Saturday, October 22, 2011

Come va? Bellissimo!

This is the forest of where the light shines through

Wednesday proved to be a wonderous day! We got up early and caught a charter bus to Assisi. As a group we went through the chapel that St. Francis loved (when it was still tiny and in the middle of the wilderness). It was also the church where St. Francis died.
The tree of life from the gardens in Perugia

While there, mass was going on in the inner peace chapel. Some of us stood out of the doors and listened. It was great! At first you think, oh man... if only it were in English I could really take part in this great service. But just when I thought i'd never feel like it was a legit service because I couldn't understand the priest lead everyone in the sharing of 'pace' or peace. There were quite a few people standing around the entrance of the chapel. One sweet older Italian lady turned around and said 'pace si' and thus began my sharing of peace with some of our group and other Italian visitors. What a great experience! (The photo is from the entrance to the garden, this statue of St. Francis always has doves just hanging out on it. They are not trained or anything the just always hang out here and fly around a bit! How cool is that?!)
From here we moved on out to the upper parts of Assisi to see St. Francis' basilica and resting place. The more we learned about St. Francis the more amazed I was. Rosella provided some more contemplative comments to think on while we were there. She said that St. Francis believed every living thing deserved attention and respect. This is why people say he preached to the birds. He helped bring back a connection with nature and an appreciation for other things that God created. Anyway, I was thinking about it and considered how many people still today don't even give other   human beings the time of day not to mention animals. St. Francis had quite the job on his hands.

In the basilica we saw the series of frescos painted by Giotto to explain St. Francis to the common folk. They were pretty great. Then we continued on through town to find St. Claire's basilica and resting place. We found it but it was closed for siesta so a group of ladies from our group went and had a nice sit down lunch together. It was outstanding! The food was good but it was really the dinner conversation and company that made the day amazing. We sat there for a couple of hours before we headed in and saw St. Claire's. Then we had a few hours left so we went and checked out some shops and headed to the bus.
We got back and had some great lasagna dinner. After dinner most people worked on their three big art projects that are due next week.
On Thursday we had a day at the villa. It was much needed because people were getting a little exhausted, snappy, and homesick. We had figure drawing and various drawing exercises. Lunch was a split pea pasta dish, which some didn't like but I thought it was good. (Photo is a view out to the overlook in Assisi, pictures couldn't capture the beauty)
The afternoon was spent in Italian class and just hanging out having a little alone time. I was able to skype a wonderous friend from home which was a blessing. It's always nice to connect with people so you still know they're alive and well :)
Dinner was great! We had zucchini stew, these croissant pizza bite things, a second course of french fries with sliced turkey covered in a very light gravy juice. It was so good! I need to learn how to make it! After dinner we sat and talked and spent the evening talking, crocheting, and relaxing.
Friday was another travel day. We got up early and headed to Siena by bus. We got there and were given free reign of the city for 8 hours. We visited di Campo where they hold the palio di Siena twice a year. It's a horse race around the piazza that lasts 90 seconds but there are so many preliminary pageantry  events and after parties that the festival lasts up to a couple of weeks.
Our exploration of the city brought us to a great local foods market where we tried some bread and traditional local cookies. We passed a square where these adolescent boys were on this pedestal pillar thing pulling down their pants (underwear still up thank goodness) and saying 'coca dae, coca dae'. Our fearless leader from the villa informed us that this was not cool and they were embarrassing for him to see. I told him we all have people in our countries that do things we wish they wouldn't. He continued on to tell us that they had been chanting the Italian version of how chickens speak. Quite funny...
We also found a sports cafe where we got some caffe con nutella. The sports caffe was called Planet Basket. It was quite the place.
We then traveled back and everyone was exhausted and ready for rest. We got back right before dinner so we all headed in that general direction. Dinner was ravioli with an amazing creamy sauce, then mashed potatoes and sausage. It was filling and wonderful. Again we had fun and great dinner conversation which continued for at least 30 minutes after dinner was over. The evening was spent painting nails and having a little bit of a girls night.
Today most everyone is sleeping in and will wake from hibernation before lunch. It's a much needed down day. There is a bread and chocolate festival up the hill later today which I think will be amazing!
More adventures to come...
Looking out from Assisi, if I blew this up to life size it might give a better impression of how beautiful it was but even then it can't come close to what it was. 

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