Roland Comtois' Journey to Italy 2020
St. Francis Pilgrimage: A Personal Spiritual Experience & More: St. Francis, Food, Wine, Art & Culture
September 28th – Oct. 7th 2020
Co-Host: Bobbi Parlett, Simpatico, Italy’s Finest, St. Michaels, MD
For Trip Information contact: Bobbi Parlett 610-209-5409; firstname.lastname@example.org
Roland shares his enlightening spiritual insight as we follow the footsteps of St. Francis and experience this once in a lifetime opportunity to tour the “Real Italy” together. We will visit significant places in St. Francis’ life, deepen our spiritual connections, experience the culture and beauty of the landscape, enjoy the incredible food and wine, and make lasting friendships. Roland will lead daily inspirational discussions, prayers along our journey, and offer channeling during our trip.
Day 1 Sept. 28th, Saturday: Group meets at the Hilton Rome Airport; Via Arturo Ferrarin 2 Fiumicino, Rome, 00054, Italy TEL: +39-06-65258 FAX: +39-06-6525 6525. This hotel connects to the Rome Airport. You may want to consider arriving a day early if you are prone to jet lag, and stay at the Hilton. Then you will already be at the hotel for our meeting point. For those arriving the morning of the 28th, please plan air travel to arrive at the Rome Fiumicino airport no later than 9 AM. Most overnight flights from the east coast arrive in this time frame. You will be able to rest on the bus while we travel north to our first stop in the region of Lazio.
We will then depart from the Hilton Rome Airport about 10:30 AM local time, and drive north towards Greccio, to one of the most significant areas, the Rieti Valley, for St. Francis. Greccio is where the Nativity scene or Christmas crib is said to have originated with Saint Francis in 1223 when he constructed a nativity scene out of straw in a cave in the town and held Christmas Eve mass there. We will have a special lunch at an Agriturismo in the countryside. After lunch we will check in to our hotel in Greccio, the Hotel della Fonte. We will then explore this beautiful town together, including the Nativity museum, all the paintings throughout the town and the Church which overlooks the valley and the town. We will have Free time, then regroup for dinner in the hotel (outside weather permitting).
Day 2, Sept. 29th, Tuesday: After breakfast our exploration of the Rieti Valley will take place all day including lunch mid-day. We will leave the hotel at 9:30 AM and spend the day exploring the Rieti valley important places relating to St. Francis. In Rieti Province, 4 kilometers from the town of Rieti, is La Foresta Franciscan Sanctuary, a peaceful retreat to which Frances came in the summer of 1225 to find rest because his health was failing: his sight was almost gone and the pain of the wounds of the stigmata was constant. It's believed that this is where he composed the Song of Brother Sun. There's a 13th-century church and a cave used by Francis. In addition to Greccio and La Foresta, we will visit other places in the Rieti Valley that St. Francis visited, a location sometimes called the Sacred Valley, including Poggio Bustone, where St Francis visited in 1208 and reputedly greeted the villagers by saying "buon giorno buona gente" (good morning good people). There is a gothic arch named "buon giorno" can be found in the village commemorating this event.
In the oldest section of the Franciscan monastery of Poggio Bustone, a room can be found where St. Francis stayed. On the mountainside above the village are seven small chapels containing, by tradition, impressions of objects relating to St. Francis, such as his knee. This path culminates with the small church Sacro Speco where St. Francis received forgiveness for his sins from the Archangel Gabriel.
We then leave about 4:30 to drive to Ascoli Piceno, in the Le Marche Region, and arrive about 6 PM.
Ascoli is older than Rome itself and it is literally bursting with history. It was founded a century before the Eternal City by the Sabini, an ancient Italic people which inhabited this part of the Bel Paese. The town’s piazza which looks to be all marble, is “the most beautiful piazza in the whole of Italy”. A vast expanse of what looks like pure marble looks out onto the Chiesa di San Francesco.
We check in to our hotel and then regroup after a short break to walk to dinner. After dinner Roland will reflect on our day and offer a group spiritual activity. In past years this has included Aura readings, individual readings, and Card readings.
Day 3, Sept 30 Wednesday: Ascoli Piceno, Loreto & Numana
After breakfast, we leave the hotel to take a tour of the Church of San Francesco and explore the town, from 9:00 to 11:30 AM. There is one of the earliest depictions of St Francis in the church of Gregorio Magno, the 13th century Church of San Francesco. Our guide will point out all the significant art and the spiritual meanings that are inside the church.
