It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how many times I return to Rome, I always find something new to do at a new place to explore. This week I took a new bus route near my apartment and the capolinea was right outside Basilica San Giovanni
Locate in "the heel of the boot" Lecce is the southernmost point I've visited in Italy, thus far. Filled with baroque architecture and nice people, it's certainly a must visit place.
The historic center (Centro Storico) is a walled city accessible by three main gates; Porta San Biagio, Porta Napoli and Porta Rudiae.
During my October 2014 trip to Italy, St. Peter's became alomost a daily sight at different times of the day, since I often took the bus home at a bus stop nearby.
The big difference, the crowds, don't get me wrong the area is always full of tourists, but the lines at were always long every day at all different hours.
Today (3/1/16) I noticed the increased security, armed soldiers, mutiple check points.
Assisi is best known for being the birthplace of St. Francesco di Assisi, the patron saint of Italy. A lot of people visit the Basilica di San Francesco, is a great mystical place, a must stop for those on a religious pilgrimage.
The Basilica was built in 1228-1253 to honor St. Francis, which in its grandeur seems an oxymoron because he led a very simple life. The Basilica has wonderful breathtaking frescoes from Giotto and Cimabue. The Basilica was named a Unesco site in 2000.
In 2000 , the year of the Jubilee, the train station in Assisi was remodeled with the look of the old station and it remains like that to date.
What a lot of people don't know is that St. Francis did most of his preaching in the area where now is the Basilica Santa Maria Degli Angeli. The Basilica was built around the a small church that St. Francis restored in 1216. It is in this chapel known as La Porziuncola where St. Francis received a message from God , where he founded the Franciscan order and, it is also in this chapel where he died.
To visit the town of Assisi without visiting La Porziuncola is missing a great part of the life and work of St. Francis.
Just a little taste of what I'm experiencing right now. I'm sitting at a small park surrounded by olive trees, there's a guy playing the harp, the sun is shinning, it's a gorgeous day, and from here you can see the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
But I imagine that during the weekend people hop on the train and go somewhere. If they don't, well they should! I did and today my travels brought me to Perugia.A 2:30 min train ride from Roma Termini, then a short bus ride from the train station to Piazza Italia in the city center. Once in the center you are greeted with gorgeous views of the Umbrian hills and valleys, beautiful piazzas and historic reminders dating back to the Etruscans.
I first visited Padova in 2012 as part of the Rick Steves, Village Italy Tour, I felt an immediate connection to the town. Maybe it was my affinity to Sant'Antonio di Padova or the fact that it is a college town, or the great outdoor markets. I feel at home in Padova. I remember that early one morning I went to mass at St. Anthony's Basilica. Really, I don't go to mass even when I'm in the US, but somehow it felt right at the time, get up at the crack to catch a 7 am mass, in italian.... At the time I was learning italian and I was not quite proficient as I am now, but there's one thing about catholic mass, they follow a certain script, so it is like riding a bicycle, all those years of catholic school coming back, and while everyone spoke italian and I responded in spanish.
I went to mass last Saturday, now I can understand the priest and blend with the locals. No I don't get the urge to go to mass every time I'm near a church in Italy, but there is always good energy at la casa d'il Santo
It is said that Saint Peter in Chains is located in the spot where Saint Peter was condemned to death during Nero's ruling. Built around 442 it houses the relics of the chains that bound St. Peter when he was in prison in Jerusalem and another set of chains that held him while imprisoned in Rome. I learned while I was here that both sets of chains were placed together they miraculously united. The church also houses another one of Michelangelo's masterpieces, The Moses.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is another one of those hidden gems in Rome. Here is were Saint Catherine of Siena is buried, or I should say where her body "senza testa" is buried, because her head is a relic at her homonymous church in Siena. The church gets it's name because it is built in 1280 over the ancient Roman temple dedicated to Minerva. Located near the Pantheon, don't let it simple facade fool you, and don't get distracted by the elephant sculpture in the piazza. Inside you will find, Michelangelo's The Redeemer, and many frescoes by Fillipo Lippi.
Images of Saint Peter in Vincoli & Santa Maria sopra Minerva
The image of the Christ Pantocrator (Christ Allmighty , Christ All-Powerful, or Christ Ruler of All) is a very iconic one that shepherds over many cathedrals, basilicas and churches with Byzantine art. The Pantocrator holds the New Testament on his left hand and is right hand is held in a blessing position.
Most of the ones I've seen are usually at the main apse displayed as a half dome above the altar, but I've also seen some circular ones. Regardless of the shape these images created in mosaics will take your breath away. So far my favorite one is the Pantocrator at the Cathedral in Cefalú, Sicily, a close up of which is seen above. I like it for two reasons: the cathedral itself is very simple so this image really captures you, and also because it is an image where Christ looks most human.
I hope you enjoy these images...
Since tomorrow is Easter, I thought I share with you some of the Easter Eggs you can find in Italy, beautiful confections that put peeps and other commercially produced Easter candies to shame.
My fascination with Italy started in 2011 when I visited for the first time. In the last few years I've had the opportunity to explore this country, I've learned the language, I've tried to understand it's culture, and the more I know, the more I want to learn, the more I see, the more I want to experience...