You Raise me Up(Josh Groban) - An inspirational Visit to Stia and Sanctuary Santa Maria delle Grazie - 22nd May 2016

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May 22nd 2016
Published: May 26th 2016
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It is another late breakfast. But that is the way we like it on the BBA V3.

This morning we had a Skype call with our very good friends R & O back in Tauranga and caught up on the gossip. We often think back to the days when we started our adventurous travel and although this wasn’t the first trip we had undertaken it was probably the most challenging, during the 6 weeks we spent on the sub continent of India the best we could communicate by was FAX. And we still have a couple of those hand written messages sent from hotel FAX machines to home even though the writing has all but faded on the paper used in those days. That was 1997.Now we have the immediacy in real time with visualisation of Skype. How the world has changed in those 19 years.

With the sun quickly moving up into the sky from the horizon it appeared over just after 6am we took another morning of relaxation with a good book(Kindle version of course)in and around the gazebo.

The morning drifted by and soon it was time for lunch before we headed off out for the afternoon to explore a little further afield than Poppi.

To the south of the Casentino valley at the foot of the hills we had travelled over from Florence when we arrived a couple of days ago is the town of Stia and this was our focus for the afternoon of exploration.

First though we drove through the town and up into the hills where the River Arno originates.

Not that we actually got to that site. Rather we were looking for and found the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

We parked down on the road and after watching for honing motor bikers we crossed and walked the half kilometre up to the church.

It had been here in this remote spot in the forest that in 1428 a local peasant reportedly saw the Virgin Mary.

The church was built on the same spot and from its appearance hadn’t changed an awful lot over the centuries.

Inside, on the walls opposite the altar are terracotta religious images from the 15th century beautifully preserved.

On our walk up the forest road to the church a car had passed us and we discovered that it was a local priest who was busy preparing for a procession to be held later that afternoon.

While the church interior was plain in design we would have liked to take a photo of the images but with the priest inside busying himself we thought that it didn’t seem quite appropriate to do so.

Like all the towns in the valley Stia has history that involves the Guidi family. Just near the town they had built another castle in the line that runs the length of the valley and like the one in Poppi it sits atop a hill giving it a great defensive position. Although in this instance the castle is not as complete as the one in Poppi with the outer walls making up the most of what is left.

The small community of Vallucciole near Stia has a day in its history it does not wish to remember.

In April 1944 after Italy had switched to the Allies, Italian partisans had shot 2 German officers just outside the village.

The German retaliation was swift and brutal and all 108 people living in the village were murdered. Their ages ranged from 95 years down to 3 months old.

Stia is well known for the production of cloth and in the triangular shaped piazza there were a couple of shops open, even though it was Sunday, displaying the wares that are still produced locally.

Similar to Poppi there is an old town and a new town. The old town is sort of hidden away and it was only by following the signs that we found it and the unusual shaped piazza.

In the piazza is the Santa Maria Della Assunta which facade dates back to the 19th century although the interior goes back to the 13th century. An earlier church on the site went back to the times of Guidi in 1150 and there is recorded history of the site being used for sacred purposes over 100 years before that.

The whole of the old town is the sort of place that you see in pictures in a book or a TV programme on Tuscany but to experience the feeling of such a place just took our visit to another level. In its own way it was more charming that the old town of Poppi which we explored yesterday.

Being a warm afternoon we were hoping to find a Gelateria open and for a while we thought we might miss out as the couple of the likely places were just bars/cafes and did not have gelato for sale.

Then as we came to the end of our walk around the newer part of the town we found a bar that also had a wide range of gelato.

Bingo! And what a find it was. Gelatos at €1.60 each and two scoops in each cone. The best deal we have discovered on the BBA V3.Gretchen had a scoop of chocolate (of course) and one of yogurt while I went for a double scoop of my favourite flavour stracciatella, a blend of vanilla gelato with crunchy chocolate pieces through the gelato.

We sat in the park and did a bit of people watching, not that there were many people around being a Sunday afternoon, and ate our gelatos and reflected on another of those days where the out of the way places provides the most amazing of discoveries such as we found at Sanctuary Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

We were home by late afternoon and with the sun still shining, no wind to speak of and the temperature pleasantly warm we enjoyed pre dinner drinks and nibbles in two new very comfortable chairs Frederico had left out for us while we had been out.

Who knows we may yet not leave this idyllic spot.

PS: enjoy the inspirational words of the Josh Groban song on Youtube,we do

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