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You can often see his likeness gracing flower gardens.  Dressed in a robe, with outstretched arms and open hands to put bird-feed in, so stands many small statues of St. Francis of Assisi.

He was, of course, founder of the St. Franciscan order and a lover of all creatures.  Next week, on October 4th, is his feast day.  So, it’s fitting that also around this time, many churches offer “Blessing of the Animals” events.  And if you’ve ever taken your pet to one of these adorable puppy processionals, remember to give a nod to St. Francis, in whose name, the blessing is connected.

Although he was from Assisi in Umbria, as his name implies, it was here to the west – in our beloved Tuscany – where he received his everlasting claim to fame.  And recently, Lulu and I traveled – along with our friends Francesco and David – to the mountain-top monastery, La Verna, that marks the spot.

The story goes that in 1224, Francis (as he was just probably known as back then before the prefix “St.” was affixed) fasted for forty days in a tiny cave on Monte Penna in the Apennines mountains.

Lulu standing in the supposed exact spot where St. Francis fasted, lived and slept. “without a TV!”

During this time, he mysteriously received similar crucifixion wounds as Christ, known as the stigmata.  As he was apparently the first to have done so – the entire area is now considered sacred.

These days, you don’t have to be Catholic or even particularly pious, to appreciate a visit to La Verna.

There are works of incredible art by both man and nature here.

Here’s an Andrea della Robbia.  Seriously, this man’s family was prolific!  And our friend and tour-guide Francesco says that artists still cannot fully replicate the vibrancy of their glazes.

This small ravine opens into a small natural amphitheater.

And the view is just plain, well, miraculous.  No wonder, St. Francis was so inspired.

From yet, another amazing place in Italy,

Ciao, tutti!

Gina

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