Author Archives: frjfkauffmann

The Beautiful Umbrian Countryside

This morning we began our descent to the village of Poreta as we begin our Camino to Trevi.

The trail was restful.

Along the way we befriended the local dogs and cats.

We came to a little bar for cappuccino and the owner was so hospitable. We had a lively conversation in Italian and she showed us her little farm. She told us the people of Umbria still have the spirit of Francis, a spirit of simplicity and hospitality. We have experienced that first hand.

The goat was friendly as well as the other animals.

Entry into the little farm.

She picked fresh fruit for us for our pilgrimage

Happy beginning in the morning.

Our Camino was through beautiful olive groves.

And these beautiful pencil cypress.

The village Campello.

The Umbria landscape is so memorable.

Beautiful oleader.

This day of the camino was so beautiful.

Can you detect the blue and yellow marker?

The last two hours to Trevi were excruciating under the intensity of the sun.

There was no relief and when saw shade we took advantage of it for a roadside picnic.

The main square in Trevi.

Notice the frescoes on this palazzo.

Trevi is very high up so it offers great panoramas.

This is where we ate and enjoyed wild boar and local sausage. I hope these pictures give you an insight into a day on the camino. Today was very exhausting because of the intensity of the heat of the sun. The day was long and perhaps the most arduous. When I looked down from Trevi to the valley below I realized we had climbed up a mountain!

Arriving at Poreta

The next morning we woke up with a lot of confidence. We got up very early before the sun got too hot because we had braced ourselves for a difficult walk. We were able to maneuver ourselves out of the city on the ancient Via Flaminia however once again no markings. This is a Camino not to make if you don’t speak Italian. We were standing by the roadside so much perplexed. An Italian jogger came up and asked if he could help us we told him where we wanted to go. Then he said when go up to the house on the right, take a right climb way up go way down take a left on the street this is signed San Giacomo, turn left, go straight down the street and then when you come to the village go about 300 feet past the stoplight, take a right and that will take you into Poreta. So we continued to walk with confidence although we never saw a sign. When we got to the intersection about 2 hours later our jogger was there! We stopped at the village for coffee.

This is the village of San Giacomo.

Lovely church.

Beautiful piazza.

The interior of the village church. They were preparing for Confirmation.

Where we stopped for cappuccino. No one even attempts English so I am glad I know some italian.

Our first sighting of a marker when we arrived.

Multiple signs.

More signs.

Poreta.

This gives you some idea of the beauty that we have experienced.

We walked up the mountain from the valley below. This is no exaggeration; the guidebook was correct. It is difficult.

And a place for events. Today there was a baptismal party. We sat outside and some Italians would come over and initiate conversation in Italian. A test for me!

The family around the cake.

The entrance to our hotel. It was once a villa with a church; now a hotel and restaurant.

We walked from the valley up here to Poreta. It was a challenge. In many ways this Camino is one on which we have not accomplished what we set out to accomplish but in fact we have accomplished a lot more. I think having no map and getting lost has helped us experience the incredible hospitality of the Italian people, as we were having to change itinerary very quickly in the spontaneity of the moment.

The valley is so lush. It has been cultivated for thousands of years. The monks had a large role in this in the medieval period because of their care for creation through crop rotation and planting certain kinds of vegetation that replenish the nutrients in the soil. Because of good farming habits it continues to yield incredibly good produce. Now this is sustainability. That is to care for God’s creation so it can sustain more and more of God’s creatures, that is, the humans he has created in his own image. Saint Francis for the earth expressed his love for creatures.

On the other side of this hill is our next destination: Trevi

Dinner at Poreta.

Sunset.

Spoleto Cathedral

The cathedral of the Archdiocese of Spoleto-Norcia, is full of art treasures. These sites have more details.

The cathedral at Spoleto.

Facade of cathedral.

This chapel houses art by Pinturicchio.

The Pinturicchio altar of the entombed Christ.

This and the next are from the 16th century Assumption Chapel.

Chapel of John Paul.

Entrance to chapel that houses an ancient icon of Mary.

Icon chapel.

Beautiful cosmatesque pavement.

Admiring the cathedral.

Apse.

Eucharistic chapel.

Remnant of medieval frescoes.

Looking back at cathedral.

