Date: 15OCT (Saturday). FLORENCE – LORETO – SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO (Day 13)
A wake up call was made at around 6:10AM today. It is because we would proceed to Loreto, Italy. Loreto is a hilltown and comune of the Italian province of Ancona, in the Marche. It is most commonly known as the seat of the Basilica della Santa Casa, a popular Catholic pilgrimage site. Loreto is also located 127 meters (417 feet) above sea level on the right bank of the Musone river. It is 22 kilometres (14 miles) by rail south-southeast of Ancona. Like many places in the Marche, it provides good views from the Apenninesto the Adriatic. The city has also a massive line of walls designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, which were erected from 1518 and reinforced in the 17th century. The distance from Florence, Italy is 345 kilometers. And then we proceeded down south from Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo, the home of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina The distance from Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo is 321 kilometers. Then we check in one of the hotels of San Giovanni Rotondo.
How to get to Loreto? Loreto is just off the Autostrada A14 between Pescara (south) and Bologna (north). Paid parking is available beneath the basilica. Loreto is just off the Autostrada A14 between Pescara (south) and Bologna (north). Paid parking is available beneath the basilica.
Another one, for independent travelers if traveling by train it is about two hours from Bologna. You change trains in the ferry port of Ancona and from there it takes about 20 minutes. The station is about one mile from the shrine so taxis might be best.
And so we brought our luggage outside of our hotel room here in Florence at 7AM and then had our breakfast. We were not able to live exactly at 8AM as scheduled because our baggage were not brought out from the hotel to the bus by Grand Hotel Mediterraneo porters here in Florence, Italy, unlike the other hotels we previously checked in. and yet we paid the porterage service. The porters brought out the luggage of other clients of the hotel. Is there discrimination even by hotel porters? I’m just expressing my opinion. And so we left the hotel at around 9AM instead of 8AM.
While in the bus, we prayed the morning prayer led by Group 1 (Inday Silva) and Bible bullets were distributed again and I got this one: “All of you should be like-minded sympathetic, loving toward one another, kindly disposed and humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult. Return a blessing instead,” (1Peter 3:8). I reflected on this Biblical text especially in relation to what the hotel porters did to us. I asked God for forgiveness about the thought that entered into my mind which was hatred. We passed by 28 tunnels from Florence to an autogrill (in Chiaravalle).
Our Philippine tour leader, Monty, announced that Bishop Gutierrez will join us on the 19th back to the Philippines. But the Bishop will take the flight together with Frs. Bonie Ampoyas and Rey Joloro from Nice, France to Rome, Italy; then from Rome to Dubai, UAE; from Dubai to Manila, Philippines.
At 12:25PM (5:25PM Philippine time) we stopped at an autogrill in Chiaravalle while on our way to Loreto from Florence for our lunch. The cost of my lunch was 15,20 Euro. We left the autogrill at 1:29PM and continued our travel to Loreto. Again we passed by another 2 tunnels before reaching Loreto. We reached Loreto at around 2:20PM; had a short walk to the Holy House of Loreto from where our tour bus stopped. We had our Mass at 3PM in the crypt presided by me. After the Mass our local tour guide toured us around the Holy House of Loreto.
The Holy House of Loreto is one of the most revered Marian shrines in the world. Since medieval times, the Holy House of Loreto has been believed to be the very home in which the Virgin Mary lived, conceived and raised the young Jesus.
The historical background of Holy House of Loreto was: According to the New Testament, Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph in a small town called Nazareth, near Jerusalem. Joseph was a carpenter, and their house was humble. This is where Jesus grew up and worked until he left to reveal Himself to mankind. Three centuries after the life of Jesus, the newly-converted Emperor Constantine built a basilica over the humble brick house believed to have sheltered the Holy Family.
