Monday, May 30, 2011

The Big Birthday trip

As I sit here on this rainy Bank Holiday Monday, my mind goes back to the very different weather I was enjoying this time last week.  DD and I were in Italy, on our long-planned Big Birthday trip to celebrate her 40th birthday and my 65th, and we were revelling in cloudless blue skies and 30 degree temperatures. However, contrary to what you might expect from a mother-daughter holiday, we were neither sunning ourselves on the beach nor hitting the Italian shops for the latest fashions.

Instead we were exploring, with ever-increasing fascination, the narrow, winding streets, ancient churches and other wonderful buildings of one of the most beautiful and best-preserved small mediaeval towns in ItalyAssisi. We were on a 4-day pilgrimage to the town forever associated with Saint Francis, and it was an unforgettable experience.

As yet it is an experience I haven’t had chance to reflect on, as within two days of my return home, Grandsons #1 and 2 arrived to spend half-term with us. They do so at this time every year, and, as always, spare time flies out of the window until they go home again. So until then I will leave you with a few tantalising glimpses of another of my very special places.

The ever-climbing street
In the Piazza Communale

Basilica of San Francesco

Cathedral of San Rufino and (left) the birthplace of Saint Clare
Underneath the arches


  1. Lovely pictures. Just my kind of place, apart from the temperature that is.
    It made me think however, about the photos I threw out yesterday and I really wonder whether I want a camera at all.
    St Francis is my favourite saint and the old town looks the right kind of setting for him.

  2. Hello Perpetua:
    We did not for a single instance, once we understood that you had been in Italy, imagine that your time would have been spent either sunning yourself on a beach or, worse, beside a swimming pool, let alone on a shopping spree. We find it rather frightening, and very sad, those who choose to spend time abroad in such ways.

    To our great regret, and some shame, we have never visited Assisi and your post today has persuaded us to correct this at the earliest possible moment. It looks delightful, and how wonderful to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. We do hope that after the half term break you will have the time to post more.

    In the meantime, in contrast to your grey skies we are enjoying another beautiful sunny day.

  3. I have so many happy memories of our trips to Italy -- it's such a great country to visit with children -- the Italian people have a way of dealing with children that means they almost never behave badly! I have very pleasant memories of our visit to Assisi -- unfortunately the weather was not a beautiful as that in your pictures -- it was however, very dramatic -- thunder and lightening and blue-black skies, followed by a sunset to knock your socks off!

  4. Lucky, lucky you - what a wonderful trip to make at this time of year.

  5. Ray, it is the most magical place, quite extraordinary. I'm sure you'd love it. My first visit was in very early May and the temperature then was perfect. It was apparently unusually hot this time for late May and we did find ourselves keeping very much to the shade in the middle of the day.

  6. Jane and Lance, I'm sure you didn't imagine me in those situations as they are both so NOT me :-) I'm glad to have made you decide to visit Assisi. I can promise you won't regret it and amy well, like me, find yourself wanting to return again and again.

    I'll tell you more once th grandsons have gone home. Just now, however, we've promised them a game of Ticket to Ride....

  7. Broad, Italy really is the most child-friendly country, even in the restaurants in the evening. we have a lot to learn from them.

    I can imagine that Assisi in a thunderstorm must have been intensely dramatic and you're so right about the sunsets. From its elevated position they can be fantastic.

  8. I know, Curate's Wife, and I'm so grateful DD had the idea of the joint trip. I really do think May is the ideal month to visit Italy unless you are a true sun and heat worshipper. The mornings and evenings still have some coolness and freshness, but the days are usually warm and sunny.

  9. It sounds like it was a wonderful trip and the perfect way to celebrate a birthday.

    Enjoy your grandsons..I'm sure you are! xxx

  10. It really was, Ayak, and we enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

    The grandsons are great fun, (almost always) very well-behaved and have just soundly trounced us in a marathon game of Ticket to Ride :-) Now that the rain has stopped and the sun has returned, they are ioutside working off some of their excess energy in an swift game of cricket for 3 - the third being their rapidly-ageing grandfather....

  11. Thank you so much for sharing these lovely pictures with us! I so look forward to hearing more about the trip when you have a moment. (We are in half-term too, so I sympathise!) I worked near Lucca one spring and summer, many years ago, but never made it down to Assisi. It was a town that my granny loved and always spoke of with fondness and reverence. It's definitely on my list of must-visit places. May in Italy: delicious.