Enchanting Spoleto

We began to enquire where we could find information on the Camino. We discovered that we could get a map from Gubbio to Assisi but no-one had a map from Reiti to Assisi. We were discouraged but decided we would go to Spoleto and see what we could find there. We were confident that we would get a map so we could continue. The side trip to Gubbio was a delight so all was not lost. On the bus ride to Spoleto we saw the beautiful countryside that made us even more eager to get back on the camino.

We had a beautiful evening in Spoleto.

The next day when we got up we headed for the tourist information office. There we hoped to find a map so it would put us back on our way. We had missed a good day of this Camino. We did obtain a good map. She was very knowledgeable about what we were trying to accomplish. Today we spent the entire day walking every inch of the city. These photos attempt to share the beauty of Spoleto. The city is charming and beautiful.


Saint Gregory the martyr church

When I walk into a Romanesque church like Saint Gregory I feel I am on a Catholic planet.

13th to 14th century mosaics that have been uncovered.

The chapel under the altar.


A little flavor of the urbanscape.


The portal is beautiful architecturally.


The tall medieval tower.


The remains from the Roman Arch of Drusus and Germanicus.


Fountain of the Mask.


These photos give you a good idea of the enchantment of Spoleto.


The urbanscape is lush with plants and the white jasmine is everywhere which gives the city a wonderful fragrance.


A city of fountains.


Beautiful portals.

Saint Francis in Gubbio

Because of our experience yesterday of getting lost both of us were apprehensive about proceeding into the mountains and into the forest without any assurance that we would stay on the right path so we made a decision that we would hop the bus to Gubbio and hope we could find someone with whom we could speak so we could get back on course.

As we were leaving the Reiti Valley for Gubbio I remembered that Francis was very fond of these people because they lead simple and humble lives. He would often go to rest and spend time in the valley where he would like to pray because it was very isolated and plain.

We arrived in Gubbio in the early afternoon and began our walk. Gubbio is a beautiful medieval city which is perched on the side of a mountain so the walk even in the city can be somewhat demanding.

Medieval city hall of Gubbio.

Interior of Gubbio cathedral.

There is a beautiful story of how Francis tamed the wolf that was terrorizing the people of Gubbio.

Facade of Saint John the Baptist in Gubbio.

The baptistery of Saint John.

 

The simple altar.

Remnant of medieval frescoes of Saint John.

About the church.

We were determined to accept the challenge of walking to the very top of the mountain where Saint Ubaldo had his hermitage. To give you an idea of the climb I have posted two pictures, one from the city looking up to the top of the mountain and the tower that looks like a speck from there, and a picture of the tower.

It took some time for the climb so we finished at about 8. After dinner we felt sure we would get the information we needed in the morning to continue our camino. We spent the next morning in Gubbio and explored St Francis Church. This is the first church built after the saint’s death.

The Spadalongo offered him asylum and refuge in the beginning of his ministry.

From Rieti to Poggio Bustone

We had spent a very good night in Reiti since we had not slept for almost 24 hours. We woke up with lots of energy ready to go and begin our Camino of Saint Francis. We got directions on how to get out of the city and walked on a busy highway for three or four miles until we began our ascent into the mountains. We finally arrived at our destination, La Foresta, a small Franciscan monastery.

Beautiful landscape on our walk.

Stunningly beautiful landscape. We were confident at this point only later we got discouraged as we lost the path.

A station approaching the monastery.

With signs we still got lost.

The cloister was closed but the church was opened so we stay for prayer.

Lovely image of Mary.

The chapel where we prayed.

The door to the cloister at Foresta.

With confidence we begin our ascent into the woods convinced we were on the Camino.

Fresh water to revive our spirits now that we thought we had found our way.

Now we knew this was the path.

The path became narrow and and very precarious. John fell and broke his walking stick so we decided we took the wrong turn and went back to another path and walked for a long time ending up on an asphalt road and we realized we weren’t on the Camino at all. So we returned to the monastery where we encountered two Italians who put us on the right path and we began to see signs but soon the path became more rugged and ended in a farm. We were losing confidence because we thought we made another mistake so we went back to the monastery. It was now about 3 o’clock and we had been working since 8 in the morning. We had walked in the woods for a long time and basically walked big circles. We had lost our Italian guidebook. We meet an American who started in Gubbio and said the stretch we were walking to Assisi was poorly marked and people were prone to getting lost. The good news was that the monastery was now open we had the opportunity to see another cave where Saint Francis slept.

