Pretty simple and straight forward sign posted at the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie.
It would be nice to see signs like this at other Churches; or better yet,
imagine if no one even needed such instructions!
A set of alarms set for 3:30AM, Tim and Zachary shared a room in the posh Marriott at the Rome airport. Taken for a ride in more ways than one, their cab fare to the airport (1.5 kilometers) at the indecent hour of 4AM cost e20. Seriously. Given extra cash, an emergency only credit card, a boarding pass and series of "how-to's" for flying alone internationally, Zac departed for SeaTac and his first trip to Italy came to an end.
Groggy after napping from 7-9AM, Tim wandered down to the swanky breakfast restaurant, and ordered his morning cappuccino "dopio" (double espresso). Joseph's appetite led him astray, and although warned to avoid greasy, heavy foods to let his body recover slowly, he couldn't resist the bacon and eggs (truly a rare and welcome sight at an Italian breakfast). Within a few minutes of finishing only a few bites, he retired to his bed and spent another hour in recovery while the rest of us dined in fine style.
Checking out at noon, we began the next phase of our Italian pilgrimage as a four-some in a Peugeot Tim rented at the airport. "It's a very big car, sir, a very big car," he was warned by the clerk. The auto-everything and the roomy, fully adjustable seats made it a big hit with the passengers; a big improvement over the tiny box we drove to Assisi.
More like a video game than driving, the journey to San Giovanni Rotondo on the Autostrade gave us plenty of adrenaline filled moments. After about 4 hours of autostrade madness, we arrived safely in San Giovanni Rotondo, and drove straight uphill past several major tour bus parking lots (full in the high season, empty today) to the Church of Santa Maria della Grazie. Just in time for 6PM Mass!
Peter, Joseph and Father Teng with a few darling Italian girls whose family owned and operated the hotel.
First a miss, then a hit on our hotel hunt in San Giovanni Rotondo. Keenly aware that Zachary's arrival time at SeaTac was approaching, we were thankful that our hotel, the Villa San Pietro, had wireless Internet. Sure enough, within minutes of landing, Zac's "here safely" email arrived, and we were at ease. The family owned hotel/restaurant/gift shop, staffed by 6 brothers and one sister and mama, offered us an opportunity to feel like we were staying in an Italian home. The powerful smell of (liturgical) incense in the hotel's second floor hallway foreshadowed how most of our hours in San Giovanni Rotondo would be spent: in the company of a delightful priest, who had been blessed by Padre Pio as a young boy when his parents made a pilgrimage to San Giovanni Rotondo.
Joseph takes in a mosaic of Padre Pio answering mail, at the tomb of St.(Padre) Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy