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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Rita, Cascia and a Craft Store in Spoleto!

St. Rita of Cascia - incorrupt body

One of the things I absolutely was compelled to do when we visited Italy was to visit the shrine of one of my favorite saints, St. Rita of Cascia.  We departed from Rome early in the morning in order to catch the only train to Spoleto.  From there, we'd hop on a bus to Cascia.

While on the train, we befriended a really nice Italian girl named Eleonora.  Eleonora had a great sense of humor and really helped the travel time to pass quickly.  In fact, we had such a great experience with her, that we are all friends on Facebook now. :)

Brianna and Anthony with our new Italian friend, Eleonora.

Once we arrived in Spoleto, we had a two hour wait for our bus ride.  We took advantage of the opportunity and strolled around this adorable, sleepy little town.  And, lo and behold - what do you think I found there, down the street from the bus/train station?  A little sewing/embroidery store!!!  This little store carried tons of buttons, and a small selection of lace, trims, embroidery floss and the like.  I couldn't resist purchasing some of the unusual buttons and some lace from this sweet little shop.

Buttons galore!

Lace and trims!

Once we got on the bus, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery of the Umbrian country side as we trekked our way to St. Rita's shrine.

Umbria - view from the bus

Finally - we had arrived.  The shrine sits on top of a mountain-top, and in order to get to the top, you can either walk up the winding road or take a shuttle.  We opted for the shuttle because it was raining quite heavily that day.

St. Rita's Shrine - Cascia, Italy

St. Rita's Shrine - Cascia, Italy

A view of Cascia from the shrine (please excuse the foggy picture - it was raining!)

The shrine was breathtaking in every sense of the word.  St. Rita's incorrupt body is encased in a glass tomb in front of the church.  I can't express the joy I felt at finally being able to visit this saint that I have loved since I was a little girl.  All I can say is - it was amazing.

Where St. Rita's body is displayed.

St. Rita's incorrupt body.

St. Rita's incorrupt body.

Inside the shrine.

Look at the beautiful artwork on the ceiling.

The altar.

After we exited the church, we stopped by the gift shop where we purchased several souvenirs.  I purchased several mini pocket statues of St. Rita (among other things) and will be using them in future jewelry creations.
The shrine gift shop contains hundreds of souvenirs of St. Rita.

Because we were short on time, we only visited the shrine for a couple of hours, so unfortunately for us, we didn't get to see everything that we wanted to.  However, the next time I visit Italy, I will definitely plan to visit Cascia for at least a couple of days in order to be able to experience all that this little town has to offer.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life Got in the Way - But I'm Back!

It's hard to believe that my last blog post was in September at the time I departed for my long-awaited trip to Italy.  I apologize for my absence in blogger-land.  I have absolutely no excuse for this except for the fact that life got in the way.
That's not necessarily a bad thing.  I came home from Italy to find my sweet husband had surprised me by giving our home a much-needed update.  With the help of my son, Joey and daughter-in-law, Hailey, he repainted our bedroom, replaced all of the carpeting in the house with new carpeting in the bedrooms and wood flooring in the hallway and living room areas.  I'd been wanting wood floors in our home for a long time, and I was thrilled to come home to find all of the beautiful changes.  In addition, I was swamped with jewelry orders for November Confirmations and the Christmas holiday.  (Not that I mind - I love making jewelry, as you know! ;) )  Last, but certainly not least, for the first time in over 30 years, I stopped working full time.  I am working a part-time job now, and I began going to college as a full-time student.  I graduated from high school 30 years ago, so this is a huge adjustment for me.  My latest endeavor has me determined to earn my four year degree in three years, so I will be attending college full-time and during the summer to achieve this goal.  Wish me luck!

Anyway - to get back on track - we had a wonderful vacation.  I learned a lot during our trip, and I'm longing to go again in the near future.  I absolutely fell in love with Italy and her wonderful people.  It truly was the trip of my dreams and I cannot wait to do it all again.

I'm planning to share my experiences and photos from beautiful Italy with you here on my blog.  There's a lot to cover, so I will do it in increments.  In addition, I want to share other information here with you.  I have a lot of catching up to do, so let's get started.

Our trip began in Rome.  We stayed at a hotel called "Hotel de Monti".  It is in a convenient location - right down the street from the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica and walking distance from the Termini train station.  The hotel has a wonderful continental breakfast which is included in the room rate.  Each morning, we dined on our choice of various meats, cheeses, fruit, juices and beverages.  There is nothing quite as delicious as fresh squeezed blood-orange juice, homemade Formaggio cheese, prosciutto, croissants, biscotti and cappuccino for breakfast (among other things).

Here is a view of the street where our hotel was located.  In the center of the picture, you can see Santa Maria Maggiore.  It's not the best picture, but it was quite rainy in Rome that day.  And by quite rainy, I mean we ended up getting soaked.  But it was well worth it.  You don't get to see Italy every day, you know.

After we checked into our hotel, we wandered around our neighborhood and enjoyed all that Rome had to offer.  We stopped for lunch at a cool little restaurant called "La Carbonara."  The food was delicious and lots of locals eat there, which is a good sign.  Plus, they have a great sense of humor.  Check out this little card which was on our table:

After lunch, we walked over to Santa Maria Maggiore.  It is such a beautiful church - quite ornate, as they all appear to be in Italy.

 We shopped at this fantastic little gift shop called "Rosario" located near the Basilica.   You name it, they have it...everything from handmade rosaries, to statues of saints, medals galore.  There was a lot to see, and a lot to buy.  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop there.  The prices are pretty reasonable and most everything there is really made in Italy, as opposed to China (like many of the gift stores in Rome.)

 One thing that I found quite interesting is that there appear to be no rules when it comes to parking and driving in Italy.  Now, I've heard those stories about speedy Italian drivers and the like, but I had no idea that in Rome, if you can't find a parking space, you can just leave your car in the middle of a street, and go about your business.  That's what happened here:

And don't even get me started on the parking:

Honestly, I don't know how people can get out of such a tight spot.  It's amazing to me...
I'd like to live in Italy one day, even if it's just to have a vacation home there.  It looks like I am going to have to learn how to drive and park like an Italian.  :)

I think that covers everything for this installment.  Be sure to check back for future chapters about our trip to Italy - including, but not limited to: the Vatican, Cascia, Naples, Pompeii, Venice and other fascinating cities in this beautiful land.

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