Time (almost) to say farewell
The road to Florence was paved with memorable moments for the pilgrims from Pittsburgh.
Beginning Monday in Assisi, the group of 161 left early for the Church of St. Catherine in Siena, where the saint’s head has been venerated since 1383. It’s displayed in a large reliquary, and the rest of her body is kept in a church in Rome.
The Pittsburghers celebrated Mass in the church, with Father Nick Vaskov as the homilist. Bishop David Zubik continued the tradition of blessing marriages by praying over John and Roseann Farkasovsky, celebrating their 40thanniversary. John is a life-long friend of the bishop.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse upon reaching Siena, with steady rain and cooler temperatures.
Leaving the town of St. Catherine, the contingent from southwestern Pennsylvania headed their four buses to the region of Tuscany, which is popular for its wines and olive oil.
Lunch was a real treat. The site was a 13th-century castle (Castello di Meleto) originally owned by Benedictine monks. In the 14thcentury, during the war between Florence and Siena, the castle was a Florentine fort.
Today, the castle serves as a hotel/spa and catering facility, along with being a working vineyard, producing a variety of fine wines. Rooms are decorated with frescoes in the Baroque style, and the complex features a small 18th-century theater.
The pilgrims enjoyed a typical Tuscan lunch, with pasta, meats, cheeses, wine and bread. Then they had a chance to walk the grounds and stop in the gift shop (of course there was a gift shop).
Next was Florence, a center of Renaissance art. Following an extended bus ride, they arrived at their hotels (three bus loads at one hotel and the group going on the Venice extension in the other) about 6:30 p.m.
Dinner was another special event, billed as a farewell gala for the pilgrims. It was in a palace that belonged to the powerful Borghese family. Walking through the busy, narrow streets in the rain was a challenge for some who were dressed in their finest and hoping to stay that way.
They were serenaded during the evening by local crooner Santino Scarpa, who performed music ranging from opera to the rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen.
The next day (Tuesday) was to include Florence, then an extended bus trip to a hotel near the Rome airport. The pilgrims are going home soon.