I really don’t know what my fascination with St. Francis is. I was raised Southern Baptist and we didn’t do saints and such. But for some reason, St. Francis strikes a chord with me. Maybe it’s because he was all over this part of Italy. Maybe it’s his message of rebuking worldly goods and communing with nature. Maybe it’s because when I was in the 7th grade some well-meaning teacher took us Protestants to see the movie “Brother Sun Sister Moon” and the only thing I remember about it was the bare backside of St. Francis when he shed his worldly belongings, including his clothes.
Whatever the reason, I love to take people to visit the Santuario della Verna. It sits atop Mount Penna, at about 4,200 feet above sea level, a little more than Highlands, NC. It’s full of legend and folklore and is the place where St. Francis received the stigmata, the mark of the wounds of the crucified Christ. It’s a very holy place and is a must see for the devotees of St. Francis. So we dragged Tim and Julie up the mountain to take a little tour. The view alone is worth it, but there are other noteworthy things there. It’s also just a cool place to stroll around and take in the tranquility.
On the way to della Verna is a little known point of interest. It’s the rock formation that supposedly inspired Michelangelo as the setting for Adam in the Creation in the Sistine Chapel. It does bear an eerie resemblance to the background of Adam. Regardless, it’s an interesting place to visit. Also there is the church that Michelangelo was baptized in and quite a dramatic vista.
St. Francis would not be proud of the amount of food we’ve consumed with Tim and Julie. In fact, as much as I admire St. Francis, I do enjoy the comforts of a warm bed and a roof over my head. OK, since I’m not destined to be a saint, I guess it’s acceptable for me to be a glutton as well.
I’ve said this countless times, but food is central to Italian life. Their food traditions run deep and they savor food in a way that we just don’t in the US. Food is bonding and we’ve done quite a bit of bonding with Tim and Julie. We’ve had long, leisurely lunches, dinners that go on and on, meals in restaurants, meals at friends’ homes, and ample snacks on the terrace. It’s impossible to capture them all, but I will highlight a few standouts.
Al Coccio in Sansepolcro
This is one of our favorite places and we went there with Tim and Julie for lunch one glorious afternoon. They give you an amuse-bouche and you have to love a place that gives you bonus food. They bookend this with these delightful truffles after the meal. All in all a fine practice.
Ristorante Fiorentino, Sanselpolcro
This is old palazzo that has been turned into a hotel and restaurant. The dining room is a grand old room with huge chestnut beams and rosettes between. The food is wonderful and we all had fantastic dishes.
Rossella and Michelangelo’s House
Not a restaurant, but always a wonderful place to gather. They had us over twice – once for Rossella’s famous lasagna and once for Rossella’s famous pizza. Did you know it’s acceptable to have beer or prosecco with pizza, but never wine? Something about the bubbles, I guess. That plate underneath the lasagna was a bad sign. It meant after that we would have more food. And we did. Roasted meats, salad, and dessert.
We sent Tim and Julie away very full, but maybe a pound or so heavier than when they arrived. That’s why we walk so much. Thank goodness we live in a hilltown, where a simple stroll is a workout. We will meet them again later in their trip, but for now we’re having lots of salads and roasted veggies. Saving up for the next round of gluttony. Sorry, Francis – we can’t help ourselves.