And according to Catholic tradition, the Holy House came under threat during the turmoil of the Crusades, so in 1291, angels miraculously translated the house from its original location to a site in modern-day Croatia. An empty space was left in Nazareth and a small house suddenly appeared in a field in Croatia. The bewildered parish priest brought to the scene by shepherds who discovered it, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary revealed it was her former house.
On December 10, 1294, the house was again moved by angels because of the Muslim invasion of Albania. It landed first in Recanti, Italy, but was shortly thereafter moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto.
Analysis of literary sources, however, indicates that the transport of the Holy House of Loreto happened by sea and not through the assistance of angels. During the medieval period of Christian history it was common for monks and crusaders to be called ‘angels’ by the common people, this explaining the legend of ‘angels’ flying the house from the Holy Land to Loreto. Archaeological evidence and documents uncovered in 1962 suggest that the house may indeed derive from the region of Nazareth as its limestone and cedar construction materials are not available in the area of Loreto.
The Holy House of Loreto, or Santa Casa di Loreto in Italian, has been venerated by pilgrims great and small, including many popes and saints, and numerous miracles and healings have been reported. Scientists are said to have confirmed the materials to be the same as those found in Nazareth and the house lacks normal foundations.
In 1469, a large basilica was built over the Holy House at Loreto, and still stands today. In 1507, a marble enclosure was constructed around the House inside the basilica, and in 1510, the site was officially approved for pilgrimages. Over the centuries, countless pilgrims have kneeled inside the basilica around the Holy House, wearing a trough in the hard rock.
The Basilica sheltering the Holy House has been rebuilt and repaired periodically since its construction in 1469, leaving it with a Renaissance exterior and a Gothic interior.
Inside the basilica, the Holy House is, of course, the main attraction. It is a small stone building measuring 13 x 31 feet, with traces of medieval murals on the inner walls. On the east wall (not part of the original building) is an altar with the Latin inscription Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est, “Here the Word was made flesh.” A statue of the Virgin stands above the altar.
December 10 is the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto and this sacred site attracts as many as 4 million Catholic pilgrims and visitors each year.
We left Loreto at around 4:30PM bound for San Giovanni Rotondo. From Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo, we passed by 25 tunnels.
We stopped by in an autogrill for 15 minutes at 7:15PM for toilet break and bought something: a juice (2,50 Euro) here in Torre Fantene Ovest. We left the autogrill at 7:44PM for San Giovanni Rotondo. We passed by another 2 tunnels from this autogrill before we reached San Giovanni Rotondo.
We checked in a hotel here in San Giovanni Rotondo, Vallerossa Hotel at around 8:40PM. In going here, it is like going up to Baguio City, we passed by a zigzag road.
San Giovanni Rotondo is the name of a city and comune in the province of Foggia and region of Apulia, in southern Italy. San Giovanni Rotondo was the home of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina from 28 July 1916 until his death on 23 September 1968. The Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church was built in devotion to the saint and dedicated on 1 July 2004. The city is renowned for its hospital and medical-research centre Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for the Relief of the Suffering) founded by Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.
How to Get from Rome to Padre Pio Shrine? San Giovanni Rotondo is 180 miles east of Rome in the Puglia region of southern Italy. The trip by train from Rome’s Termini Train Station to Foggia takes about 3 hours on a Freccia train or 4 1/2 to 5 on the less expensive IC trains (with no connections required). As of this writing, there are 7 trains a day (weekdays) between 8AM and almost midnight. There are frequent connecting buses from Foggia train station to San Giovanni Rotondo that take about 40 minutes. The smaller San Severo train station is closer to San Giovanni Rotondo and also has connecting buses on weekdays but only one on Sundays (see schedule above). To get to San Severo from Rome, you would still take the train to Foggia, then transfer to a regional train to San Severo.
Then we had our dinner in Vallerossa Hotel; entered my hotel room 416. I occupied the Room of Nathaniel Caballero and his son, since they were not with us. They were left in Nice, France for some medical checkups of his son.
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