The same grumpy bus driver, doing everything he could to redeem himself, took us by a new and much better route onto the autostrada and off we went towards Tagliacozzo, almost two hours’ drive. We drove up into the Alban Hills, covered with trees and with bare rock coming through dramatically.
Tagliacozzo is a small hill top village in what is now the ski resort area (or will be when it snows) but is also the resting place of the body of Thomas of Celano. Francis’ first biographer. When we arrived we walked up the narrow cobbled streets through the small piazza and on up to the 13th century friary at the top of the hill. There the guardian greeted us, as friendly as he had been in previous years and, truly or not, gave every impression of remembering we three which is always nice. After a quick look round we had the two lectures, on the sources for Francis and the sources for Clare and there was a very lively discussion at the end. We had Mass in the church with the body of Thomas of Celano lying in his niche in the wall. He too seems mostly incorrupt in that the face, hands and feet you see are his actual ones. His feet, turned up at the bottom of the glass case, looked rather flattened, more like flippers and his face was a dark greyish brown colour. We wondered what he thought of his grey conventual habit, it is a conventual church! Andre gave the homily about the power of words and then of The Word, and we prayed for all writers which was nice.
Then we progressed to the Hotel Mariana for the lunch of the year. We had a mere four courses with several side dishes ending with a plate of choice desserts each, a profiterole, fresh with real cream, a small pot of ice cream, and a sort of white tiramisu but when we asked him what it was called he said it was not tiramisu but a speciality unique to his house and, we suspect, his mother, since although pretty ancient, she is clearly the queen of the kitchen! We were all overfull, just what I had come determined to avoid, and took some scarmoza home as a soggy bag. Scarmoza is a delicious dish of cheese which would not be difficult to do, it is not unlike the hot cheese we used to have in Arundel, but the slices are thin, dipped in flour and the fried in olive oil until they have browned a bit.
Finally really full and cheered by the fact that one of them got locked in the loo but was finally rescued, we piled sleepily into the bus. The driver had had the same lunch and was not at all grumpy. He said he made what sounds like a very nice onion chutney that he called marmalade, and tomorrow he is going to give me the recipe. Encouraged by this he then said he had made a special liqueur and if we brought glasses, we could try it. So tomorrow we will climb in the bus armed with 16 bicchierini and see what happens!!!
Tomorrow is a lecture on prayer, walk to St Peter’s for the Sunday audience, back for pranzo and off to Rieti in the coach. So my toothbrush is packed and this is more or less up to date. Andre had two cousins up from the south and here for supper last night, so he invited Murray and myself to sit with them over supper as they speak English, though the older one Marissa, says she reads it but is bad at speaking. So I have invited her for a crash course in Hollington! We shall see!
Love to all ft