Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure…Day 4 Siena



(Thursday Sept 19)  Buongiorno……what a glorious sleep.  We didn’t get up until 9.  We made fresh cappuccino and later had breakfast of farm fresh eggs, procuitto  and hard cheese, even though I had to cook it was great and relaxing as we enjoyed our meal on the patio.  I think I could live here!

We spent all of the morning and didn’t leave for Siena until after 3.  It took that long time to fix the e-mails and address book that disappeared. I did manage to get in a load of laundry(small machines).

As we were getting ready to leave, Sue was sending out another e-mail to catch up, when she was shut down by AOL.  We tried everything and I finally called them in the states and wound up in India. go figure!  They shut Sue’s e-mail down BECAUSE OF THE ACTIVITY as I tried to explain to him what we were doing.  They thought we were running an elicit business from that address.  He questioned the number of e-mail sent (1000’s)and I told him “we have a lot of friends, don’t you?”  He finally opened the account but we can’t send mail for 24 hours.  So you get inundated  again as we send photos and new trip reports.  Sorry!

We set princess (our GPS) for a destination outside the walls where there was parking but she decided to take us through the city.  That was not fun, driving down narrow streets with people always in the way.  You are actually not allowed on the city unless you are a resident we found out later after we were stopped by a cop.

The head of St. Catherine of Siena on display in the Church of St. Catherine in Siena
The Head of Saint Catherine of Siena on display in the Church of Saint Catherine in Siena.

I took a side street that showed parking and we parked on a steep hill and ventured on.  You can walk Siena all the way around in 30 minutes…..not us! It took us 45 minutes to find our first destination, St. Catherine of Siena and the relic’s of her head and finger at the Basilica of St. Catherine and Dominic.

You can’t say that these Basilica’s are beautiful but they are rich in religious history. We got to pray in front of the chapel of St. Catherine for just one intention for here, Sue niece, Jill Catherine Wagner.

We left as it was getting late and decided to get the car and out of the town and drive to the other side of the city on the right roads.  We reset princess and after having had to back up out of wrong way streets 3 times I decided to follow a delivery truck.  I was right, he was out of there to.

The Piaza in Siena Italy
The center of town, the Piazza, in Siena. The square is famous for hosting the “Palio” horse race and also is home to several architectural monuments.

We followed the road around the city almost going back in twice.  Tired and hungry(I promised Sue Pizza tonight) we almost gave up when we spotted the entrance to St. Francesco.  We parked in the lot and took the escalator up to the town.  I counted 300 stairs as we rode 5 different escalators  to the top.  If we had to walk we would have been at the Pizzeria.  When we entered the Basilica is was the same as the last, we didn’t care we were here to see the miracle, the only problem was where was it.  We met a priest dressed for Mass and his English was good enough to have a great little conversation.  We asked what time he was going to say Mass and he directed us to the corner of the Basilica as he told us Mass had just started.  Again if it wasn’t for the cop who stopped us we would have been on time!

After Mass the priest and the few people there processed out of the chapel to the chapel next door where the priest ascended to the huge tabernacle behind the altar, unlocked it, to expose the miracle host.  It doesn’t get better than this when you are blessed for your stupidity.  The priest said benediction and I could follow in Latin as I remember those prayers and hymns from my altar server days.  Too bad my Italian didn’t stick!

The moment was incredible. We have been to Lanciano and Santarem to see the 2 greatest Eucharistic Miracles ever and this one was just as inspiring for us.(read the Story)

After Benediction we made a beeline for the door and pizza.  It was almost 7 and I said to Sue it will be dark when we finish, are you OK going down those streets in the dark?  She said we can get pizza tomorrow, even though we had little to eat at the farm.  She said she didn’t know we had to fast also on this trip.  I told her, look on the bright side, I was losing weight.

We came back elated that we had accomplished all that we had come here for in such a short period of time and are back on the computers and doing another load of wash(me).

As it turned out we had enough cheese, meat,tomatoes and bread to survive.  I can’t wait to finish and lay down in that glorious bed for another sleep. But it’s time to pack and get ready for what awaits us tomorrow.

Good night and God Bless.


Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure….Day 3 Cortona & Arezzo



Entrance to Cortona
Entering Cortona…home of St. Margaret of Cortona

Wednesday, September 18th  We headed out to Cortona and our first stop of the day.  What a beautiful town on the mountain, and it was very busy with tourist and not a place to park.  We ended up 1/2 way down the mountain and started walking up. After a couple of miles we saw the sign for the Sanctuary and as we rounded the corner we realized that it wasn’t in the town but further up the mountain. 

