|Living water coming from the church in Andros|
This seemed an odd question because my brother-in-law Doug (whom I never met but have spoken with over the phone) lives in Perth, Australia. Jill explained that Doug had made plans to go to Greece with his wife on an extended vacation. Jill suggested we might join him and he was excited about the idea.
My initial reaction was mixed. But the more I thought about this trip, the more it made sense: why not take this opportunity to visit Greece and connect with Jill’s brother? And perhaps also connect with my own Greek relatives?
The more I thought about the trip, the more eager I became to use this as an opportunity to visit Italyin addition to my father’s homeland. I majored in Classics, studied Roman literature and history, and am fluent in Latin (which makes it easy for me to read Italian). For most of my life I have yearned to visit Rome, Florence, Venice, and Assisi—the birthplace of Francis, one of my favorite saints. If not now, when?
Jill had traveled to Italy and didn’t at first think she had time to make a second trip, but was kind enough to go along with this plan.
We decided to fly directly to Venice instead of the more hectic Rome. We are looking forward to enjoying the gondolas, St Mark’s square, and the other sites at a time when the weather is cooler and the tourists less numerous. Among other places, we plan to go to Burano, an island four miles from Venice, known for its brightly colored homes and incomparable lace work.
From Venice we’ll take the train to Florence and spend the night in a hotel near the Florence Cathedral, with its famous Duomo, one of the largest domes in Italy.
From there we will take the train to Assisi and spend the night at the Cittadella Ospitalità., a conference/retreat center that house s guest rooms, art gallery and theatre. According to its website, “It is ideal for meditations, religious conferences and research. The property’s cultural area contains a wide selection of religious literature, art and film. The Christian Observatory includes a reading room, photo collection and library of over 60,000 books.”
It sounds like an ideal place to connect with spiritually minded pilgrims like ourselves. And we’re thrilled to have an opportunity to spend time in a place where the Franciscan movement started—a place known for its beautiful countryside as well as its historic landmarks.
From Assisi we go to Rome, where we will arrive in time to take part in the Palm Sunday celebration. (Our hotel is located only a few blocks away from the Vatican.)
We hope to connect with people from the San Egidio community (a group of Catholic lay people and clergy focusing on peace and justice), and maybe even have an audience with the Pope. We’ve been joking that we may need to dress as homeless people to get the attention of this unusual Pope, but the Vatican does offer tickets for visitors to meet with him on Wednesday. Maybe we’ll win the papal lottery!
From Rome we go to Athens, and then Andros, the island where my father was born—the first big island on a chain of islands called the Cyclades. We are looking forward to spending Easter with my Greek relatives—I have 30 firstcousins!—and worship in the church where my father was baptized. There will no doubt be good food—lamb is the traditional Easter meal—and lots of celebrating.
From Andros we will go to Mykonos and Santorini, one of the most beautiful of Greek islands, famous for its dramatic landscape created by massive earthquakes.
We then head to Heraklion in Greece, birthplace of the great Greek novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, and also El Greco, the painter. There we’ll meet up with Doug and his wife, explore the city and nearby Knossos, the ancient city of the Minoans. This ancient palace, built around 1900 BC, once contained 1000 beautifully furnished rooms. It’s been restored by an English archaeologist and is very impressive. From there we drive to Kato Zakros, a lovely seaside village on the Eastern coast of Crete.
On Sunday, we head to Athens where we have dinner engagements with our Greek relatives. We have never met them, so this will be a great opportunity to get acquainted and get an inside view of Greece. We also plan to visit the Parthenon, Byzantine churches, and other sites.
Our dream is to connect not only with tourist sites, but also with people in the countries we are visiting. If you know of anyone in Italy or Greece you think might like to meet activists like us, please let us know. We are eager to connect and learn more about what they are doing to promote housing justice and peace.