Written with Judy Leaver.

In September, I walked through the Umbria region of Italy with 27 other people from All Souls Church, Unitarian, in Washington, DC.  Each evening before dinner, our senior minister Rev. Rob Hardies took us through a reflection on the day. We meditated, shared our stories, and sang together.

Our first day’s walk was particularly memorable. We climbed and climbed up a path of stony switchbacks to reach the Monastery of Saint Frances. Here in this 13th century monastery, St. Francis renounced his wealth and position. In the Sacred Wood nearby, we saw hermit’s grottoes, tiny caves carved into the living rock.

The path down was treacherous – steep and covered with small stones that slid out from under our feet. We used our walking sticks to brake, but even so, one of our members, Hally, took a nasty fall and broke her arm in two places. People sprang into action to help in whatever way they could—miraculously, there were two nurses on hand to assist, one person offered a bandana for a sling, just as another arrived with an ace bandage to help stabilize her wrist.  Another person flagged down two American tourists with a car who drove Hally and another person down the mountain to town. While Hally and Sheila spent the afternoon in the hospital (total charge for all services: €60), the rest of the group navigated their way down an even steeper dry creek bed full of rocks.  It was a full knee and two-walking stick workout for everyone.

Despite Hally’s accident and the difficulty of the descent, it was a glorious first day in hiking gear, on the trail. We’ve been rewarded with sublime late summer weather—sunshine during the day and deliciously cool nights.  We’ve passed by vineyards  sweet and heavy with grapes being harvested. The olive trees glisten silver in the sun, and we even saw a flock of sheep being herded yesterday.

We are enjoying daily infusions of Vitamin G (gelato), prosciutto e melone, pasta with truffles, panzanella salads, and plentiful amounts of the local vino rosso.  We are grateful to be walking and enjoying the fruits of this abundant country.

Here are more photos of the group: