Thursday, May 23rd
Yikes, it’s pouring rain and we have our big tour of Assisi scheduled today with a driver from the hotel. It’s funny when the owners of the place feel so responsible for the weather. They know it’s out of their control, but they are such “control people” that it’s making them nuts that it’s raining. But, it’s a powerfully good thing to be staying at a place run by people like this…it’s nearly perfect every minute.
They have a guy they like named “Johnny” (probable real name Giovanni) who does driving for their guests. Today, we are going to go to Assisi to check out the town of St. Francis. He picked us up at 9:30 and we came back at 4:30.
Johnny lives there, so “Johnny knows all”. He is a tremendous help, because Assisi has many levels – all of them full of St. Francis history and some of them 1,000 feet and maybe 3 twisty miles up from the Cathedral. So, Johnny drops us at each place, gives us a little pep talk and waits while we explore. He thought we got lost in the first place. We liked both floors of the Basilica – one was built in 1200, the other in 1250 – on top of each other. The best artists money could buy from all over Europe worked here. It may have been a big boost to starting the Renaissance (for which Florence gets all the credit)…that’s a Johnny belief anyway. He thinks their olive oil is the best, too, and that the stuff from Spain and southern Italy has cholesterol in it.
In actual fact, our lateness was due to the fact that we spent some time in the bookstore to get some extra information, since the Pope today announced a convocation trip to Assisi in October, on the Saint’s feast day. It will become a much more famous place and we have to know our stuff as world travelers…books still help us.
Johnny and his Dad were building renovation specialists and did some archeology type work, too. He got married 6 years ago at 40 and his Dad died, so his driving is a better career now. But, he told us a story about being high on the cathedral’s domed roof, looking after some repairs, when the aftershock from the 1997 earthquake (which devastated Assisi) almost threw him to the floor of the cathedral below. He believes that St. Francis saved him that day.
We checked out much that Assisi has to offer….the double-decked Cathedral, the church of San Dameon, where the Crucifix spoke to St. Francis and told him to “fix my Church”, the place where they took that Crucifix – St. Chiara’s Church (that’s St. Clare for you Americans) – and the Sanctuary on top of the mountain, where the Saint and his buddies would go for a retreat. We had a nice Trattoria Pallotta lunch stop, where we had delicious Italian minestrone to warm our bones.
The rain had us under an umbrella all day until we got back here to the Borgo in the sunshine. Amazingly, several people were in that pool – the photo of which will be in my highlights when I get to high-speed Internet land. We think the pool water was only 65 degrees or less, but they were starved for sun and couldn’t stand not going in the water to fully enjoy this infinity-edged beauty.
About 7:30, guests gather for cocktails in the “church” room. We met a couple last night from Cambridge, England and tonight, another couple from Portland, Oregon. Most guests are English-speaking, but Germans and Italians are here as well. Riccardo and Marilisa switch from language to language without missing a beat…probably a trait they had to learn as restaurateurs in Antigua for years. Another culinary delight was on the Borgo schedule tonight. Riccardo announced each course as all 4 of them were served and each was spectacular….amazing food. It will be interesting to see how much they cost when we check out tomorrow. No menus…you just eat what they serve you; and love every morsel. He told us as we were scooping some sauce off of our plates with the homemade bread, that the Italians call that “scarpetta”…and that It’s a fine compliment to a chef. The Portland lady has gluten and dairy allergies, so they have made everything special for her…very quietly (except for the Cornflakes box on their breakfast table today).
We are headed to Rome after breakfast tomorrow. We have an early Saturday flight and will be in the airport Hilton Friday night…probably hamburgers from room service as we prepare for re-entry. We will head straight to Stone Harbor for a weekend of Memorial Day festivities. The twins and I have our “farm” to plant in the side yard planting bed, the parade is on Monday and perhaps dinner with Hoddy and Mary Anne Hanna, who are opening their house for the season from their Pittsburgh hometown.
Thanks to those of you who have followed our travels. We are glad to have you along for the ride and will be most appreciative if you can pick up the “wordpress” blog for your next trip and have us along for your ride. It’s better than Facebook for us old timers.