The Incorrupt body of Saint Margaret of Cortona
The incorrupt body of Saint Margaret of Cortona on display in the Church

We went back for the car and made it to the shrine 15 minutes before they would close for lunch.   It was enough time as we got to pray view the body of Saint Margaret of Cortona and leave some of your intentions.

Nine miles away was our next destination, Our Lady of the Bath.  We knew it would not be open, but we wanted to see the shrine which is outside the church were Our Lady appeared and get water from the Miraculous spring.  The ride was beautiful and very hairy at the same time because the road was so narrow, room barely for one car.  They call this place the “Valley of God” and we could see why when we arrived.  We were the only ones there and accomplished our mission as well a spending a little time to pray.

Road sign point to our Agritusimo
An agriturismo is what a farmhouse that rents out to people is called. You find them all over Italy.

Our next stop was in Arezzo, not a real big town but a traffic nightmare, narrow streets and lots of traffic as well as no parking and all the streets leading to the cathedral were blocked off or reversed one ways.  Tired and frustrated we decided to go to our next B&B, hoping that we wouldn’t have another repeat.

This place was worth the trip, narrow roads and all.

It is a beautiful farm house outside Siena, with a We ended up at this great farmhouse in Italyguest building.  We had booked the largest room which turned out to be a townhouse.  The owner was a gracious women and met us and gave us a tour of our place with great pride.  Everything we needed and more, fresh eggs and pastries and juice,milk and coffee for the morning as well as other stuff.  Relieved and hungry we decided to go out and bring dinner home.  We found a small supermarket with prepared foods and loaded up with supplies.  While dinner was warming I discovered the missing trip report and prepared to write it again. 

Nothing like a home-made dinner with really fresh ingredients.
Nothing like a home-made dinner with really fresh ingredients.

We had dinner…you can see it laid out here……. and and then worked on this report until 11.  It was then we discovered the missing e-mails from our list (we have been trying to send emails to our many friends around the country, but somehow things got messed up) and knew it would take a couple of hours to rectify. I blamed the hotel from hell that we stayed in the night before and went to bed.

We will fix it tomorrow.

 God bless you all.

 Susan and Tom


Day 2 of Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure–Cascia

We arrived in Rome late on Monday and had to walk down the stairs from the plane on the tarmac to the bus AGAIN … suggestion:  don’t ever fly TAP Airlines!  We hurried to the rental car place and stood in line for an hour … finally got our “pilgrimage car”.  We couldn’t leave the airport because we had to stop and get instructions on  how to use the car.  It had more buttons and switches than the airplane did. Not bad though since the drivers seat gives you a massage as you drive.  It’s a Hybrid Diesel and I hope that the mileage will be good since fuel is only $9 buck a gallon over here.

I had previously set “Princess” (our GPS) for a scenic route from out of  Rome and over the mountain range to our first hotel to prepare Susan for our trip.  Susan didn’t even know we were in the mountains as she tried to learn the GPS that was in our rental car and start coordinating our driving pilgrimage, the files, the car, etc.


We stopped on the way to our first hotel and picked up “supplies” at the store, planning to enjoy our first “picnic” in our hotel room while we organized for our journey.  We got to the hotel around 7PM and, finally at about 8:30 PM we called it quits from pure exhaustion.  I think I was fast asleep by 9PM.

Road sign at the entrance of Cascia, Italy birthplace of Saint Rita of Cascia
Welcome to Cascia, first stop of our pilgrimage.

After a couple of Cappuccinos early in the morning, we headed out to our first destination on our pilgrimage … St. Rita of Cascia.  We arrived a little late for Mass … only because we were flagged down by two police officers for a spot check!  It was the first time in six trips to Europe that I have ever had to use or “show” my International Driver’s License.  The police officers didn’t know how to read it … one of the officers spoke a little (very little) English.  After he finally found my photo in the Intl. Passport, I guess he assumed we were okay to let go.  His only question was “where go now????”.  We said St. Rita of Cascia.  He said “where next” … We said Roccaporena.  He asked “rental car”?  I shook my head ‘yes’ as I said “no, officer, I brought the car over on the plane”!  He smiled and he motioned for us to move on.


Mass at any shrine is always very spiritual and this one was a little more special since we had been here before.  After the mass we did the tourist thing taking pictures, we already have but to send to those of you who haven’t seen them.  Waiting for the small crowd to leave the tomb of the saint.  We finally made our way over and while praying a nun came out behind the cage and motioned for all those left to come over where you could venerate St. Rita’s cane and were given 3 rose pedals.  The last time we were here we brought her 3 roses and we felt she returned the favor.  It took a little time for Susan to write all the intentions in the book, 2 pages almost full and then we departed.

