|A cold night but a sunny start to the day & the showers were nice & hot at this camp. We headed up into the mountains to visit a couple of interesting sounding religious sites. The first was at San Giovanni Rotondo where “PADRE PIO THE SAINT OF THE GARGANO" is remembered.
Padre Pio, was a humble and pious Capuchin priest ‘blessed’ with the stigmata and a legendary ability to heal the sick. Pio (1887–1968) was canonised in 2002. The ailing Capuchin priest arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo, then a tiny isolated medieval village, in 1916. As Pio’s fame grew, the town too underwent a miraculous transformation. These days, it’s a mass of functional hotels and restaurants catering to eight million pilgrims a year. It’s all overlooked by the palatial Home for the Relief of Suffering, one of Italy’s premier hospitals,established by Pio in 1947.
Padre Pio’s body now lies in the spectacular new church that resembles a huge futuristic seashell, with an interior of bony vaulting. We were gobsmacked by the structure. We wound our way down a sloping spiral corridor lined with magnificent mosaic pictures on either side depicting the life of Padre Pio. At the end of the corridor we came to the most amazingly decorated church where mass was being celebrated. In the centre of the altar was a glass sarcophagus containing the body of Padre Pio. Not sure whether it was the actual body or a statue as we couldn't get near while the service was in progress.
I couldn't help wondering whether the humble monk would have approved of such an extravagant building complex. It must have cost millions but it was impressive.
As we drove out of the city it started to snow & we noticed that the temperature gradually dropped from forty degrees down to below freezing as we headed to the other site at Monte Sant’Angelo at 796mtrs above sea level. Apparently it is one of Europe’s most important pilgrimage sites where the object of devotion is the Santuario di San Michele. Here, in AD 490, St Michael the Archangel is said to have appeared in a grotto to the bishop of Siponto. He left behind his scarlet cloak and instructions not to consecrate the site as he had already done so.
We never got to see the Santuario as, by the time we got up to the town, the snow was beginning to lay & we had some fun negotiating the narrow streets, especially when one delivery van was parked right on a corner & we couldn't get passed. Held up traffic for about five minutes awaiting the return of the driver. We were beginning to slide a bit on the snow as well so I decided to get out & down the mountain before we got snowed in.
It was slow going for a while as we gingerly drove round & down the Swiss type zigzagging roads until finally we cleared the snow & we're back nearer sea level. After that it was just a pleasant drive, in sunshine now, around the Gargano peninsular until we ran out of light about 5pm & found a site for the night right beside the sea again at Vico del Gargano. It was a bit grotty & deserted, apart from us, with no toilet facilities but we only wanted somewhere safe for the night.
We did log three caches along the way as well & Gertie, the Garmin, coped OK today so all looks well in the navigation department, so far.
Mileage today - 105
Total Mileage to date - 3,521