Isola Maggiore and Assisi!

This morning everyone is taking advantage of our free time today,  checking emails, doing laundry, reading, and relaxing.  Later there is a surprise trip to a winery and then to a cashmere store.  I can write that because by the time I post this blog, the group will be at the winery.  It is overcast today and it might rain. Not sure why, but I am having a really hard time downloading my latest slide show.  I am about to give up.  Will write these words and then try to send again.

We had a fabulous day on Isola Maggiore, a beautiful historical island in the middle of Lake Trasimeno.  This is the lake we look at when we do yoga on the lawn of the villa! The island is known for its lace. At one point, the population of the island reached 300.  The women of the island used to sit in front of their houses and make lace.  Today, only 20 people live on the island.  It is quiet and since this is off-season, there were very few tourists on the island.  Our guide, Monica, was very animated and spoke beautiful English, of course with a very charming Italian accent.  She took us to see a 15th century church on the island where there are beautifully preserved frescoes depicting the life of St. Francesco.  Then we walked over to see a stone area where St. Francesco spent 40 days and nights one Lent season to fast an pray.  Because St. Francesco fasted and meditated here, the island has become an important pilgrimage site.

Monica told us an interesting story about the Italian Jews who were hidden and protected from the Germans on this island, Isola Maggiore, during WWII.   There is one islander who recently wrote a book based on historical incidents that happened during WWII when he was just a child and this is his story told by Monica.  At one point, there were 25 Jews being hidden on the island.  The Germans discovered that someone on the island had a radio and descended upon the island in search of the owner of the radio.  Radios were forbidden and illegal to have and anyone possessing a radio risked being killed by the Germans.   All the houses were searched and the radio was discovered.  (Monica was showing us the house where this took place as she told the story.)  The man with the radio was dragged out into his courtyard and shot on the spot.   Then the German soldiers started leaving.  However, one of the islanders took  aim at one of the German soldiers, grazing his arm with a bullet.  There was a grave punishment for this action:  for every German soldier killed or injured, 7 Italians had to pay with their lives.   So the Germans came back and indiscriminately rounded up 7 men, women, and children.  The 7 islanders were lined up against a wall and were about to be executed when, suddenly, the German soldier with the grazed arm spoke up and said, “Leave it.  Just let them go.”  He had a change of heart and so the 7 islanders lives’ were spared!!   After this incident, the islanders were terrified to continue hiding their Jewish friends.  The island is so small and it was a matter of time before the hidden Jews would be discovered, so they provided them safe passage to the mainland to a better hiding area.   They did this in the darkest of nights by hiding them in fishing boats and quietly paddled across the lake, away from the German occupied lands, to the other shore where the British occupied land.

Of course, Monica was such an amazing story teller that she had us all riveted by her words.  There we were seeing it as if it were happening before our very eyes. The author was a little boy but he remembered seeing all of this.  We were left wondering if any of the children about to executed survive today. We were left wondering what happened to the 25 Jews who were able to make their escape with the help of the islanders and the fishermen.

Next stop was Assisi.  Assisi was so beautiful.  We saw fresco after fresco in a few churches.  I still admire St. Francesco for being the patron saint of animals and of the environment, but it seemed that little importance was put on him as a steward of the earth, of the environment, and of the delicate animals of the earth!  However, I was a little disturbed that he never made peace with his father in his lifetime and that he flagellated himself (some frescoes clearly depict this), or that he felt he had to throw himself on thorny  brambles to clear himself of sin!  Heavy stuff, San Fran!

Looks like we will have a slide show after all…this at the cost of my not going to the winery.  I figured if I went with the group, once again I would not be able to blog.  To post anything takes a long time!  Here we go….

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4 Responses to “Isola Maggiore and Assisi!”

  1. Helen Anne Says:

    Thank you for keeping up your blog instead of going to the winery. Now that’s a discipline writer! Hopefully you enjoyed a glass while you wrote. I studied the Holocaust in college and was a teacher’s assistant during the course. I learned about many of these types of stories where Jews were hidden with the danger of anyone who harbored them could be killed too. What empathetic people there were during that time to take such risk. One of my jobs as a TA was to organize the speakers to come to our school. Each and every one I met left such an impression on me, I will never forget them nor their stories.


  2. Rick Says:

    Yoga looks great! And fun!



  3. Leslie Leonetti Says:

    Assisi – Fratello sole, Sorella luna — again, an amazing chronicle of an amazing trip. Can’t wait to talk to Laurie when she gets back. thank you again Fran for this peephole!


  4. Larry I Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous adventure with all of us. Looks like a wonderful time!


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