Day 1: Sunday 24 May
Early departure from Dublin airport on our Aer Lingus flight to Naples. On arrival, we will be met by our Joe Walsh tours pilgrimage co-ordinator and transferred by private coach to San Giovanni Rotondo. On the way we will stop in Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Saint Pio. Continue on to San Giovanni, where we check into the Centro di Spiritualita hotel. We will stay here for three nights with breakfast and evening meal each day.
Day 2: Monday 25 May
Today we visit the Capuchin Friary, the cell where Saint Pio lived and died, the crucifix before which he received the stigmata. We visit the old and new churches and the tomb of St. Pio. We also visit the English Office, where we hear about the extraordinary life of Padre Pio.
Day 3: Tuesday 26 May
This morning we revisit the shrine. After lunch we travel to the nearby town of San Marco in Lamis and visit St. Matthew’s monastery. We then continue to Monte Sant Angelo, the shrine in the cave where the Archangel Michael appeared in the fifth century. A long list of Saints and Popes have visited this cave to pray to the Archangel, among them St. Francis of Assisi, St Pio and St John Paul II. Return to hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 4: Wednesday 27 May
This morning we depart for Assisi. En route to Assisi we will visit Lanciano. Lanciano is where the first and greatest Eucharistic Miracle of the Catholic Church took place in the eighth century as a response to the priest’s doubt about the Real Presence in the Eucharistic. We continue on to Assisi, where we will check into Hotel Frate Sole in Santa Maria degli Angeli, Lower Assisi, and our base for the next two nights. We will have breakfast and evening meal each day at the hotel. This evening we visit the nearby Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels which houses the Porziuncola, the abandoned chapel that St. Francis restored. This was the chapel of St. Francis’s first community and is the cradle of the Franciscan order
Day 5: Thursday 28 May
Today we visit Upper Assisi. We have a walking tour of the main sights of the medieval town of Assisi. We visit the impressive thirteenth century Basilica of St. Francis, the mother church of the Franciscan order. Construction of the Basilica started a mere two years after the death of St. Francis. This was uncommon at the time but the enthusiasm of the people to create a permanent home for the body of the beloved Francis pushed them to complete the masterpiece of the lower church in just two years, an amazing feat for that era. We also visit the Basilica of St. Clare, foundress of the Order of the Poor Clares. St. Clare followed the teachings of St. Francis by living a life of poverty and humility. Clare died in 1253 and her incorrupt body is in the Basilica. The original San Damiano cross, the cross that Francis was praying before when he received his commission to rebuild the church, is also in this Basilica.
Day 6: Friday 29 May
This morning we will depart Assisi and continue to the town of Montecatini Terme in Tuscany, our final destination on our pilgrimage. On the way we will visit the beautiful city of Siena. Siena, birthplace to one of the most influential and popular saints in the church, St Catherine. Catherine’s writings were so influential that she was declared a Doctor of the church. Catherine was also instrumental in restoring the papacy from Avignon in France back to Rome. We continue to the Hotel Tettuccio where we will stay for 2 nights with breakfast and evening meal served each day.
Day 7: Saturday 30 May
Following breakfast we will visit the nearby, small Tuscan town of Lucca. Its famous walls enclose one of Italy’s finest medieval treasures. The centre is relatively unspoilt and is scattered with palazzo, towers and many splendid churches. We will visit the Augustinian church and also St. Frediano, which houses the tomb of the Irish Saint Finian. On the way back to Montecatini we will visit the beautiful, medieval hill top town of Montecatini Alto, where we will enjoy some free time to wander around this beautiful Tuscan town. We return to Montecatini Terme for our evening meal and overnight.
Day 8: Sunday 31 May
We depart for Pisa airport for our morning flight back to Dublin, arriving into Dublin at 12.15hrs.
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