In June, I studied abroad in Italy about the life of St. Francis of Assisi in an exhilarating course offered by Xavier University.
The pilgrimage began when our class converged in the Fiumicino Airport, just outside of Rome. We then took a bus to Greccio, a small town where St. Francis created the Nativity scene. Later we ate a terrific traditional dinner at San Francesco Bar and Ristorante in Assisi, the city we stayed in for most of our journey, where we conversed and learned a lot about the life of St. Francis, the beautiful city we were in and each other.
The following day we traveled to Perugia, the city Assisi was at war with when Francis was in the military and visited the area where he was held captive for a year. On Wednesday and Thursday, we stayed in Assisi to learn about Francis’ life and visited the shop his father once owned and the house he grew up in.
The main event that occurred during this two-day period was when we toured San Damiano, the church that St. Francis said God called him to rebuild after being in ruins for so many years. On Friday, we took a bus to La Verna, the site where St. Francis miraculously received his stigmata, which are identical wounds to those of Jesus after being nailed to the cross.
LaVerna was a nice and quiet area tucked away in the mountains of central Italy. We stayed there overnight and experienced firsthand what savory authentic Italian cooking is truly all about.
Sunday was our day to explore all that Assisi had to offer, which two classmates and I did by hiking to the top of the largest mountain in the area, Ali Subasio. The view from the peak of the mountain was spectacular and provided great photographic memories and an overwhelming sense of peace in nature.
On our last day in Italy, several classmates and I took the train to Rome. The architecture in Rome is beautiful and it was a humbling experience to be able to touch all of the magnificent buildings I had previously only seen in books and on television.
This experience in Italy, and Assisi in particular, opened my eyes to how immeasurable different parts of the world are and it sparked the explorer in me. I will never forget this journey, or our remarkable professor Dr. Gillian Ahlgren and her vast wisdom. I made a great many connections along the pilgrimage which I’m certain will be lifelong.
I hope to one day return to Assisi and revisit all the sites that I did as a 20-year old college student. It will forever be ingrained in my memory and I am so appreciate everyone that made this lifelong lesson possible.