This was the first time that I really took advantage of the opportunity of traveling to Italy, to find a deeper meaning behind the visit to one of the historical landmarks.
I have always felt awe at the living history in Italy. But, this time I approached the visit to new places with an open mind, no particular plans, and a pre-disposition to explore.
My friend Antonella was kind enough to take me to Assisi, a town I had always wanted to visit because of the historical significance. I started out the day with a more typical aim of visiting the papal basilica of St. Francis and experiencing the charming little town of Assisi.
But, the day took a very different turn as soon as I saw the intriguing entrance to “the Bosco di San Francesco” to one side of the basilica.
I ended up spending two hours on the path through the woods where St. Francis himself walked. I entered the woods with my mind focused on the historical perspective, but moments later the path itself captured my soul.
The deeper I went into the woods, the deeper in thought and reflection I seemed to be.
I came across this display of sculptures about five minutes into the walk. They seemed to be welcoming me to wander further.
I experienced a couple of hours of immense calm, surrounded by the peaceful trail through the woods, only occasionally encountering clergymen who were themselves taking the opportunity to experience the same peace and tranquility that I had just discovered.
Besides the experience of the woods with the lovely splintered light penetrating through the trees, the panorama would occasionally open up to reveal the lovely countryside of Umbria beyond the town.
There were other surprises along the way, like the 14th century wall that came suddenly into view after walking for about 1 kilometer.
It only increased my sense of wonder as I contemplated the question of how this wall could be placed so far into the woods.
When I met Antonella again, after she had given a tour of the upper and lower churches of St. Francis to a group of fascinated tourists, I told her of my discovery.
The more I told her about my journey along the path, the more we realized that I had done something akin to what Antonella herself does so often: take the invitation of an undiscovered place and explore it fully to find the mysteries that it holds.
My joy at the new discovery was contagious that entire day and spurred Antonella and I to share our deeper feelings about the meaning behind a journey through the woods.
This visit to Assisi also strengthened my spiritual connection to Italy. I speak Italian and for several weeks after my return, I kept having dreams in Italian that exposed my deeper appreciation for the character of the Italian people. I can’t help but wonder if my journey of discovery in the woods in Assisi contributed to this phenomenon of dreaming in Italian and to my deeper connection to Italy.
Photo and text by Lynn De La Torre – January 2015