A perfect day

The weather is glorious in Italy at the moment. Warm days and a blue sky. A perfect day to visit Loreto in Italy, exactly 50 years and a month after I started as a Loreto pupil in Manchester. Wearing an oversized uniform, like most girls, I hadn’t a clue what Loreto meant. Little did I know about the nuns whose vocation was to educate ‘the poor girls of Manchester’. I always wanted to visit. Loreto is the site of the Virgin Mother’s home, where it was supposed to have been flown from Nazareth and preserved. Few people believe that now. It may be that the stones were transferred. It has been proved that there is some resemblance in the type of stone in both places. It doesn’t really matter. The yellow and white bunting was still in place from the Pope’s visit last week when he inauguarated the Year of Faith. His picture was everywhere. When we went to eat at lunchtime, after paying the bill, they gave me medals. That’s a first. Unlike most places of pilgrimages we have visited there were not queues of people kissing stones, as in Chaucer’s time. I only saw one nun. You can’t go anywhere in Italy as a Catholic without feeling transported back to biblical times. It reminded me of what I once knew and had almost forgotten. Later on we went to Norcia, home of St Benedict. We went into the crypt of the church where he is said to have been born. We were present at Compline, the divine office at 7.45pm. Hooded monks sang it in Latin. It brought back what I had been taught at Loreto. You never really forget. The responses trip off the tongue as they did 50 years ago. I prayed for most people in my life and lit candles. Norcia is a town dedicated to St Benedict and food. Regional specialities must include wild boar. It is on all the menus and there are stuffed animals in the shops. I also saw ‘coniglio di malo’ in a food store which I think is too revolting to translate. I thought of bringing some home as a joke for my son in law. But at 9 euros, if he doesn’t eat it, it’s an expensive joke. I ate tasty sausage and lentils with a local red wine. This is our last night before moving to Tuscany. More churches and restaurants. As always in Italy.

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