|The town of Cascia as it appeared at dusk.|
We were told our heavier bags would be delivered to the hotel so we began the hilly walk to the place where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. A friend of mine remarked to me that she wondered what kind of peacemaking St. Rita could have engaged in when this little town seemed so serene and quiet. The friar who was leading our tour reminded us that during the saint's lifetime, Cascia was much bigger and had more inhabitants.
As we walked past the lower basilica, or the basilica inferiore, an Augustinian nun exited with an older friar. Someone in our group must have attempted to take her photo because I heard her snap: "No fotografia, only the basilica." I had made it a personal rule not to photograph any of the nuns I encountered, the same as I would not photograph the Amish and while I understood this nun's point, she sounded nasty. Sad to say, some of the Augustinian nuns we later encountered in Cascia were not much different, as opposed to the nuns we would later meet in Montefalco and Norcia. I found it hard to believe that St. Rita herself was so curt.
|The basilica built to honor St. Rita, where her incorrupt body lies|
When we got to the hotel desk, it seemed like chaos. Our room keys were thrown at us and we were instructed to follow a woman to the elevator who would take us to our rooms. It was hard to figure out the logic of how the rooms were situated based on the room numbers. When we apparently arrived at my floor, the woman operating the elevator smacked her forehead, cried "mama mia" dramatically, and shoved me and my bags out the door. Hello to you, too.
The first thing I noticed is that I had a large bed, unlike in Rome where I was afraid to roll over for fear of falling out. A mosaic of St. Rita was hung on the wall over the bed. We were expected at dinner so I didn't unpack but simply freshened up after the long bus ride and walked down the stairs to dinner. But I could only get down two flights before reaching rock bottom and no sign of the lobby or restaurant. After wandering around lost for a few minutes, I figured out that my room was actually below the level of the restaurant. When I retired to bed that night, I discovered, in fact, that my room was directly below the restaurant.
|The bed from which I could hear the restaurant workers moving chairs and washing dishes above me.|
In Italy, the wait staff goes around to each diner and serves you from either a tureen, a bowl or a tray, depending on the fare. In Cascia, we began each meal with soup, which was a welcome respite from all the pasta we had eaten in Rome. Only one waiter spoke any English and this made communicating any special requests interesting, but also was a good opportunity to try to learn a little of the language.
After dinner, a friend took a walk with me up a steep hill which had been described as the first in a series of hills that would test our physical fitness. There were additional religious houses situated on the way to the top, so we only climbed one level before stopping to look up at the stars, which blanketed the night sky. I saw a shooting star and bet I would have seen many more had I been able to spend more time looking upward.
The following morning, we would be off to Montefalco to the monastery of St. Clare of the Cross followed by an afternoon visit to Assisi.