  12. You're very welcome, Dancing Beastie. I love Assisi so much I'm always delighted to introduce others to its beauty and history. Your granny and I would have been united in our attitude to it. I'm already looking forward to writing one or more posts with more detail and photos.

    I believe Lucca and northern Tuscany are very beautiful, but I always want to go back to Assisi and Umbria - the green heart of Italy, as someone called it.

  13. Ooh good some photos! I've been looking forward to these since you'd left a comment on my blog about returning from hols. I shall admire the "trailer" and wait for the "main feature" once you have had time to recover from half term :-)

  14. Hi, Perpetua: What wonderful pictures --and what a lovely pilgrimage, to walk in the footsteps of St. Francis and St. Clare. What a blessing to be able to share that experience as mother and daughter celebrating landmark birthdays! I can't imagine a better way to mark her 40th and your 65th!

  15. If it's photos you want, Sian, I've LOTS more to show you :-) Assisi is probably the most photogenic and atmospheric town I've ever visited. I'm gradually digesting the experience in between doing things with the grandsons and will come back to it next week.

  16. Thanks, Kathy, you'e absolutely right. Neither of us is a party person, so this seemed so much more appropriate for us, especially as we both belong to the Third Order of the Anglican Society of St Francis. There's the material for several posts in what we packed into our few days there.

  17. Assisi - what a wonderful, evocative place. I've only been once, many years ago, but the memories and related emotions come flooding back. A special way to celebrate!

  18. Absolutely, Annie. Once seen, never forgotten sums up Assisi for just about everyone. I can remember one of the most cynical and rationalist people I know telling me before my first visit that I would love Assisi as it's such a magical place. I was flabbergasted to hear him say such a thing, but he was right.

  19. Hi Perpetua,
    Assisi is somewhere I've not yet got to visit though Sybille has walked there from Spain! I look forward to seeing more of your photos & reading your reflections on your trip once you've recovered from looking after the grandchildren!

  20. Oh, you must go one day, Ricky. It's quite different from Prague,but has the same sense of walking through history as you explore it.

    Sybille's walk from Spain to Assisi is a major achievement as pilgrimages go. It must have had something of the same feel as walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

  21. wow, looks beautiful and tranquil. Ok, so I'm a teensy bit jealous...;)

  22. Hi Red! Beautiful it most certainly is, but you sometimes have to look for the tranquillity. The main streets and buildings can get very crowded with visitors during the day, but there are lots of little side streets which are empty and the early mornings and the evenings are quiet too.

    Don't be jealous - I was a lot older than you when I first went ;-) You'll get there one day if you really want to.

  23. A beautiful post about one of my favourite and a very spiritual and holy place Assisi
    I found the "tomb of st. Francis" to be very moving. To decend to the lovel level and be greeted by the shrine with the 30 inch slim candles throwing their light on the tomb gave me goose bumps. I returned several times to the tomb and each time I felt the spirit of St Francis.
    Looking forward to reading more of your posts which I shall not miss!
    Helen Tilston

  24. Hello Helen and thanks for visiting. Glad to meet another for whom Assisi is so very special.

    When we visited the crypt and the tomb, we were lucky that it was virtually empty and the atmosphere was so quiet and prayerful. It looks wonderful now that the walls and ceiling have been been cleaned of the smoke stains of years. Of course we couldn't take photos there, so you will have to imagine it, I'm afraid.

  25. I have never visited Assisi, but my father took me to a monastery where St.Francis was suppose to have lived as a hermit.
    Birds were everywhere...not at all timid, and perching on our hands and shoulders.
    The brothers were most welcoming...calm and loving.
    The whole atmosphere was one of peace.
    I am so frustrated that I cannot recall the name of the place

  26. Fly, I wonder whether the place your father took you was La Verna, high in the mountains of Tuscany? It's surrounded by woods and DD spent most of her time watching the birds there. I'll be posting some photos of it when I have time to write properly about our trip.

    Alternatively, it might have been Grecchio, in the Rieti valley south of Assisi. I went there on a previous visit and must scan in my hard-copy photos for future blog use.

    Both were hermitages used by Francis at different times in his life and there are still friars living in both places. Of course they are much more visited nowadays and the birds not so tame.

    P.S. Are you any closer to solving your blog access problem?

  27. Hello Kimia and thanks :-) To be honest, Assisi is so beautiful I think it would be hard to take an ugly photo there. The light, the colour of the stone, the marvellous old streets and buildings are a photographer's dream.


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