187-189: In Search of Saints

 187 – Saturday 24th October 2015:  Saint Francis of Assisi

by Katherine 

The Aree di Sosta for EUR5 had full services, so we stuck the hot water for a shower later on, and went to look at the dog show we had spotted on our morning run.  Working dogs, but not hunting dogs.  They had to sniff out truffles for their owners.  We watched the Junior section and fell in love with the Springer … K has had 3 of these … and this one was particularly cute:  only 4 months but he not only sniffed out, but dug up and presented the smelly canisters to his owner!  Best in Show!


From the dog show looking back at Gubbio


What’s not to love?  James, couldn’t we… ?

Fully serviced, us included (showered that is!), we drove the short way to Assisi.  We had a Parking in the Tourist Bus parking at the town at the bottom of the hill on which Assisi is perched … EUR18!!!  But it did have proper toilets and water etc.  A short walk and a bus up to Assisi.  It is similar to Gubbio in that there are lots of narrow streets, steps etc …. but being a Pilgrimage site, LOTS of shops selling religious kitsch and crowded.  It is impressive and obviously means a lot to a lot of people.

IMG_2373 (1)

Basilica of St Francis is comprised of an Upper and Lower Church and the crypt with St Francis’ tomb.  Some amazing frescos and relicts from Saints Francis and Clare.



Cathedral: contains the font both St Francis and St Clare were baptised in


The Font


We heard drumming and horns and managed to catch a glimpse of a procession. We caught up with them again outside St Clare Church. As well as swirling and catching their flags they jumped over each other and then lay down to increase the distance the next combatant had to leap … then the drummed, blew their horns and marched off. Lovely.

We've seen a number of these and they are very iconic.

We’ve seen a number of these and they are very iconic.




188 – Sunday 25th October 2015:  Driving day

James took over from here

We left our Assisi Parking at about midday, after a run and laundry, and headed south for a longish drive to St Giovanni Rotondo. (J here, by the way…)  My family will remember Padre Pio – a monk of this town – he had the ‘Stigmata’ (signs of Christ’s Crucifixion on his hands and feet). Difficult for folk to believe – but he was canonised a Saint in 2002 – he died in the 1960’s. Deborah’s late Aunt Aideen, who passed away last year, she had a lifelong devotion to Padre Pio and visited St Giovanni every year – a wonderful lively lady…

Stopped to buy wonderful farm produce en route as you can see…

Lots of the 'older' farmers parked up with their tractors selling potatoes, onions and garlic. Most of the fields are now ploughed over and some are being planted with next year's crops.

Lots of the ‘older’ farmers parked up with their tractors selling potatoes, onions and garlic. Most of the fields are now ploughed over and some are being planted with next year’s crops.

Total travel time door to door – 8 hours!  Big Brad, our new Sat Nav persona, decide to completely ignore the change from Daylight savings in the UK and  confused his passengers – late on our journey, he added an hour – just for fun ! Our first time on this trip driving in complete darkness on strange roads. Thankfully, the country roads here are actually excellent.  The area sees 8 million pilgrims each year – the second most popular pilgrim site in Italy.  Anyway, Brad (shall his surname be Pitt or Brosnan ?) – woke up and delivered us unerringly to a lovely Parking – at 8:00 pm – just in time for a beer….. James – beer?  Back to adolescence in Walters bar, Dun Laoghaire….


189 – Monday 26th October 2015 – Padre Pio of San Giovanni Rotondo

Completely refreshed, our Italian Parking hostess taxied us to the centre of St Giovanni – only Euro 6 return – we conversed in a mixture of J’s improving Italian – K’s Francais and Deutsch – a truly trilingual menage…

The main church is naturally all about Padre Pio (the whole town is actually) and J attended part of a Mass and saw Padre Pio’s preserved body on a slab behind the main altar – very emotionally moved because of Aideen…such a nice lady.

We visited all the main ecclesiastical sites and then wandered in search of a bus to the nearby coast, which we failed to achieve.  Onto Plan B.


Now those who know us may deduce that we occasionally have a meal out!  We turned a corner ‘a destra’ – and found a small restaurant which we initially thought was ‘chiusio’ – once again our reader is reeling with astonishment at my command of Italiano…   The photos below don’t fully do justice our repast – a shared starter, two large main courses, a bottle of guess what? – vino collapse rossso/blanco – total cost £36 including tip!!!

Taxied back to our bivouac – gentle zzzs for moi – now blogging and relaxing… Bella Italia et la Dolce Vita !!!



K’s postscript:  I do wonder how these saints who practiced and preached abstinence and a simple life would have felt about the massive churches built in their names and the whole industry that has evolved.






1 thought on “187-189: In Search of Saints

  1. Very enjoyable blog and photos! I too have had a lifelong devotion to Padre Pio. Katherine! How could you resist the pup??? Gorgeous! How beautiful the surrounding countryside and towns are! Love you both and miss you! Xxxxxx until the next time.

    Sent from my iPad



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