We hurried over to the convent which wasn’t open the last time we were here.  The girl at the door wasn’t going to let us in and she could not understand English.  As we were about to leave a beautiful nun came out to see what was going on and I gave her my best puppy dog eyes and asked if we could go in.  She didn’t speak English either so I guess the eyes worked and we were let in and guided to the first garden.  There was the grape vine that used to be a stick?(you now have to read the story below).  While in the garden we met a couple from Wyoming who had taken a cab from Assisi to visit St. Rita.  We then became tour guides for them and explained all we knew about the Saint. 


When we tried to get to the other side of the convent where the bees hibernate, the door was closed and we decided to leave.  We took the couple with us and brought them to the Eucharistic miracle and the tomb of Blessed Maria Fasce, where her incorrupt body lies.  As we walked we told them of our last trip and the white bee that we were blessed to encounter.  They looked at us like we were crazy and made a beeline for the door. Oh’ well.

Approaching Roccaparena
Approaching Roccaparena, the birthplace of Saint Rita. Her original home is here as well as the rock she prayed on.

We headed for Roccaporenna where St. Rita was born, married and was miraculously transported to the convent that refused to let her in.  We managed to see almost everything  in the town except to climb the mountain  where St. Rita used to pray and was taken from to the convent.  We did start up but decided against it because of the shape (out of ) we were in.  We did manage to get to the gardens of miracles totally out of breath and sweating profusely in 60 degree weather.  At our last stop, St. Rita’s house, they had a continuous display of photo’s depicting the life of the Saint.  Sue was so excited that they had photos of the Saint and her history until I had to tell her that in the 1400’s they didn’t have cameras and that the picture of her husband getting stabbed had to be staged.  LOL  That’s my honey, very gullible and trusting.

The whole ride this day was through the mountains and just spectacular.  The temp was 65ish and sunny.  We made our way to Trevi and Our Lady of Tears.  The GPS brought us to this church attached to other buildings right on the road close to Assisi.  The doors were locked as well as the others and we knew we were in the wrong place so we reset the GPS and headed up the mountain.  We parked and no one could help us with anything.  We went to 2 wrong cathedrals which were closed and left town.  On the way out Sue decided to enter the map co-ordinates for the shrine and we followed Princess right back to the first place we were at.  How good is that. 

 The doors were still locked and we knocked hard on the door to the right and were let in.  The nun at the desk asked us in Italian (No English) who we wanted to see, of  course we said the Madonna.  She looked at us funny and we then we realized we were in a home for elderly nuns. Back out in front of the Cathedral we deciding what to do while talking to another couple that had arrived (New Yorkers) on bikes.  We were all about to leave when I heard the bolt to the door open and the nun from next door motioned us in.  The Cathedral was in the process of being renovated after so many years and was closed to tourists.  I don’t know why but we were thankful for the chance to see the weeping Madonna. 

The other couple stayed for about 3 minutes and Sue and I were left alone with our Lady.  We prayed our appropriate prayers for the Plenary Indulgence and the Rosary for all of the intentions we had brought.  It was so peaceful and special and before leaving we decided to explore and  Sue found a hatch under the altar that I could fit in and touch the Madonna. We also sat in one of the old pews that I’m sure Blessed John Paul sat in when he was here.

Shopping in Cascia
A bit of shopping before we head back to our B&B

Totally filled with joy from the day’s events we drove to our B&B.  This place was in the corn fields outside of town but was quaint and had 3 rooms.  After checking in it was time to get some food, no Breakfast this morning, so we headed back to town.  It was getting late and we did not want to drive back there in the dark we didn’t care what we ate so we grabbed a couple sandwiches from a gelato shop.

We headed back to the boonies and couldn’t open the door to our room.  After several tries I went to the man building and started knocking on doors and yelling. there was no one around.  Before retiring to the car for the evening I tried once more as I said a Hail Mary, not knowing Sue was doing the same.  The door opened on the first try.  Thanks, Dear Mother! 

We devoured our dinner in minutes and began writing this trip report that we lost.  At 11:30 totally exhausted we said uncle and went to sleep. 

Night night!  And God Bless.


Days 1 & 2 of Tom & Sue’s Excellent Adventure

Sunday Sept 15

Tom & Sue at the airport in Miami before their Italy pilgrimage
Tom & Sue look relaxed before departure…..perhaps a few libations added to their outlook.

