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"Il Poverello" The Little Poor One
The name given to St. Francis, which means "the little poor one". He was born Giovanni Bernadone in the town of Assisi, Italy in 1182, to a wealthy silk merchant and was later known as Francisco, due to his fatherís love for France. He lived a pleasure-filled life as a young man until he went to fight the war against neighboring Perugia. He was taken prisoner in 1202. Upon his release, he returned home seriously ill. It was in the neglected church of San Damiano that he heard the crucifix speak to him: "Go and repair My house, which you see is falling down". He took these instructions literally, giving up all material things so that he could be free to concentrate on loving God and other people. In 1224, while praying on the mountain of La Verna, Francis became the first saint to know the suffering of the crucified Christ by receiving the stigmata. He was canonized a saint in 1228.
Rome, Assisi, La Verna, Greccio, Rieti Valley, Padua and Venice
10 Days - Regions of Latium, Umbria and Veneto, Italy
Day 1: Depart the U.S. on an international flight bound for Rome. Meals will be served on the overnight flight.
Day 2: Upon arrival in Italy, we are welcomed in the "Eternal City" by our Tour Director who will transfer us to our hotel. Dinner and overnight in Rome.
Day 3: Enjoy a panoramic tour of the classic Roman Empire (the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Arch of Constantine, Circus Maximus and more) on the way to one of the catacombs where the early Christians were buried. In the afternoon, time permitting, weíll visit the three major basilicas: St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls. Dinner and overnight in Rome.
Day 4: Enjoy a tour of the Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in the Christian world, built over the tomb of St. Peter. Inside this wonderful great piece of architecture are works of Bernini and Michelangelo. We continue to the Vatican Museum with its priceless collection of art and treasures, and the Sistine Chapel where you will be amazed by the unique ceiling, which is one of Michelangeloís greatest achievements. The rest of the day is at leisure. Dinner and overnight in Rome.
Day 5: The day finds us heading north to Assisi, which is spread across the slopes of Monte Subasio but still retains its medieval character. This town owes its fame to our beloved St. Francis, whose dedication to humility and charity became the foundation of the Franciscan Order, and to St. Clare, who along with St. Francis made a significant contribution to the past and present of the city. Dinner and overnight in Assisi.
Day 6: Early morning rise to celebrate Mass at the Portiuncula, found inside the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli located in the valley, where you can receive the "Pardon of Assisi"*. It was in this chapel that St. Francis received a clear understanding of his vocation which made this the first Franciscan community. A few steps away is the Capella Del Transito which marks the spot where he died in 1226. After Mass, return to the hotel for breakfast. Then our walking tour begins with a visit to the 13th Century Basilica of San Francesco. One church is superimposed upon another, with a crypt containing the saint's tomb and many of his possessions. In the Upper Basilica are 28 frescoes by Giotto depicting the life of St. Francis. Continue to La Chiesa Nuova, the church built in 1616 on the site of the home of Pietro Bernardone and Lady Pica, the parents of St. Francis, continuing to the Basilica of Santa Chiara which houses the incorrupt body of St. Clare, contained in a glass-walled sarcophagus. Kneel before the crucifix from which Jesus spoke to St. Francis, asking him to rebuild His Church. It was in the San Damiano Chapel, which you can visit on your own by foot or taxi, that this event took place, and where you can feel the mystical atmosphere which awakens St. Francis' and St. Clare's spirit of divine praise and peace. It was here that St. Clare formed the Order of the Poor Clares in 1212, and dwelt here until 1260. Dinner and overnight in Assisi. (*Conditions apply)
Day 7: After breakfast, we depart for La Verna, north of Arezzo, a popular shrine in the mountains with some fabulous views of the countryside. The road from Michelangelo Caprese, where Michelangelo Buonarroti was born in 1475, winds up the wooded slopes of Mt. Sovaggio on the way to Mt. Penna, given to Francis by Count Orlando of Chuisi in 1213. Francis had a camp at La Penna in an area of strange rock formations in the forest known as La Verna, now a series of buildings from different eras that make up a sanctuary. It was here that Francis received the stigmata in 1224. Families still gather at the small Sanctuary and a network of paths web the mountains. A walk through the forest leading to the summit of Monte Penna gives you a wide panorama view of the Tiber and the Arno valleys. Dinner and overnight in Assisi.
Day 8: Today we will visit the Franciscan Convent built onto the rocky wall of a wooded mountain side, about 2 kilometers from the town of Greccio. Greccio is home of Christmas eve or the "creche" scene, which depicts a replica of the Nativity of Jesus: the cave of Bethlehem with the manger. Creche is the French word for crib and symbolizes a tradition that St. Francis started. It was in 1223 when St. Francis had asked permission from Pope Honorius III to portray Christmas in a very special way as a gift to the villagers of Greccio. He wanted to re-enact the memory of the infant who was born in Bethlehem and how He was deprived of all the comforts that babies usually enjoy, how He was laid in the manger on hay, between an ass and an ox. After it was all set up, he invited his fellow Franciscan friars from the surrounding communities, as well as the men and women of the village to see his handiwork and celebrate birth of Our Lord.

We then proceed to the Holy Valley of Rieti, where we will visit three of St. Francisí community: Fontecolombo, the place most frequented by St. Francis in the last years of his life. It was here that he received his eye cauterisation. It was also here where he drafted the Rule of the Friars and where you can see the "Tau" signed by St. Francis. The "Tau", already a biblical sign of redemption, was adopted by St. Francis as his seal; he saw in it the cross of Christ. We continue to Poggio Bustone where his spiritual birth took place, when in the abandonment of faith he became aware that even though he was a sinner, he was forgiven and loved by God, and then to La Foresta, immersed in a scenery of peace, which invites one to contemplation and where St. Francis found solitude and tranquility. Dinner and overnight in Assisi.
Day 9: After breakfast, we travel north to Venice, referred as the "Queen of the Seas" with her 118 islets, 177 canals and 450 bridges. We continue with a half-day sightseeing tour on foot that highlights St. Markís Square. Dominating the square is the magnificent Basilica of St. Mark, richly decorated with Byzantine mosaics. See the two giant bronze Moors on the Clock Tower and the Campanile Tower, whose five distinct bells rang to summon the Venetians and announced important events throughout the centuries. We proceed to the Doges' Palace with its splendid rooms decorated by 16th century artists, then onto the Bridge of Sighs. In the afternoon, we continue to Padua, the town associated with St. Anthony, Patron Saint of lost things, lost souls and the impossible. Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of St. Anthony, which was built in his honor around 1232, a year after his death. He was an admirable miracle worker and very well known for his preaching, so that his tongue and vocal apparatus were found incorrupt and can now be seen displayed in the Chapel of the Relics. Dinner and overnight in Padua.
Day 10: We bid farewell to Italy as we depart for the airport to catch our flight back to the U.S. for a same day arrival. "Ciao Italia!"
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