Assisi is in central Italy surrounded by picture perfect countryside. It is the home of St Francis of Assisi who (according to my childhood book of saints) was followed everywhere by animals and birds. In the picture he had a little robin sitting on his shoulder and squirrels and rabbits and deer all around. He looked like a kind, gentle man. Because of that my inner child has always felt safe around him and so it made sense to come to Assisi.
I am torn about whether to recommend this as a place to stay. Perhaps I would suggest staying near Assisi, rather than on the hill itself. My lodgings are called a ‘Hotel’ but really should be called “Monk-Cells-with-Reception”. But the view from up here is magic. So because of the view I would have to say, stay up on the hill, and make it a night of the full moon.
The lady at ‘monk-cell-reception’ is one of those unamused, holy-looking people. Anyway she has warmed up a bit now, told me that there is a roof terrace, and given me back the passport that she confiscated on arrival.
I suppose to be fair, I turned up late, tumbled out of a taxi, with purple hair, wearing leggings with feathers and swarovski crystals all over on them. During the short ride from the train station I managed to talk the local taxi driver into agreeing to drive me from Assisi to Loreto and back tomorrow; a round trip of 3 hours not including stopping. She is asked by him to translate logistical details for us, such as the pick up time, and to confirm that it is in fact Loreto that I wish to go to. And back. Normal people don’t do this. As she points out … with a sniff … when am I going to see Assisi? I cheerfully told her I would see Assisi tomorrow when I get back from Loreto …. which was when she confiscated my passport, (and put me upstairs in a monks’ cell).
It truly is a monks’ cell. You should see it. The nearby monk’s cell has been converted into an ‘ensuite’, and they have cut a hole the wall and added a little door and that is how you get into it. At least I don’t have to share.
Anyway – smells musty but is clean – and when you fling open the window shutters … that is when the magic begins. The view is breathtaking.
Loreto. Why am I going there?
Apparently there is a chapel with a dark Madonna. I feel very drawn to go there, and if I had known about it earlier I would have formalised travel plans around that goal instead of doing this mad dash from Assisi in a taxi.
I have read about the dark Madonna phenomenon with chapels across the Mediterranean, particularly in southern France and Spain, housing icons and statues of the Madonna with black skin. The theories about this are varied, because of course there is no definite explanation, and they range from the deeply mystical and esoteric to the pragmatic theory that perhaps Mother Mary was African. I will see what I think after I have been to the chapel tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it.
Meanwhile I am appreciating a deep beauty to this place. I will be wandering around at dawn, and in moonlight, bare foot, listening to this landscape and to any secrets it has to tell me. It has already gifted me so far with three feathers; a white, a grey and a black. The white I think came from a pure white dove I saw suddenly perched on the roof, one minute there and one minute not. A symbol of Sofia, and whilst I have seen more pigeons so far than anyone could count, this is the first pure white, and of course she would be here; flying freely over the monks cells and back and forth from the woods at will.
Below some photos, what I could get anyway bearing in mind I arrived quite late in the fading light.
22 July 2013, Assisi – Italy
(not my car …)