12 Days: A Pilgrimage to Italy in the Footsteps of St. Padre Pio

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DAY 1: DEPART USA

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

DAY 2: ROME/ASSISI

We arrive into Rome and are met by our Catholic Travel Centre representative who will accompany us throughout our journey. We make our way to the tiny Umbrian town of Assisi, which clings to the side of Mt. Subasio. We check-in to our hotel in Assisi for dinner and the evening. (B,D)

DAY 3: ASSISI: BASILICA OF ST. FRANCIS, CHIESA NUOVA, SAN RUFINO, BASILICA OF ST. CLARE & SAN DAMIANO

Today we begin with Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis. After Mass we enjoy a guided tour of the Basilica. We continue with a walking tour of the city, visiting the major sites associated with St. Francis and St. 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.

This Afternoon we visit the Church of St. Clare, where St. Clare lies in repose. Here we see the original ‘San Damiano’ crucifix that spoke to Francis, urging him to “rebuild My Church.” Francis interpreted the dream literally and went to work on repairing the building at San Damiano. Only later did he understand the deeper meaning of the dream. We continue to the Church of San Damiano. Here too we see the original ‘San Damiano Cross’ that ‘spoke’ to Francis. Dinner is at our accommodations this evening. (B, D)

DAY 4: ASSISI: CARCERI HERMITAGE & BASILICA OF ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS

This morning we meet our local guide 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 we celebrate Mass. This 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. We take some time for our own private reflections, before returning to the town down below.

After lunch on our own, we visit the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, containing the Porziuncola, built by St. Francis, and the Mother Church of the Franciscan Order. Nearby is the site of Francis’ death. Dinner and the evening are at our accommodations. (B, D)

DAY 5: ASSISI/ LORETO/ LANCIANO/ SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO

After breakfast we depart to Loreto to visit the Holy House of Loreto. Legend tells us that in 1291 the Virgin Mary’s House was miraculously transported by angels from Nazareth to Croatia, then further transported here to Loreto in 1294. We find the Holy House inside the Basilica. Here we celebrate Mass, then make our way to Lanciano, site of the Miracle of the Eucharist that dates back to the eighth century. We arrive in San Giovanni Rotondo for dinner and the evening. (B, D)

DAY 6: SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO: PADRE PIO VISIT & PIETRALCINA EXCURSION

We begin with Mass at the Church of Santa Marie delle Grazie and visit Padre Pio’s tomb. We visit the church where Padre Pio received the stigmata plus Padre’s most famous charitable work; the Home for Relief and Suffering. We will see the confessional where Padre Pio spent innumerable hours with the multitude of pilgrims, directing them on their journey toward God. We then visit the Grotto of Michael the Archangel. Six different popes and St. Francis of Assisi have knelt in prayer at this Grotto, seeking the protection of St. Michael. This is one of the most celebrated shrines of early Christianity.

This afternoon we visit Pietralcina, the town where Padre Pio was born. We see his native house and the Church of the Holy Family, with an adjacent convent and museum dedicated to Padre Pio. We also visit the pilgrim’s house which was built to welcome pilgrims from around the world and the parish church, Santa Maria degli Angeli, located in the center of the town. This was the church where Padre Pio celebrated his first Mass. Dinner and overnight are at our accommodations. (B, D)

DAY 7: SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO / MONTECASSINO / ROME

Our day begins as we head west to the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino. In the year 529 Benedict came here to start a monastery that was to become the cradle of all western monasticism. Here Benedict drew up his famous RULE. Benedict died here, forty days after his sister Scholastica. Both are buried here. We arrive in Rome this evening where we enjoy a festive farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)

DAY 8: ROME: MAJOR BASILICAS, CATACOMBS & ST. PAUL

This morning we visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Nearby we see 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’ request. Nearby is the Scala Santa, purportedly the stairs that Christ climbed prior to his condemnation by Pontius Pilate.

This afternoon we visit the Catacombs of St. Calixtus, housing the tombs of many of the early popes. Then we visit the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, housing the Tomb of St. Paul the Apostle, affectionately known as the Apostle of the Gentiles. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 9: ROME: ANCIENT ROME & LEISURE

This morning we visit at the Coliseum. Its real name was the Flavian Amphitheater, after 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. This afternoon is at our leisure. Dinner is at our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 10: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE & TOURIST SITES OF ROME; LEISURE TIME

This morning we transfer to the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall for the Papal Audience (subject to Holy Father’s schedule). This afternoon is at leisure so that we have some time to shop in the Eternal City. We might like to make a visit to the Trevi Fountain and the Piazza Navona, plus of course the Spanish Steps. Dinner tonight is at our hotel. (B, D)

DAY 11: ROME: VATICAN MUSEUM & BASILICA OF ST. PETER

This morning we enjoy a tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, featuring Michelangelo’s masterworks. We visit the Basilica of St. Peter with our local guide. Here we see another of Michelangelo’s works, the statue of the Blessed Mother holding her crucified son. We know it as the Pieta. The afternoon is at our leisure and later we make our way outside of Rome to Tivoli for a festive farewell dinner (B, D)

DAY 12: RETURN USA

This morning we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight to the USA, with many fond memories nested in our hearts for years to come. (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.