10 Days: A Franciscan Pilgrimage to Italy- Assisi, Rivo Torto, Greccio, Montecasale & more

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DAY 1: DEPART USA

We depart USA en route to Rome, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.

DAY 2: ARRIVE ROME / ASSISI

We arrive in Rome and are met by our professional Catholic Travel Centre escort and board our private motor coach for the scenic drive to Assisi, nestled on Mt. Subasio. We take the afternoon to rest from our travels. Dinner is at our hotel. (D)

DAY 3: ASSISI: VISIT OF THE TOWN & LEISURE

Today we visit this “quiet medieval town, imbued with the mystical spirit of one of the most fascinating characters of history”. We begin with Mass at the Tomb of St. Francis. Later, we enjoy a tour of the Basilica of St. Francis, led by one of the Franciscan monks. We continue with a walking tour of the city, visiting the major sites associated with Ss. Francis and Clare, including the Chiesa Nuova, built over the home of Francis’ family and the Church of San Rufino, with the baptismal font of the Saint and the Basilica of St. Clare. This afternoon is at leisure to reflect on how the lives of these two saints impact us today. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 4: ASSISI: VISIT OF THE HERMITAGE & LEISURE

This morning we meet at the Piazza near St. Clare’s Church and take taxis up the winding road (buses cannot make these sharp turns) to the Eremo delle Carceri (Hermitage), secluded some 2 1/2 miles outside the town of Assisi. Here is where St. Francis often retired to pray. Here, in the midst of the lush

green forest and the singing birds, one gets a deep sense of the spirit of St. Francis. After some time for prayer and our own private reflections, we return to the town down below.

We will have some time for reflection to walk the streets of this medieval town and absorb the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare, and ponder their deep commitment to the poor of their world. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 5: ASSISI: EXCURSION TO MONTE CASALE & LA VERNA

This morning we depart for La Verna, stopping first at the little convent of Monte Casale, where St. Francis and his brothers worshipped. We continue on to La Verna. Here we visit the Sanctuary of San Francesco, a site of constant pilgrimage over the centuries and a religious centre known all over the world.

Monte de La Verna was given by Count Orlando Cattani to St. Francis of Assisi in 1213 A.D. There he founded a small hermitage community and in 1224 he received from Christ the final seal of the stigmata. For the next decade, Francis himself would spend part of the year in quiet meditation in caves and huts on the mountaintop. Today, the sanctuary stands as a unique spiritual place, surrounded by rich woods, and is a reminder of the ancient relationship between man and nature. We visit the Stigmata Chapel as well as Sasso Spicco, the great overhanging rock under which Francis delighted to pray, and the beautiful Chapel of the Birds. After some time for prayer and reflection we return to Assisi for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 6: ASSISI: RIVO TORTO & ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS

This morning, we visit the Rivo Torto church, once a vacant animal shed where Francis and his early companions found shelter. Francis and his followers were evicted by an irascible peasant and his donkey. These early friars then begged use of St. Mary of the Angels church in Assisi, paying an annual rent of a basket of fish.
We continue our pilgrimage with a visit to the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angeles, containing the Porziuncola, an ancient chapel called the” Blessed Virgin Mother of God”. The chapel, deserted and in ruins, was repaired by St. Francis and the friars. Later, the abbot of the monastery, St. Benedict, moved to pity by the living conditions of the friars, gave Francis and his brothers the church of St. Mary of the Angels, the poorest church it owned. Nearby is the site where Francis surrendered to “Sister Death.”
We return to our hotel for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 7: ASSISI / GRECCIO / ROME

This morning we depart Assisi for Rome, stopping first at the medieval town of Greccio. Greccio itself, set on a beautiful mountaintop, is famous for its cool summer climate and its mineral springs. However it is even more renowned for its connections with St. Francis of Assisi and as the birthplace of the Christmas crèche.
On Christmas Night 1223, St. Francis led shepherds to the top of a nearby hill where they gathered together in a stable sheltering an ox and a donkey. According to legend, the Baby Jesus miraculously appeared in the manger. On this spot the Franciscan convent of Greccio was built, and the Chapel of The Crib was erected in 1228, the year St. Francis was canonized.

We continue on to Rome where we visit the Basilica of St. John Lateran. It is here that St. Francis persuaded Pope Innocent III to give permission to begin the Franciscan Order. The night before, the Pope had seen a man in a dream and the man was supporting the tottering building of St. John Lateran. The next day, when Francis appeared before Pope Innocent, His Holiness recognized the face from the dream and consented to Francis’s request. We visit as well the church of San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa, built in the 13th century on the site of a hospice for travelers where St. Francis lived during his stay in Rome. Dinner tonight is at our hotel.
(B, D)

DAY 8: ROME: VATICAN DAY

We make our way to Vatican City to attend the General Papal Audience at Pope Paul VI Audience Hall (subject to the Holy Father’s schedule). After our visit we will have time for lunch on our own and time to shop at some of the excellent religious articles shops in the Vatican area. This afternoon our guide will show us the Basilica of St. Peter. We then will have free time to visit the Vatican Museum. Tonight we will enjoy dinner at our hotel. (B, D)

Note: We can include other sightseeing on this day if you prefer to do something different as a group.

DAY 9: ROME: VISIT TO ANCIENT SITES

This morning we make our way to the catacombs, the underground burial site of the early Christians. After our tour we stop for lunch on our own at one of Rome’s restaurants.

After lunch we will board our motor coach for a panoramic tour of Ancient Rome, including the Forum and the Coliseum. Its real name was the Flavian Amphitheater after the emperors who built it in the first century after Christ. Coliseum refers to the “colossal” statue of Nero that at one time stood at the entrance. We will drive by the Forum, but we will have a chance to enter into the Coliseum.

This evening we will enjoy a festive farewell dinner together at a local restaurant. (B, D)

DAY 10: RETURN USA

After breakfast we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight to the USA. (B)

NOTE: While no changes are anticipated, there might be occasions when certain alterations become necessary to this itinerary due to changes in airline schedules or for other reasons. All Masses are subject to final church schedules.