Monday, October 3, 2016

Travel Italy: Florence American Cemetery, Volterra, and La Verna in Tuscany

From the Castle Montegufoni where we stayed at in Tuscany, we could take trips to different places.


One of the sites we visited was the Florence American Cemetery, where our friend's father is buried. The man in charge of the American Cemetery, an Italian, was cordial and helped us find the burial place of William Allen. There were other Americans looking for the burial sites of their relatives, and some of them had great stories. A woman spoke of her relative, a pilot whose plane had to go down, but he was able to release his passengers, while he and his co-pilot went down with the plane. Even though World War II was years ago, emotions were still palpable.

We found the cross marking the burial site of William Allen, and we gave our respects. He was one of 4,402 American military buried there. I was touched to see the expanse of white burial markers, each representing a life that was cut short. William Allen himself was a young man who had left his wife and two children to go to war.


Another place we visited in Tuscany was Volterra, which is referred to as a hill town, often mentioned along with another place, San Gimignano.  These places should be referred to as mountain places because they are perched up mountains and reached via narrow winding roads, very scenic, but sometimes harrowing.

When we drove around Italy, we relied on the car's GPS, which spoke only in Italian. We called her Sofia, after the famous Italian actress Sofia Loren.  And indeed our Sofia had a calm voice, not metallic, a bit breathy, and she gave clear directions, in Italian, which we managed to understand. While our American Google GPS referred to streets, for eg, turn right on Via Such-and-such, Sofia would simply say in Italian:  Prepare to take the second exit once you reach the round-about. This made sense because we were totally unfamiliar of the names of the streets. However, Sofia brought us to strange places a couple of times. For instance, on our way to the pilgrim site La Verna, she led us to a walking pilgrim trail! Since then, I was suspicious of her directions.

Here are more pictures of Volterra, showing the huge Etruscan portal, Roman ruins, and the medieval town cascading down the mountaintop. There are other random shots as well.


Another place we visited was La Verna, a Franciscan monastery and pilgrim site. This was the place where St. Francis received his stigmata. I'd been to Assisi, the more famous pilgrim site associated with St. Francis, and I looked forward to visiting La Verna.

La Verna sits on top of a mountain higher than Volterra. Let me be more specific, it is on top of a cliff. La Verna was actually quite far from Montegufoni and it took over two hours along narrower and more winding mountain roads than Volterra's. Driving is the recommended way of getting there as the place is remote.

It's a monastery but the monks have facilities for pilgrims. La Verna has the Basilica Maggiore, the small church of Santa Maria degli Angelia, and other chapels, including a small sweet one for St. Anthony of Padua, where you had to duck to enter and which accommodated maybe six people.

The place is surrounded by forests and is very restful. La Verna is beautiful and is probably a great place for a retreat where you stay for several days. Frankly I am not sure it's worth a quick visit as it took five hours of difficult driving to and from the place.

I'll end this blog entry here. Stay tuned for more of our recent trip to Italy.
Be sure and read my other blog entries about this trip to Italy:
 Chianti and San Miniato in Tuscany,
Florence Tuscany in September

       Read also
      This is all for now,


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