Please Note: I apologize for the several sideways pictures. This has taken entirely too long as it is so I've just decided to leave it.
TA DA! My favorite day of the whole trip. And it was totally stacking up to be the WORST DAY.
I willingly took the responsibility to set my watch alarm and wake everyone in my room up at 5:30 am, because we needed to leave at 6:45 to go catch our train to Assisi.
Unfortunately, several things happened that led to utter failure on my part.
1. I missed my mom to the point of pain, and I was the only one in my room who hadn't bought a phone card to call their family that night. I was rather depressed in spite of the fact that I was in ROME, and felt very lonely and sad.
2. I did NOT sleep at all well that night. I felt like I was going insane, because every time I closed my eyes, I was certain I needed to go somewhere or find someone. It was actually pretty terrifying, and I just COULD NOT sleep. I finally dozed off when I flopped over sideways on my bed, but I got maybe 5 hours of sleep, max.
3. When my alarm went off, I consciously thought: I need to wake up Karli.
I cannot tell you what happened between 5:30 and 6:38, because I must have fallen back to sleep.
Ana was suddenly yelling, "Guys, it's 6:38!!"
You have NEVER seen 4 girls get ready to leave faster. Ever.
I apologized about 15,000 times before we'd even left our room, and they finally told me it was fine and begged me to just quit apologizing and get ready. I had a very hard time believing they didn't completely hate me.
Things didn't get much better when I learned that we couldn't stop for breakfast until we got to Assisi because we didn't leave in time.
Again, I felt this was my fault.
The train ride over was almost 2 hours, and I couldn't sleep or eat the granola bar Deb gave me. I was pretty miserable, but I was trying to stay upbeat because I'd been looking forward to going to Assisi for months and didn't want it to be spoiled.
Assisi. Is. Beautiful.
We got breakfast at the little cafe at the train station, but I still didn't have a lot of appetite. I caught a breakfast pannini and forced about half of it down, but then we had to catch cabs to the church of San Francisco (St. Francis).
This church is simply magnificent.
And there's a pretty sick view over the wall and through the grate.
Rule of thumb in Italy around Christmas: There are Nativities EVERYWHERE.
Random factoid: You have to pay 60 Euro-cents to use the bathroom at San Francisco. Huh.
We went down into a special little chapel that St. Francis used to have Mass. Major coolness!
It was just beautiful in there. Our group is really pretty sweet, too.
Back outside again, I was not much happier. I was exhausted, still pretty hungry, and I was rather stressed out about the idea of going to this 'castle'. Fr. Jeremy had told us we'd be visiting a castle in Assisi, but he also told us that seeing said castle would involve lots of walking. I was just weary, which is pretty sad when you're in Italy, for crying out loud.
Than, Father said that he would not be going to the castle because he has a bad knee, and anyone who wanted to could just chill out in the smaller area of Assisi.
That sounded like HEAVEN to me. And from that point on, everything started looking up. And I mean WAY up. It. Was. Amazing.
Totally incredible how one random decision can totally change your day.
It ended up being Fr. Jeremy, Karli, Abby, and myself. Absolutely everyone else opted for the castle, even the 70+ grandparents in our group!
The lovely stonework outside of San Francisco.
More pictures of the church as we headed off to wander around and waved goodbye to the castle-goers.
Off into the very quiet, gorgeous streets of Assisi!
Father decided to take us on a little detour up some majorly picturesque steps that he hoped would lead to a nice restaurant.
No restaurant here. MUCH BETTER. Total, random, unexpected EPIC WIN.
An incredible view of the mountainside! Abby and Karli had the upper body strength to see. I had to wait for a lower wall.
Is that not epic?
I fell behind to get a great picture of our teeny group in the most beautiful alley known to humanity.
I want to live here.
I so wanted to explore that....
Ah ha! A place where I could see down to the Church of St. Francis! Amazing!
Seriously. Can I just live there for 6 months?
I love these trees.
Too much awesome.
