Italy 2006:  Chapter III

Sorento  *  Isle of Capri  *  Orvieto  *  Assisi

As we were arriving late afternoon in Sorento, located on the western edge of the Italian boot, toward the south, our tour bus stopped at an overlook on the mountainside so we could drink in views of the Mediterranean Sea.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, and a great place to take pictures.

The Floras.  Hi, John and Jan.

The Paulys.  Hi, Rosalie and Lloyd.

Nobody said, "Say CHEESE!!"

Located on the outskirts of Sorento, the Grand Hotel La Pace was exquisite outside and in.  Palm trees and brilliant red geraniums were the first to greet us.  That's our coach bus in front of the hotel.

A large and unusual multifaceted crystal chandelier that resembled Noah's Ark, to me, was a prominent feature of the lobby, as was a staircase of wrought iron scrollwork.  Painted floor tiles of floral designs were part of the bedroom décor.  We were impressed.

This is the lobby where we congregated and awaited our bus to dinner.

We were bused to a private home in a residential neighborhood of Sorento, where all 45 of us were seated in the dining room of Pascalli and some of his family.  His wife and grandchildren served us a fabulous dinner of lasagna and also a chicken/onions/peas dish with homemade limonello and pitchers full of wine.  Limoncello is a liqueur made with lots of vodka and lemons.  It was served to us in those little white cups pictured above to the right.  It was okay but a little puckery.

We enjoyed the family setting and Pascalli obviously enjoyed having us.  He brought out photographs of his parents and brothers, many living in the same vicinity of this densely populated, rocky mountainous neighborhood of tight narrow streets.  There was no air conditioning in Pascalli's home, just a couple of big fans.  Before we said goodbye to this most entertaining evening, we sang for the family,  "Oh, What a Beautiful Evening."  Their eyes brightened and glistened.

Because of the narrow streets, we had to take turns being escorted in small groups by Pascalli and his van, to a dark street corner and one dim street light, where we waited for our large tour bus.

It was Thursday morning, September 7th, as we caught a hydroplane from Sorento to the Isle of Capri.

It took about 30 minutes for the fast boat to get to the island.  This is our first close-up view of Capri.

We got an even closer look in a smaller boat that Sasha, a native, maneuvered around the caves, crevices, and coral of Capri. 

The water was bluer than the sky, which wore a slight haze today.

Sasha pointed to the resorts and homes built high into the sheer rocky shores of the island. 

We could hear our echoes as we motored through naturally occurring tunnels in the rock.

The sun was hot on us but we wore suntan lotion so did not burn badly, only a little.

The Floras sat in our spot for a Kodak Moment.

After about an hour on the small boat, we steered in to shore for some adventures on the island itself.

We rode a chairlift to the highest point of Capri and saw ships and sailboats on the Mediterranean.

We saw vegetation from a new angle.

We enjoyed a snack and picture taking at the top of the lift.  It made my knees weak.

Soon we were back on our way down the mountain.

It was evident that we had spent a day in the sun!  The six of us got a table right next to the open sea at dinner.  All of it was delightful.  Our meal consisted once again of several dishes, this time it was pizza, pasta, lettuce salad, and pudding dessert -- in that order.

We departed the beautiful hotel at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, September 8th, and headed north.  Mhairi said we'll begin to see hill towns here, "not terribly important little towns."

The City of Orvieto was charming.  Jan purchased a gorgeous colorful dish and shipped it home.

This Cathedral of Orvieto features the Miracle of Bolsena that occurred in 1263 when a German priest stopped at the City of Bolsena on a pilgrimage to Rome.  That priest found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the Consecrated Host.  While celebrating Mass at St. Christina's Church in Bolsena, he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the Consecrated Host.  The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is reverently enshrined and exhibited here at Orvieto.  The miracle is responsible for the Feast of Corpus Christi.

We saw the unusual Cathedral to be a phenomenal piece of work. 

All flat surfaces of the fancy façade are "painted" with mosaics. 

Most unusual to me were the sides and insides of the majestic Cathedral, where horizontal stripes of black basalt and white marble are its striking composition.  Some of us attended the 3 p.m. Mass.

We had lunch at Antico Bucchero.  Allan ordered proscuitto and melon.  I had arista in tuna sauce with anchovies and capers.  Delicious!

We rode a funicolare to get up into this city.  A funicolare is a cable-car railway built up the side of steep hills and is about the best or only way to enter some places in Italy.  You step onto it like a trolley.  We found the above enchanted stairway as we strolled after lunch.

Back on the tour bus, we sat back and relaxed for a pleasant drive to Assisi.  We saw Assisi from a distance, the expansive light/white-colored buildings nestled against a backdrop of dark green foliage.  It was just like the familiar photographs and sketches.

There was a rush job to check into the Subasio Hotel and peek inside the Basilica of Saint Francis, which holds the tomb of St. Francis, that gentle saint who had a fondness for all of God's creation, who suffered the stigmata, and who is responsible for bringing the creche to our Christmases.

It was probably the most poignant spot on the entire tour for me, because of the long history of beloved Franciscans who served the St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria, Minnesota, until 1996.

Then we congregated for dinner on the hotel's vine-roofed veranda that overlooked the valley and vineyards of Umbria, a most lush Italian province named after an early tribe of Romans, according to Mhairi, our tireless tour director.

The sunset and ambience were spectacular.  And then  the lights went out!  Literally.  While having dinner on the veranda with our whole group of 45, the lights flickered, dissolved, and we were left in darkness.  The wait staff found candles for each table, however, and it was all sort of romantic.

Hi, Lloyd and Rosalie.  Looks like I took this picture just before the lights went out. 

This one, too.  Hi, Jan and John.

Our main course was veal or pork, the most meat we were served at one setting since leaving Minnesota.  The first course was pasta, as always.

We wore off some of the carbs with an uphill stroll to the City Square (not pictured above) that night.  Actually, it was a climb, a steep climb, with never ending steps both ways.  Some of us enjoyed Italian ice cream, which is very creamy and probably fattening.

The electricity had not returned to our hotel (See it in the morning background?) when we returned that night.  We had no water in our rooms for bathing or brushing our teeth.  We walked down to the lobby with a toothbrush where we found a trick of water still left in the lobby restroom.

We sat on the balcony (Can you see it?) and admired the Basilica that night.  Back upstairs I flung open the shutters in our room -- no screens -- and tried to imagine a breeze finding its way to me, lying very still with a single bed sheet barely touching.  The last time I looked, it was 10 p.m. 

The sky was so beautiful that next morning, September 9th.  The wakeup call had been startling, however, and not so beautiful.  Allan informed me that at midnight all the lights in our room and bathroom had flickered and came on, but that I did not stir while he shut them off and went back to sleep.

We rushed to get dressed the next morning, took a few pictures, and were five minutes early for Mass in a side chapel of the big Basilica of St. Francis.  We even caught the tail end of Vespers, during which brown-robed monks stood in a semi-circle behind the altar and prayed and sang.

After Mass we walked to the lowest level of the huge church and found the tomb of St.Francis, who died in 1226.  I never thought, as I read long ago the Life of St. Francis by G.K. Chesterton, that I would one day walk where he walked and see where he would sleep until the end of time.  See the Franciscan monk lighting candles at the altar in front of the tomb?

The view from our bedroom balcony at Assisi was out of this world, but I couldn't sit there any longer.  After some speed-shopping at the shrine, our bus left Assisi about 10 a.m.

NOT the End
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