Sunday, March 21, 2010

We Pellegri-joined!

Midterms done… spring break here we come! Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything, but these weeks have been really busy. Becca and I took a little pre- spring break trip (6 mental health days in all…oops) to San Gimignano and Rome to meet up with the Pellegrinaggio group from Merrimack. The Pellegrinaggio, or pilgrimage in English, is an organized trip to Italy, led by Fr. Jim Wenzel, which focuses on exploring Merrimack’s Augustinian roots. I went on the same trip last year and had a wonderful experience.

We were really looking forward to seeing some familiar faces, especially Fr. Jim and Kevin “K-dawg” Salemme. Kevin was a last minute joiner and this year’s co-leader of the trip. We know him quite well because I work for him in the media center and he is a professor of photography in the Fine Arts department, where Becca and I both have jobs in the slide archive (or at least I hope we do by the time we get back).

In San Gimignano, we stayed in the Augustinian convento with the rest of the Merrimack group. This gorgeous Tuscan hill town is one of my favorite places in all of Italy. Its small and winding streets are packed with history and the views from outside the fortified walls are breathtaking, particularly at sunrise.

In the convento, there is a central cloister into which all the rooms look down upon. The building is extremely difficult to heat, given its age and plan, and it can get very cold inside.

Our large group of over thirty people ate in the huge refectory, or dining room, at three long tables along the walls. Loretta is the very sweet and fantastic cook that provided us with some of the tastiest food I have eaten in a long time.

Attached to the convento is a small church. Inside, the Italian artist Benozzo Gozzoli completed a very beautiful fresco cycle of the life of Saint Augustine. Photographs of all the scenes can be found at Merrimack on the second floor of the campus center along with other photographs chronicling the path that the Pellegrinaggio follows through Italy (all of which were actually taken by Kevin).

The week was a blast and it wouldn’t have been complete without a little wacked out weather along the way. There was one day where we accompanied the group from San Gimignano to Lecceto, a very remote and uphill location, to visit the cloistered Augustinian sisters. A snowstorm that was apparently highly underestimated came along and dumped about 4-5 inches of snow in about two and a half hours. In New England this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but to the poor Italians, it was a lot like the blizzard of ’78. When we attempted to leave, it was still snowing and our bus got stuck, so we had to walk back up the hill to the monastery to wait for the “fire department” to get the bus down to the main road. This excitement made a lot of time for some group bonding and actually added to the experience.

Today we are in Prague, or Praha, which is the first leg of spring break. From here we will go to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Paris. So far, it has been unbelievably fun and I'll be able to write as the trip progresses.

Ciao, Sbohem (Czech), Tschüss (German), Doei (Dutch), Au revoir (French),


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