DAY 1: DEPART THE USA
We depart the USA en-route to Rome, with complimentary meals and beverages served aloft.
DAY 2: ARRIVE ROME
We arrive in Rome, and are greeted by our Catholic Travel Centre representative; boarding our waiting motor coach we enjoy a panoramic sightseeing tour of the city before continuing to our hotel for dinner and the evening. (D)
DAY 3: ROME: PAPAL AUDIENCE / SIENA
This morning, after breakfast, we make our way to Vatican City to attend the General Papal Audience with Pope Benedict XVI (subject to the Holy Father’s schedule). The General Audience usually takes place in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall.
After lunch on our own, we board our motor coach for our journey to Siena, one of the most beautiful cities of Tuscany. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 4: SIENA: VISIT OF THE TOWN & ENOTECA ITALIANA WINE TASTING
In the mid 14th century Siena served as home to the Benincasa family, a family of wool-dyers. One of their twenty-five children was named Caterina Benincasa. History remembers her as St. Catherine of Siena. Because of her intervention with Pope Gregory XI, the papacy returned to Rome from Provence, France. She, along with St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, is one of the few women granted the title of ‘Doctor’ in the Roman Catholic Church. Along with St. Francis, she serves as a co-patron saint of Italy.
We begin this morning at the Duomo, originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263. Here we celebrate Mass. The main square of this medieval town is absolutely charming, and we will have some time to enjoy the atmosphere. We also visit the austere church of San Domenico–“which contains the only authentic portrait of Catherine in the chapel where she received the Dominican habit and where several of her miracles occurred.” Just down the street is the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, built on the site of her former home.
After lunch on our own and some time at leisure, we visit the Enoteca Italiana , the 16th-century Fortezza Medicea, housing the official state-mandated National Wine Museum. Seated in the tunnel-like brick halls or out on the terraces if weather permits, we sample a choice selection of Italian wines. We end our fist full day in Siena with dinner at a local restaurant. (B, D)
DAY 5: SIENA: EXCURSION TO BADIA A PASSIGNANO ABBEY & VINEYARDS
Today, we travel to Badia for a visit of. Badia a Passignano vineyards and Abbey.
We begin our visit with Mass at the abbey. Although the monastery archives only go back to the year 891, the monastery is thought to be much older. In 1049 Badia passed into the Vallombrosano order, a reformed branch of the Benedictines specializing in winegrowing and forestry and was established by San Giovanni Gualberto. Since then the shepherd’s staff – the order’s symbol – has been present throughout the abbey. Over time the order became so powerful that it owned a quarter of Tuscany.
After the Council of Trent in 1545, the abbey became an important theological, literary and scientific study centre. About 100 monks lived there with 6,000 documents, many written in Hebrew and Greek; the monastery chronicles report that Galileo Galilei taught mathematics here from 1587-1588. The monastery and the order are especially well-known for their huge libraries of medieval classical and musical texts; for promoting scientific research and for cultivating large areas of land, especially with vines and reforestation. The vineyards are located in one of the most beautiful and productive areas of Chianti Classico.
This afternoon we enjoy lunch at the vineyard and the opportunity to taste some truly fine wines. We return to Siena for the evening. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B, D)
DAY 6: SIENA: EXCURSION TO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO & SAN ANTIMO / SPOLETO
This morning we’re off to the Castello Banfi, vineyards dramatically set in the ancient area of Montalcino, known for its excellent Brunello production. We visit the vineyards and enjoy lunch, including the opportunity to sample the local vintage and perhaps to bring a few bottles home.
After our lunch at Castello Banfi, we visit the Abbey of Sant’Antimo (Abbazia di Sant’Antimo) a beautiful 12th century Romanesque church, in a picture-perfect setting just south of Montalcino. If scheduling allows, we will join in a prayer service, in which the monks pray with Gregorian chants.
Our final stop of the day is the town of Spoleto, It was here that St. Francis of Assisi had a dream that changed his life and turned his life from that of a ‘soldier of war’ to a ‘soldier of peace.’ This picturesque town hill-top was once described as “a little bit of Heaven fallen to Earth.” Spoleto was the headquarters of the Lombard dukes who ruled most of Umbria in the early Middle Ages. It now owes its fame to its medieval character and its summer arts festival. Dinner tonight is on our own. For those of us who wish to dine as a group, our tour escort will have some suggestions. (B, L)
DAY 7: SPOLETO: EXCURSION TO ASSISI: VISIT OF THE TOWN & MONTEFALCO WINE TASTING
Today we make a full day excursion to Assisi, home of St. Francis and St. Clare. We visit the Basilica constructed over St. Francis’ tomb. After lunch on our own, we continue to the Church of San Damiano. It was here that the ‘San Damiano Cross’ hung when it ‘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 then to the Church of St. Clare, where St. Clare lies in repose. Here too we see the original ‘San Damiano’ crucifix that spoke to Francis. After some time on our own in the upper town, we travel to the town below, where 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. Here we celebrate Mass. Nearby is the site where Francis surrendered to “Sister Death.”
After our of visit of Assisi, we continue to the Antonelli vineyards, top producers of a Sagrantino red wine that has been produced in the Montefalco region for centuries. (Some believe that Sagrantino grapes originated in ancient Rome, others are of the opinion that the Franciscan friars returned from Asia Minor with the grape). After enjoying a tasting of some of the vineyards’ excellent selections, we return to Spoleto for dinner and the evening. (B, D)
DAY 8: SPOLETO: EXCURSION TO NORCIA: VISIT OF THE MONASTERY
Today we enjoy a leisurely morning, later, we travel to Norcia ( Nursia in Latin). St. Benedict and his twin sister St. Scholastica were born here in 480. St. Benedict wrote a set of rules governing his monks, known as the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Benedictine Rule became one of the more influential documents in Western Civilization, and was adopted by most monasteries founded throughout the Middle Ages. Because of this, Benedict is often called “the founder of western Christian Monasticism..” Benedict was canonized in 1220.
We begin with a visit of the monastery. Norcia is one of 12 founded by St. Benedict. The monasteries kept civilization alive in Europe during the Dark Ages. Not only did they nourish the intellectual arts of learning, they also promoted the art of farming during an era of environmental crises caused by terribly inclement weather. Though the present edifice was built in the 13th century, it stands on the remains of one or more small Roman buildings, sometimes considered to have been a Roman basilica, or alternately the actual house in which the twin saints were born.
After our visit of the monastery, we take some time to wander thruthis ancient walled city. “Norcineria” is the generic word that Italians give to the pork sausages and hams that are made from the wild boars that populate the local mountains. As we stroll around town, we will see boar’s heads hanging from hooks in many of the butcher’s windows. Norcia is also famous for its excellent truffles. The most highly prized is the “black truffle of Norcia”. This afternoon we will have the opportunity to sample Norcia’s truffles as we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before returning to Spoleto. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B, L)
DAY 9: SPOLETO / GRECCIO / ROME
Today, after breakfast, we depart Spoleto for 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 a 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. After our visit, we continue on to Rome. The balance of the day is at leisure. Tonight we gather for a special Farewell dinner. (B, D)
DAY 10: RETURN TO THE USA
After breakfast, we transfer to the Rome airport for our return flight home. (B)
B= Breakfast L= Lunch D=Dinner
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.