After lunch in town we will leave about 2:00 PM to drive to Loreto and arrive about 3:15 PM. Loreto is a pilgrimage sanctuary, where the Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto is, the third largest shrine to Mary in Europe, next to Lourdes. The Shrine contains what the faithful believe to be the original stone house of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth, flown there by Angels in 1294 (later info indicates a wealthy family moved Mary's house here to save it from destruction) and rebuilt inside the Basilica. St. Francis predicted this airborne delivery reportedly. We will spend quiet time in the Basilica, including walking through and reflecting inside Mary's house.
We will leave about 5:30 PM to drive to Numana, which is about 15-20 minutes away, on the Adriatic Coast. We check in to Hotel Scogliera which overlooks the local fishermen’s port and beautiful beaches. Then we will take about a 10-minute walk up to the town, and have glass of wine overlooking the Adriatic coast. We will return to the hotel and enjoy a fabulous dinner on the water, prepared by Massimo, the chef-owner of the hotel.
After dinner, Roland will hold a special gathering with all of us, sharing channeled messages he may receive, and inspirational discussion.
Day 4, Oct 1, Thursday 9:30: We leave Numana and drive just a few miles to Sirolo, the first stop on St. Francis’ journey back from visiting the Sultan of Egypt. We will stop briefly to have a Cappucino in town, and to see the still standing trees planted by St Francis in 1212.
We will then travel about 1 hour 30 minutes through 23 tunnels surrounded by magnificent mountains and valleys to Gubbio. St. Francis walked this pass many times in his lifetime. We arrive about 11:00 AM into Gubbio, which is a special medieval walled city significant in St Francis’ life. We will learn about St Francis and the Wolf, visit Chiesa Vittorina, the small church and statue of St. Francis which commemorates where St. Francis met the wolf that was terrorizing Gubbio, calmed him, and saved the town. Roland will discuss the teachings of St. Francis and how to incorporate them in our lives.
12:30 to 2:30 PM: We will enjoy a memorable lunch in town al fresco on a piazza at Luigi’s Trattoria San Martino with Giampietro Rampini, Master Ceramicist, and a friend of deep spiritual faith, who creates the beautiful hand painted ceramics for Simpatico and Roland’s “Love is Eternal Heirloom Ornament Collection”. After lunch, we will visit Rampini’s shop in town and other shops in the area.
We will drive to Assisi arriving about 6 PM and check into our hotel, Hotel Umbra, steps from the main Piazza del Comune. After check-in, you will enjoy Free time to explore until dinner. Assisi is magical, full of beautiful churches, wonderful galleries, gift shops, religious items, local crafts of olive wood, linens, etc.
7:30 PM Dinner in Assisi at one of our favorite restaurants “Piazza del Erba” within a short walk from the hotel.
Day 5, Oct. 2nd, Friday: We leave Assisi after Breakfast about 9:30 and drive to a town right at the base of Assisi to visit the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Saint Mary of the Angels), which encloses the 9th century little church, the Porzincola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here that the young Francis of Assisi understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan movement, and here he also passed from this life.
Noon - We will drive to SAIO Winery close by for lunch and wine tasting.
After lunch we will return to Assisi center and walk to the Basilica, tour the upper and lower churches and the crypt where St. Francis is buried. On previous trips, a profound event took place due to Roland’s connections with St. Francis was experienced, Roland will share with us on this trip should a similar connection occur.
Then Free time until 7:30 PM Dinner in Assisi at one of our favorite restaurants.
Day 6, Oct 3rd, Saturday: After breakfast in the hotel, about 9:30 we will walk from the hotel up to the Piazza Comune. On our Peace is Every Step Walking Meditation Tour, we will visit three Churches: Where St Francis was born, the Medieval Church in the Piazza Comune and the significant San Rufino Church and Museum.
12:30 We will enjoy a fabulous lunch at La Lanterna.
After lunch, we will visit the Church of St. Clare and see the actual cross that spoke to St. Francis and told him to rebuild the Church, St Clare’s tomb and the chapel. We will then walk to the Piazza del Vecovado where St. Francis denounced his father and turned over his worldly goods, including all his clothes he had on that day, so he could go and rebuild the Church as God asked him to do. There is a church in the piazza, Santa Maria Maggiore, we will also visit and go under the altar for a special prayer. Free time until Dinner.
Dinner at 7:30 PM at Il Vicoletto, just near the Piazza Comune.
After dinner, we will join in the pre- St. Francis Feast Day activities in the Piazza Comune, including drumming, dancing, music, fire throwing and flag throwing. It is an amazing medieval celebration of St. Francis.
We will wind up the day with Limoncello and Dessert at Vino on the Piazza Comune, one of our favorite spots.
