Something that I forgot to mention while in Rome that rings true here as well- the entry ways are all photography worthy. Every single one. And no, this is not just me waxing poetic. Art is seemingly in the blood stream in this country. Even today as I made an 800km hike up to the castle on the hill of Assissi, each turn I made was beautiful...perhaps to inspire the people who do this walk on a daily basis? I plan on posting several pictures upon my return of door ways that have caught my attention. I do choose to walk by some, but each time I do, I feel this need to justify slowly creep up, which is usually answered by an internal monologue of reasons why I did not take the shot.
It has been a quiet past few days for me as we have visited many smaller villages. I find that I actually don't have much to say. (Surprising, I know) My response is more one of intrigue, observation and fundamental awareness that this world is so much bigger than my little universe. Of course I had a few words when we tasted award-winning gelato in San Gimignano (no, really...they have won awards in the past 3 years for being the best gelato in Italy), but for the most part, I have little to say. I only feel this sense of utter gratitude for having the opportunity to be here.
For all my Cru friends, yesterday, while on top of the tower at San G., we asked a girl by the name of Laura to take a family shot. She mentioned that she worked in Italy and three questions later found out she was on STINT here. She was accompanied by a girl who was doing her summer project here as well. We took a moment to pray for both girls as they work to start a Christian ministry on a near by campus.
Yesterday, we also went to Chianti wine country and enjoyed a free wine tasting at one of the local places. The prices still blow me away. You can get a really really good bottle of wine (2007 reserve) for under £15. I think back to my local Marsh or Big Red and just shake my head.
This morning, we headed out early to Assissi- just about a 2 hour drive away from where we are staying in Strove. The term "scenic route" had to have been coined in Italy. While driving on the main highway (atune to I-95 or 65 for my midwest readers), to my right was a picture of rolling hills, towering cathedrals and villages and to my left, a beautiful lake decorated with tall trees and flowers. Not your typical New Jersey Turnpike drive.
We arrived honestly in the nick of time for the 12PM mass at the St. Francis Cathedral. We walked in just as the first mass was ending, greeted by a beautiful arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus as a celebration of Pentecost. For our service, a local high school band and girls choir blessed us with the music. Though the service was in Italian, my Anglican roots allowed for me to follow the service pretty closely. Then, as if God knew I needed to feel His presence this morning, the sermon, though in Italian was pretty clear to me thanks to my Spanish. He spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the grace we received when He came, the richness of God's glory manifest in His people. It was beautiful.
After a short lunch, we began to walk through the town of Assissi. I had this real desire to explore and walked ahead a bit. Soon "a bit" turned into a ways as I made my way up to the castle that guarded Assissi since 1124. It was a hike, to say the least, but once I got to the top and purchased acqua con frizzante (the every day person's pelligrino), my body forgave the exercise. I walked in and around the castle for a little bit, but then feeling a bit uneasy at the fact that my parents and sister were still not there, began to make my way down. My pace probably quickened as the hills got less steep and I said a quiet prayer that they would know to meet me by the car. This sent a sleu of thoughts through my head...you should always have a cell phone with you, you should always have the numbers of your parents' international cell phones, and you should always have the numbers for the US Embassy. Gratefully, we met up at the parking lot-my Dad was minutes away from going to the polizia- and all was well. Feel free to scold me, friends. I own it 100%.
A quick note about the food. We went to a restaurant on Friday night called Casalta. It was hands down the best food we have had since arriving here in Italy. They had an appetizer which was basically diced sashimi on top of fresh tomato, topped with either peas, lima beans or asparagus. If you added wasabi and soy sauce, you would have an incredible sashimi dish. I will be informing my favorite Fairfield location upon my return.
As we were driving back today from Assissi, I found myself thinking "I am actually ready for another city". We are touring Florence tomorrow, have one more day in this area, then off to Bologna...and then...to Venice! A slow progression back into the urban feel of this country and I am very much looking forward to it.
I mentioned they entry ways...but another wonderful piece is that if you turn around to reflect on where you have just come from, the view is equally as lovely. Just a coincidence? I think not.