Tomorrow we will be in Italy.  Right now we are at the airport trying to relax and comprehend the venture ahead of us, as well as getting some courage.  Especially after the ride we had. “Thanks Sam”, I hope you got home safe.  Bad thunderstorms were all over but hopefully they will dissipate before we leave. 

As we went thru security Sue got pulled over and tested.  Of all things, for explosives, I told her. to stop buying that cheap makeup.  She had trace amounts on her and after a tense moment they let her go.  I’m sure they are going to make sure she is on the plane.
We stuffed 4 small suitcases, 2 computers,(lot’s of writing to do) a rolling bag with our itinerary and Sue’s handbag( which is loaded with the last minute maybe’s), and yes, I did bring the heating pad.
We have a plethora of intentions, thank you, and don’t forget to send any that may arise.  I had a misfire with the info we sent about plenary indulgences and Sue had our church Guru, Father King to clarify it for us.
You may offer the indulgence for one of the following:
1) Yourself
2) Souls in Purgatory
3) Special Intention (which includes someone who has asked you to pray for them or their needs).
My twitter and e-mail guru, Susan, has already created contacts for us at special shrines around Italy. We will tell you about them as we get closer to the shrines.
Sue had gotten in touch with the Catholic Travel Guide last month about one of the shrines we were visiting  they wrote about. After several communications we sent to her a couple of our 2012 trip reports about a couple of shrines she never heard of, Pena de Francia and  Prado Nuevo.  
She (Gloria) asked if they could use some of the material and of course we said yes, use it all. Sue told her about our trip so Gloria is going edit and use our reports daily an put them in their online blog.  Cool, more people in the car. See link below.
Almost time to get on the plane, I hope the dog food is better than last year.  Who cares I need to loose some weight anyway( only 1 pizza a day) and I want to sleep. Enclosed a couple photo’s on this e-mail but in the future you will get them separately.
I couldn’t get this out in Miami, lost track of time and almost missed the plane.  The flight was very smooth, once we dodged all the storms.  The food was actually very good or we were just to hungry  (we had not eaten all day). Can’t say much for the attitude of the flight attendants, they were pretty curt, but after a few smiles and some jokes the service got better.  We didn’t sleep well, it was hot on the plane, maybe because I wore my velour jogging outfit ( they’re my flying pajamas) I won’t make that mistake on the way home.
Monday Sept 16
We landed in Lisbon and I’m not sure it was at the airport.  It looked like and abandoned field., not another plane in sight and we had to walk down portable ramp and take a bus to the terminals, some 15 min away.
Thank God we were the first bus and got to customs before the rest of our plane and the 2 others that arrived after us, since they only had 2 agents to check people in. When we got thru there had to be 400 people in line.
Just relaxing now in the lounge, our flight to Rome boards in an hour and this is coming to you now so we don’t repeat Miami.  At 8 AM your time we should be on the road.
Sit back and enjoy the trip, I’m driving.
May the Almighty and merciful Lord direct us on our journey; may He make it prosper, and maintain us in peace.  May the Archangel Raphael accompany us along the way, and may we return to our home in peace, joy and health.
Our holy Angel Guardians, ask the Lord to bless the journey which we undertake, that it may profit the health of our souls and body and for those whose intentions we have been blest to carry with us; that we may reach its end, and, that returning safe and sound, we may find our family and friends in good health.  Do thou guard, guide and preserve us.  Amen
May God Bless all of you
Susan and Tom

Itinerary for Tom & Sue’s personal pilgrimage to Italy


Beginning next week we are going to bring you highlights of a 29-day pilgrimage to Italy from a couple departing the U.S. on September 15th and arriving in the “Eternal City” the following day.  This is their 6th personal “Spiritual Pilgrimage”.  It is an ambitious itinerary filled with beautiful Shrines and Sacred Sites and we are truly blessed that they were willing to share their special pilgrimage with us.  Join us each day as we travel along with them on their Journey of Love for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  Please keep them in your prayers. 

Tuesday Sept 17th   Cascia (Saint Rita of Cascia)>>>>>>>>Rocca Porena (Sanctuary of St. Rita, Rock of St. Rita)>>>>>>>>>Trevi (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Tears, Church of St. Emiliano).

