Saturday, October 8, 2011


The first thing that struck me about Cascia was its beauty.  A little town carved out of the side of the mountain with a breathtaking view of the Appenines. It was dusk when we arrived and the village that lay below the basilica twinkled the way one might imagine Bethlehem to have looked when the Christ Child entered the world. There were bell towers everywhere, and while we were standing at the entrance of the site of the basilica waiting for our bags to be unloaded, one of them rang out, heralding some message.
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.


  1. I am so enjoying reading these Italy posts. You do a wonderful job of writing them.

    Sorry to hear there were distractions, but tours can be that way. Maybe someday you will go as a family, like we did, and can enjoy it all on your own terms and pace.

  2. Joyce none of my comments are going through. I've been commenting all along on your Italy blogs. I'm so sorry, but I just don't understand why. I've had trouble with Explorer, so I switched over to Fire Fox. I'm able to comment on other blogs with Fire Fox except yours. So this is a test. If it goes through I'll comment further.

  3. Sorry about that Manny, I don't know why that would be happening. Blogger goes berserk every now and again. Keep trying.

  4. Ah, finally one went through! Well, welcome home. So far I'm really enjoying reading about your trip. It sounds like it was of mixed emotions, frustrating but satisfying. I'm not going to go back to re-comment, but let me say that the J fellow really sounds obnoxious. J must stand for jerk. I think also said somewhere that perhaps next time you should go without a group. Now that you know the lay of the land, a good travel guide book should get you through everything and you wouldn't have to deal with people you might not like. Anyway I'll keep reading.

    I was never at Cascia, but it does look beautiful. There are many of those quaint hill towns in Italy. Actually I come from one east of Naples. They even have a pilgrimage site and a procession, and now a saint who originated from our town. It's this here:

    Judging by the name of the saint listed there, he may have been a distant relative. My father's cousins have that last name.

    You can also see this annual procession that they do to honor St. Pellegrino by walking through the town barefoot and dropping to the ground every so distance in piety until they get to the main church. You can read about that here and see a video clip:

    Italy is so full of religious devotions.


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