Portofino is the most famous little harbor in the world. It’s a port on the Italian Riviera, known for its harbor filled with yachts of the rich and famous and streets adorned with expensive shops, selling Gucci, Pucci and other designer fashions. However, local wares are sold alongside the designer fashions. Although I prefer more quaint areas of Italy, I’d still like to experience Portofino and stock up on the fine olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fruit products from the local growers.

You may view more photos of Portofino here.

From Portofino we can take a boat to the abbey I wrote about in an earlier post today at S. Fruttuoso Di Camogli.

Although our day trips will be planned during the Italy Retreat, the most fun part of traveling will be the unexpected discoveries. I remember when my husband and I were in Cortona, Italy two years ago, (we won’t be visiting on this trip) we visited Bramisole, the home of Frances Mayes that she wrote about in “Under the Tuscan Sun”. At the end of her book, she did invite her readers to visit! Needless to say, she doesn’t live in that particular house anymore because she didn’t know there were going to be so many readers responding to her invitation. Anyway, on our drive back to our hotel inside the walled town of Cortona, we passed an interesting sign, “Le celle di San Francesco.”

We pulled in and in a moment we had walked into a sort of Shangri-la. A brown-robed monk happened to walk by and invited us to visit the small chapel where St. Francis used to stay on his visits from Assisi. They had built this monastery into the side of a rocky hillside, and a waterfall ran down in front. Pine trees provided the backdrop. We walked into his cell, and another monk was sitting with eyes closed, so we did the same. After about 20 minutes, he spoke very clearly in English, “St. Francis has given you a gift.” I opened one eye to see if he was talking to us.

He answered my one-eyed stare with, “The 6 other tourists left you alone here so you could sit in silence, as St. Francis did so many years ago. Come with me and I’ll show you where the monks live and eat, even though we usually don’t show people this area.” So we went back into their simple living area behind the small cell. Then he invited us to vespers where we sat in a pew with 2 older Italian women in black. The pews in front of us filled with about a dozen Franciscan monks in brown robes. We all began singing in Italian or Latin, I’m not sure which. We were just filled with so much joy and awe.

I’m not sure how we went from Under the Tuscan Sun to singing with the monks? I only know it is a treasured moment in my life. I am also sure that our adventures together in this La Dolce Vita Retreat will catapult us to lots of possibilities while in Italy and….for the rest of our lives.

Learn more about traveling to Italy on Lenora’s Italy Retreats For Women
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