Day 7, Oct 4th, Sunday: After breakfast in the hotel, at about 8:30 we will join the crowd in the Piazza Comune for the Feast Day of St. Francis. We will watch the gathering of the official parade of representatives from all over Italy as they begin the walk to the Basilica. We will then be picked up and driven just outside town to visit the Hermitage of St. Francis (Eremo delle Carceri) on the slope of Mount Subiaso. This is where the real St. Francis spirit lives. St. Francis and his friars came here to get away from the busyness of life, pray in silence and solitude, and be refreshed and recharged. The views are stunning, and to be able to walk where St. Francis walked, and be where he held prayer service at a special altar, see the cell where he slept, is pretty overwhelming.
We breathe in the wondrous nature and spiritual feelings in this holy place, and Roland shares his spiritual insights of our surroundings as we explore the area and grounds of the Hermitage. On the way back down the mountain, we will stop for a memorable lunch at a local restaurant La Stalla at 12:30 PM.
After lunch we visit San Damiano, built in the 12th century; it was the first monastery of the Order of St. Clare, and is where she built her “Poor Clares” Franciscan community. It is the site of 2 important miracles performed by St. Clare and her community. This is also where St. Francis had his significant encounter with God, when the cross spoke to him to “rebuild the Church”.
4:00 PM Returning to Assisi, we will have Free time. At about 6:00 PM we leave to travel 12km outside of Assisi to the Locanda dell'Angelo for a memorable evening. We will sit out on the patio and absorb the amazing views of the valley and then have a special gathering in their private Chapel of the Angels. In candlelight we will listen to Roland and Eugenio Picchiani, an Italian Rock Star whose family owns the Locanda, sing songs of their choice. Following this, we will have a fabulous family style dinner of Umbrian foods and wines. We will then return to Assisi.
Day 8, Oct 5th, Monday: After breakfast, we will leave to visit La Verna about 10:00, known as sacred ground where St. Francis received the stigmata and where we will see the actual place the stigmata was received, beautiful Della Robbia works of art in the Basilica, as well as many other St. Francis related artifacts, holy places and artwork are here to be experienced.
We will have a family style lunch from 12:30 PM to 2 PM at the La Verna on site restaurant and then tour the many sacred spots including the Cave of Crosses, the Del Robbia artworks, the hallways of St. Francis’ life, another cave of St. Francis, and then the location where St. Francis received the Stigmata. Here, Roland will share his spiritual insights of this special holy place and we will experience a silent walking meditation on the balcony overlooking the beautiful views of the valley. We will then enjoy free time to explore the church, the St. Francis relics and the gift shop. We then leave about 4:00 PM to walk back to the bus and return to Assisi to arrive about 6:00 PM.
Free time: Explore Assisi.
8:30 PM: We enjoy a special dinner in Assisi for our last night in this very special city.
If feasible weather permitting: We will walk through the Bosco di San Francesco, a path through a woodland dedicated to Saint Francis. At the end of the trail is a restaurant Osteria il Mulino with great Umbrian cuisine.
Day 9, Oct 6th, Tuesday: After breakfast we leave Assisi and drive south to Narni to visit the cave of St Francis (about 2 hours drive). In Narni we find magic at the Convento del Sacro Speco (Cave of St. Francis) and experience the peace and energy of this special sacred place. Roland will lead a prayer at the outdoor altar and we will leave our miracle requests in the book in the monastery complex, where St. Francis performed miracles.
Then after a casual lunch on the way from Narni in one of our favorite A1 Auto Grilles, we travel to Rome and stay at a beautiful property just outside Rome: Park Hotel Villa Grazioli.
We will enjoy our last evening together with a special dinner in Rome and gathering after dinner to reflect on our experience together. We surely will have had another trip of a lifetime and have made new friends and connections we will continue to cherish after our return. We will not return to pre-trip “normal” once back in the USA, but we will surely all return changed in some way, and will create a new “normal” as a result of our more than amazing journey together.
Day 10, Oct 7th, Wednesday: Arreviderci Roma! Leave for the Rome Airport from the hotel based on the outgoing flight times.
For more information about Roland and his work, go to his Web site and FaceBook Page
Alternate extensions of the trip to stay in Rome or visit other places in Italy can be arranged through a local Easton, MD travel agent, Barbie Smith, from Smith Travel on 410-822-5926. She helps our guests plan an extended stay and Bobbi can also make suggestions of an extended visit. Options include seeing Pope Francis on Sunday at his special weekly blessing and address at Noon in St. Peter’s Square, tour of Rome, excursions to Pompeii or Florence, Tivoli and more. Barbie can also help with travel insurance.
Note: Schedule specifics subject to change.