I wonder whose lucky enough to frequent this gorgeous little chapel!
Another statue of St. Francis. Beautiful.
Back down the alley we go! Time for lunch!
In true, pathetic American-ness, I'm in Assisi, and I get FRENCH FRIES.
But I guess I needed the familiar oily starchiness, because after that, I was pretty much ready to climb a mountain!
FAVORITE CHURCH OF THE WHOLE TRIP.
The Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. We went into this church, just because we were walking by, and when we walk in, our jaws hit the floor and we were DEAD. SILENT.
It is BREATHTAKING. I was too stunned to take photos that time around, but don't worry: We went back, and the pictures are coming up!
Pigeons are everywhere. I got over being freaked out by them after a while.
Gorgeous view outside of the Church of St. Clare.
This is the saint I am named after. And here is her incorrupt body.
I just about freaked out. You weren't technically supposed to take pictures (meaning you really weren't), but I turned my flash off and just got three quick shots of her body, because I was just vibrating. She's so incredibly beautiful, and I calculated today that we were born exactly 800 years apart! This was just inspiring. I know I made people laugh because I just got SO EXCITED. Totally worth it.
St. Clare has a nice fountain, too, beside which these epic Italian kids were having some sort of totally awesome dance-off! That was pretty bomb...
We went into this wine/meat/cheese shop so Father could grab some fancy cheese, and I had to take a picture of the Assisi cross/ornament combo to commemorate the only place in Italy I heard any Owl City. Fireflies never sounded so beautiful.
We did a lot of criss-crossing in Assisi, so here we are, back at St. Clare's, and I finally got pictures of the exterior.
And more of the view, 'cause it was awesome.
At that point, we met up with a few more people from our group who had returned from the castle and went shopping.
Olive wood horse. So win.
TA-DA! Here is the interior of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the most beautiful church in Italy (um...in my opinion). These pictures do NOT do it justice. You can't even tell that the gold is up against the most beautiful royal-blue background. AGH!
Italian church bulletin board. Cool.
I believe this is St. Rita...not sure.
But PLEASE tilt your head to the left and look at how gorgeous the alter/front were!
I wish my ceiling was that cool.
Epic woman outside of the church.
See that intersection down there? Half-a-dozen people from our group walked all the way down there and back in failed search for a McDonald's. We're in Italy. Yes, I admit I ate the French fries, but come on! Clearly my devotion to American fast food doesn't run that deep.
TEENY CAR! This was great.
Ryan is so much bigger then it! Would half a Ryan even fit in there? I wonder...
Back down towards St. Francis! More criss-crossing!
Awesome steps leading to someplace magical, I'm sure.
Flowers! So pretty!
There's the Church!
I kept getting distracted by amazing views...
I like this wall a lot.
Down the beaten but beautiful path to the church, which we would finally get to see the inside of!
San Francisco has TWO nativities.
Now why did THIS ONE have to be sideways?
The crypt of St. Francis! No pictures inside (I took some without flash that didn't turn out at all, because they keep the lights dim so the paintings and relics don't get overexposed to light).
No, I was not stalking this pigeon.
It just looks that way.
I love St. Francis's. Even if you do have to pay 60 cents for the bathroom. What better cause then a church?
Last picture! We headed back to the train station after an absolutely magical day. Back to the same cafe we had breakfast in. I had seen this Yoga juice at breakfast, but was too tired to purchase it. It was absolutely divine, and MAJOR SCORE: After we got back from Assisi, I discovered it was in the vending machine in our hotel. Oh yeah.
The train ride was interesting because 2 of the girls became convinced someone was about to hold up the train after he put on a ski mask. In case you're wondering, no he did not. Total non-event. But it made the trip somewhat exciting.
I was able to get a 5 Euro phone card at the cafe, too, and called my mom at home after we got back to our hotel in Rome. That was a fairly emotional call in which I almost started crying when I heard her voice, but it was really, really awesome.
Best. Day. Ever.