Wednesday Sept 18    Cortona (Margaret of Cortona)>>>>>Castiglion-Fiorentino (Noceta) Our Lady of the Bath>>>>>>>>Arezzo (Our Lady of Consolation, shrine of Saint Donato)

Thursday Sept 19   Siena (Eucharistic Miracle of Siena, Saint Catherine of Siena)  

Friday Sept 20 Montenaro (Basilica of Our Lady of Grace)>>>>>>>>> Pisa (Leaning tower of Pisa, Square of Miracles)  

Saturday Sept 21  Orta (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Garden)>>>>>> Rapello Genoa (Basilica of Our Lady of Montallegro)

 Sunday Sept 22  Genoa Mount Figogna  (Sanctuary of Our Lady of  the  Guard)  Ceranesi (Chapel of the Apparitions)>>>>>>>San Damiano

 Monday Sept 23  Crema (Della Croce)  (Basilica of Our Lady of the Cross)>>>>>>>>Caravaggio (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Miraculous Fountain)>>>>>>>>Rho (Sanctuary of the Afflicted Mary)  

Tuesday Sept 24  Sacre Monte Di Varese (Mountain Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary)>>>>>>>>Sacro Monte Ossoccio (Sacred Mountain in Ossuccio)                                        

 Wednesday Sept 25  Sant Omobono (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Cornabusa)>>>>>>>Terme (Sanctuary of John XXIII)>>>>>>>Brescia (Shrine of Our Lady of Grace)>>>>>>>Montichiari/Fontanelle (Our Lady of Rosa Mystica)

 Thursday Sept 26 Monte Baldo (Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Crown)>>>>>>>>Monte Berico (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Monte Berico)  

Friday Sept 27  Camposampiero (Convent of the Sanctuary of Saint Anthony)>>>>>>>>>Arcella (Our Lady of Arcella, Santuary of Little Anthony of Bethelehem)>>>>>>>>>>.Padua (Saint Anthony of Padua)

Saturday Sept 28        Reggio Emilia (Basilica of the Virgin of Ghiara)>>>>>>>>>Bologna (Basilica of Our Lady of the Guard)>>>>>>>>>Imola (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Piratello)  

Sunday Sept 29  Osimo (Basilica of St. Joseph of Cupertino)>>>>>>>>>>Loreto (Holy House of Loreto)>>>>>>>>>>> Macerta (Basilica of our Lady of Mercy)

  Monday Sept 30  Manoppello (Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Face)>>>>>>>>>San Severo (Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help)  (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption)  

Tuesday Oct 1  San Giovanni Rotondo  (Padre Pio)>>>>>>>Monte Saint Angelo (St Michael’s Cave)

Wednesday Oct 2  Foggio (Basilica of the Crowned Mother of God)>>>>>>>>>>Valleverde (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Valleverde in Bovino)  

Thursday Oct 3  Avellino (Mountain Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary)  (Sanctuary of Saint Philomena)

Friday Oct 4  Pompei–Naples (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompeii)>>>>>>>>>>>Oliveto Citra (Our Lady of the Castle)  

Saturday Oct 5  Oliveto Citra (Church of Our Lady of Mercy, torchlight procession)  

Sunday Oct 6  Itri Mount Fusco (Sanctuary of the Madonna della Civita)>>>>>>>>>>>Genazzo (Parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel, incorrupt body of Blessed Stefano Bellesini)>>>>>>>>>>> Mentorella (Mountain Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace, Holy Stairs of St. Benedict of Norcia)  

Monday Oct 7  Nettuno (Our Lady of Graces, Saint Maria Goretti, Shrine of Saint Neptune)>>>>>>>>>Rome outskirts (Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Tre Fontane, St. Lawrence Outside the Walls)  

Tuesday Oct 8  Rome (Catacombs of St. Callixtus, Basilicas of St. Mary Major & St. John Lateran, Holy Stairs, North American College.  

Wednesday Oct  9  Rome Weekly papal audience…lunch with Pope Francis…(not really but we can hope), St. Peter’s Basilica, Tomb of Pope John Paul II.  

Thursday Oct 10  Open day

 Friday Oct 11        Viterbo (Basilica of Our Lady of the Oak, Ad Rupes Basilica, Chiasa Santa Maria Della)                                                                            

Saturday Oct 12 Orvieto (Church of St. Andrea, Caves of Orvieto, Cathedral of Orvieto)>>>>>>>>>> Bolsena (Eucharistic Miracle of Bolsena)

Sunday Oct 13  Vatican City (Pope Francis to consecrate the world to Our Blessed Mother (statue of Our Lady of Fatima returns to Fatima)  (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love)

Sunday Oct 13  Arrivederci Roma!