In September of 2001 my friend Douglas and I were headed for a month’s stay in Italy. He was an architect so it was a great treat for me to be able to tap into his expertise. He was also not at all interested in expensive hotels & over-priced restaurants...so we were well matched. I had read an informative book entitled “Lodging In Italy’s Monasteries” and realized we could afford a month’s stay, instead of our proposed two weeks, by utilizing their services & traveling by public transportation.
This sounded great to Douglas and he was happy to have me do all the arranging…which I thoroughly enjoyed. I made reservations at seven Monasteries (located in Rome, Orvieto, Bavagna, Gubbio, Cortona, Florence and Venice).
Three days in Rome and two in Orvieto were filled with treasures and views that I had only imagined. The sixth day, which was Sept. 10th, found us in the small town of Bavagna. This is a charming town with 2 small piazzas tucked in between ancient buildings & churches.
We went to Assisi the next day and it was approximately 4:30 in the afternoon when we returned to Bavagna. The first inkling that something was wrong was when the few townspeople who were in the Piazza called to us and pointed to the little bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor, insisting that we go there. The shop boasted the only TV in the square and it was just recording the horrific events of 9-11.
I can hardly put into words how this affected me. I felt totally shocked and helpless. A nice couple from Canada took us to their hotel and we tried to make calls to our family members in the U.S., but it would be 4 days before we could get through. When we left them and returned to the piazza a nun was waiting for us. She was probably from the monastery where we were staying although I didn’t recognize her. She motioned us to follow her and led the way to an ancient church in the center of the town. She unlocked the side door and beckoned us to enter.
The interior of the church was cool and musty and we were completely alone. It didn’t seem to matter that neither Douglas nor I practiced any type of formal religion. We sat quietly absorbing the atmosphere, each lost in our own thoughts, and in about an hour the little nun came back. We tried to show our appreciation although we knew very little Italian and it was hard to speak without crying. She kept nodding her head to show that she understood and then gave Douglas a pat on the back and me a warm hug.
That day comes back to haunt me, as I know it does for so many people. It always makes me remember the compassion and love that were shown to us...not only by the townspeople of Bavagna, but from all the Italians that we encountered during our month’s stay in their wonderful country.