Thursday, July 9, 2009

The San Francesco Treat

Today we walked. A lot.

We'll post again tomorrow when we get to Florence.


Ok I guess we should say more than that. We slept in today as best as we could. Since we did a lot of exploring of town last night, there wasn't as much on the To Do list today. Now I say as we slept in 'as best as we could' because at about 7am one or more of the churches/basilicas started ringing their bells. Loud. And for a long time. We thought we must have slept in late and when we checked what time it was, it was not late at all. The sound was made louder by the fact that the windows for our room were kept open (slightly, Alice has a fear of waking up with a pigeon on her forehead...or face...or arm...or leg...or the edge of the bed...or the floor...or table...or even windowsill) because the air conditioning that is so coveted in Italian hotels does not work in our room. It will go on for about 2-3 minutes, and then shut itself off. If you hit the button it will turn on again for another 2-3 minutes, and then go off again. Though it's not really all that big of a deal since with the windows open it is fairly cool in the room (we are on 6th floor). As long as the pigeons know their limits we are good.

The church bells at any other time would be quaint and atmospheric. At 7am they are obnoxious. And loud. We managed to catch a little more sleep (which we needed for the day we were to have) and after getting up and getting ready we headed over to Saint Francis's Basilica. It was interesting to walk around in there, the walls were frescoes (I know, big shocker there), and the lower basilica, in the basement, was the tomb of Saint Francis. Now, I'm a natural skeptic, so I don't know if that was really him in there, or just some guy they found on the street. Or maybe its a body double. Celebrities have them, why can't saints? I don't know if it's all that important though. Tradition has it that he's in there, so that's kinda what counts. It was still a fascinating experience. We don't not see a movie just because an actor doesn't do his own stunts...well Jackie Chan does his own stunts but he's kinda crazy. He does all those flips and jumps and general kung-fu shenanigans.

After the basilica we got some lunch, and after that was where the real fun began. In our guide book there was a section under Assisi for “Off the Beaten Path”. Now let me make some thing clear. Assisi itself is off the beaten path. We probably saw more tourists sitting on the Spanish Steps our first day in Rome than we have in the whole of Assisi. There are definitely tourists here, but it is nothing like other places in Italy. Think about it as if Rome is NYC, and Assisi is a place in Sussex County that tourists would go to visit. I know, I know, tourists don't go to Sussex County (the people and nature living together scares them off), but use your imagination here. Pretend there was a cool place to visit in Sussex County. Tourists would go there, but it would still be out of the way, so there wouldn't be as many. Now, picture someone telling you that there was this cool place that was off the beaten path in Sussex. Now in Sussex, that might lead you to another dimension, but here we were taken to Eremo delle Carceri (a monastery).

Don't get me wrong, the place itself was very cool – when we actually got there. Our tour book mentioned a 'leisurely walk' but that it was 4km out of the city. Now we put 2 and 2 together, and assumed that the 4km was the leisurely walk part that would take us to the monastery. We were wrong. Apparently, you are supposed to get a ride to the monastery, and then there a leisurely walk around the grounds. The 4km, which according to maps here is actually 4.5km, was entirely uphill around a windy narrow road. We could see the looks on the faces of the people driving past us (“Are they OK?” “Did their car break down?” “Are they hitchiking?” “If we pick them up will they murder us?” “What on Earth are they doing walking up this is hot out, they are sweating like pigs (except for that girl, she looks more like she is glistening), and they are walking up this winding steep road, they must be crazy!” - only their faces were Italian, so head on over to google's translator, pop those phrases into the English to Italian translation, and that's what faces we were getting). The views were pretty breathtaking, but the walking uphill was doing its fair share on our breaths, so we didn't stop much. Only once or twice to go “Oooo”, or “Is that the castle we walked all that way to yesterday, way down there, so far away...its so small. I'm so tired. Maybe this wasn't a good idea”. We did eventually make it to the top, probably at about the point where we were ready to give up. The monastery was nice, and we had a nice leisurely walk through it...just not to it. If you ever come to Assisi, take a cab up. They apparently leave from the middle of town and take you up there. The worst part of it all was, on the way back, we had to walk uphill again. And it was snowing. And we only had newspaper for shoes.

We are heading to dinner, where apparently there is free internet (our hotel fees for internet are so scary we will not even type them). This means no pictures/videos this time. Hopefully Florence internet will be cheaper as we head there tomorrow.


  1. Pigeons are dirty, scary, creatures and should not be allowed the opportunity to land on ones forehead or face or arm or leg or edge of bed or floor or table or even windowsill.

  2. According to google, 4.5 km is 2.8 miles. I'm sorry about your exercise and your pigeon (shudder) issues.

  3. The worst part of it all was, on the way back, we had to walk uphill again. And it was snowing. And we only had newspaper for shoes.

  4. Alice, Shame on you and your careless parents!!!!! Your upbringing was slightly deficient because you were raised in a rural community. The local Catholic church - you know, the one you attended since birth - had an impaired bell in the tower. Either that or they couldn't convince anyone (including Kenney) to pull the bell rope three times a day. The word for today is "Angelus". This is the thrice daily prayer having its origins in feudal times. The church bells are rung three times a day to simultaneously remind the "illiterate" or "impoverished" (no wristwatch) faithful of two functions: (1) its time to pray and (2) its time to go to work, take a lunch break, go home.

    If you had been raised in Paterson, you would would have heard St. Mary's bells (also, St Michael's, St Jame's and maybe St John's cathedral)ringing the Angelus at 6 AM, Noon and 6 PM. The times were just comfirmed by both your mother and Aunt Sue. Apparently, the Italians are yielding to the late arising tourists by ringing the morning Angelus at 7. In context, your real problem was that you were sleeping in a city with dozens and dozens of churces, cathedrals, chapels, monasteries, etc. They all hit PLAY at the same time. You should also have noticed the clamor at Noon and early evening, but it probably wasn't as noticeable because it didn't roust you from a sound sleep. (UF)

  5. Reflections on my previous comment.

    Travel is broadening. You experienced something new a half a world away that your parents experienced routinely at home. It's just that the world is changing, and you don't have the same opportunities at home. You will have similar experiences in Switzerland where "downtown" is where you shop (at full retail price) and the stores close at six PM weekdays and at Noon on Saturday, closed Sunday. Great news, they stay open until 9 on Thursday. That was Paterson in the 50s. Another lesson from the time-wrap brought to you by travel. Even the TV is retro (with the possible exception of some of the late night stuff that is just tasteless in any other culture).

  6. I'm impressed by the optical quality of the videos. That's one neat camera you have. (UF)

  7. um... i totally understand the whole "bells ringing at 7AM" thing. My school (being a catholic one) likes to let the bells ring at 7 in the morning and it rings every 15 minutes, until 10 at night. THEN they finally turn off until 7 AM when it resumes ringing all over again.

    (i must admit though, it's kinda nice. i always know what time it is without having a watch on me.)