Day 5: Through Assisi to the heart of Italy.

We hopped onto Silvio's bus and proceeded into Umbria, the very center of Italy.  Along the way we stopped in Assisi, the home of St. Francis.  This is where Franciscan monks come from (you know, the friars with the brown robes and doughnut haircuts).  Francis espoused discarding of one's material wealth to concentrate on the spirit, and in doing so became the most beloved Christian saint.

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Brad had Silvio stop the bus momentarily so that everyone could take a picture of the city on a hill, with the huge St. Francis church and monk's quarters dominating the left side.

We had a two-course group lunch on a balcony just below the church where pigeons scurried around our feet like cats, and then we ventured inside the basilica.  Because pilgrimages became so common to Assisi due to the popularity of St. Francis and his simple messages, they built a 2nd story on top of the church.

The frescoes by Giotto in the upper basilica are unforgettable (but no pictures allowed), yet some were damaged in a recent earthquake.

After Assisi we ventured to the nearby town of Torgiano, where we visited a wine museum followed by a wine tasting at one of Italy's most famous wineries - Lungarotti.  Known for their special wine blends or super-Tuscans, they treated us to both wine and olive oil.  Most of us (including me) bought a few bottles to bring back with us.

We were given 30 minutes more in town to souvenir shop, and some of us simply chatted while waiting for the bus.  Phil took particular interest in my watch, which in addition to time could also tell the weather, altitude, temperature, and compass heading.

At dusk we arrived at our home for the next 3 nights, the Villa di Monte Solare (house of the sunny mountain), which we found to be a cozy plantation with olive trees and vineyards along with a couple of pools and first-class accommodations.  The room I got was simply the most elegant of all the hotels on the whole tour.

Dinner was provided by Rosy and Filippo, the owners of the villa.  We were also greeted by their cat, cocobolino, who followed us around like the family dog all the time we were there.

I retired in a very comfy bed...

Simple things have the most meaning.  Saint Francis and the Villa di Monte Solare are good examples of what happens when you concentrate on the simple things, because it is not the person who has too little, but the person who always craves more, that is poor.

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Last updated 03/13/2004 .  Email me at