It was past 3 o’clock and there was no way we could make it to Poggio Bustone before nightfall so we had to hitch a ride and got there in time for dinner. The hotel we were scheduled to stay in had been closed because of earthquake damage but the manager found us a B and B. We had a great dinner and conversations with Italians with lively interchange.

Our room had a balcony which overlooked the valley below. The balcony door was opened and a little kitten wandered in who wanted a lot of attention. I found out the next morning his name was Meno.

This is a town that played a part in the life of Saint Francis, who visited the town one day, knocked on the door at the arched portal, declaring “Buon Giorno Buona Gente,” “Good morning, good people” and proceeded to proclaim to them the Gospel.

He took refuge in another cave up the side of the mountain at the church of Saint James. We intended to visit it the next day.

We hoped that we could find someone who could give us a map. The pilgrims we encountered said this stretch is almost impossible because of poor signage. The stretch from Gubbio to Assisi is about 4 to 5 days well marked with lots of pilgrims. We had chosen the road less travelled.

Early Morning in Poggio.

Saint James.

Door to church.

Gives an idea of the structure hugging the mountain.

The tau cross of Saint Francis.

The cave where Francis slept and instructed his disciples.

Saint Francis.

The church of Saint James.

The cloister.

The church.

The Camino of Saint Francis: Poggio Bustone

Update: for the whole story of today’s trip, please see the next post.


The medieval streets of Poggio Bustone.

The gate to the medieval city where Saint Francis entered and greeted the residents with the words, “Buon giorno, buona gente.”

Frescoes inside the gate.

Looking from the city through the gate.

Sunset in Poggio Bustone.

My new friend Meno helping me.

A view of Poggio Bustone from Saint James.


The sign of the cammino as we entered the sanctuary of Poggio Bustone dedicated to Saint James.


The sanctuary of Poggio Bustone dedicated to Saint James.

The Camino of Saint Francis: Day One

We arrived at the airport early in the morning and took the Leonardo Express airport train to the train station in central Rome. That was the last express transit of our day because we waited for three hours for a local train to Reiti.

Waiting for hours in Rome for our train connection.

We had difficulty finding the platform because it took us took us about 15 minutes to get the platform and they only posted 20 minutes before. The local train got us as far as Terni and then we had difficulty finding the platform. It was to the west of the station. Was it the express to Marrakesh? It had that hippie look with urban graffiti even covering the windows. The train looked like it was destined for the junkyard however much to our surprise there were four Filipino sisters getting on board with big boxes and yes they assured us this was the train to Rieti.

We finally arrived around 4pm and we were exhausted. We found our hotel the Miramonti and took off for our city walk.

Our hotel.

View from the hotel room.

Our first stop was the Basilica of Saint Augustine which dates from the 12th century.

There were remnants of 12th century frescoes.

We then took a walk outside the old city walls.

Entering the city again and began searching for the of umbilicus or navel which Italians consider the center of Italy.

We then discovered the Central Square with many folks enjoying the afternoon.

We then proceeded to cathedral which is a Romanesque structure with baroque overlay.

To the left of the cathedral was a monument to Saint Francis.

At the end of that square was a 12th century that was a papal residence.

The main altar.

The pulpit.

(Closeup of this altarpiece).

Saint Barbara. This was possibly designed by Bernini. If you enlarge the photo and look closely, you can see a cannon beneath her feet, as she is the patron saint of artillerymen, and of Rieti.

The crypt.

Of course, afternoon gelato.

For dinner we found a great restaurant, the Bacchus, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with a lively conversation with the chef setting and the owner chef.

In the Footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi

Today, June 5, Father John Peck and I will fly to Rome and then take the train to Rieti. From that little town in Umbria we will begin our walk to Assisi. We will cover about 15 miles a day on foot from little town to little town associated with Saint Francis of Assisi. We will be heading north from Rieti to Assisi and enjoying the countryside and various sites that Saint Francis visited during his lifetime.

The towns we plan to visit are marked on this Google map.