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my entire life. The elaborate and detailed paintings throughout the church were amazing. There were so many gorgeous works of art everywhere that your eye wanted to look a thousand places at once. The frescoes on the interior walls of the church were mainly of St. Francis' conversion and life after conversion. The upper part of the walls were painted the story of creation. There were little chapels/devotional areas along the walls of different saints and the Virgin Mother Mary. The Virgin Mary had a crown of stars that shown bright (literally, with lights) and actually in almost all churches where there is a statue of the Mother Mary, she is depicted with a crown of stars that glow inside the dimly lit church. We were also lucky enough to see the tomb of St. Francis. I was able to offer a candle up for a devotion at that time, and it was completely beautiful. There were also relics of St. Francis, like his actual cloak, robe, and slippers. So cool!!! Such a wonderful experience...
We were also able to See San Pietro's, San Ruffino (where St. Clare and St. Francis were baptized and visited by Pope John Paul II), San George, San Neouvo, and the Temple di Minerva, and my second favorite of the day: San Chiara (St. Clare).
While all of the church's and cathedrals were amazing, San Chiara's was spectacular. There was something about the church that made me feel so completely comfortable inside. It was so feminine inside and it made me proud to be not only a Christian, but a Woman. The feminine touches were very subtle, but also very lovely. On the outside, the bricks had a pinkish hue, and the marble steps were a salmon/orange color that gave the outside and the inside a very warm feeling. The artwork in the church was not lavish compared to the other churches we had seen that day. It was more modest, very suited to a woman, especially a woman like St. Clare. The arches inside the church weren't as sharp or pointed as in the other churches either. The arches in San Chiara were round and soft...comfortable. In her tomb (yes, I was able to see her tomb!) there was soft music playing and stained glass windows on both sides. Her relics were displayed, even relics of her hair!
When we left San Chiara, I felt so peaceful. I felt as though my place as a woman in this world was purposeful. I could sense God around us...in the peaceful views of Assisi, in the cold breeze that day, in the company I had, and the opportunities around us. I can't speak for anyone else, but I felt very blessed.
Later that night we ate dinner at a small cafe, went to bed, explored a little more, had lunch, and then caught the bus back to the train station. It was time to go home....or back to campus. Leaving was bitter sweet because we hated to leave such a beautiful scene, however we felt so accomplished for completing the trip by ourselves and for seeing everything that we did, we were almost ready to leave.
Well, as my first trip, and my first Pilgrimage, I would say it was a complete success. Sorry this post was so long, I just hated to leave out anything!! I'll keep you update on what is happening this week and our upcoming trip to Venice this weekend! God Bless!