Day 1: Tuesday 13 September
We depart by coach for Dublin Airport for our flight to Rome. On arrival in Rome, we will be met by our Joe Walsh Tours pilgrimage coordinator and we will be transferred to our hotel where we will stay for two nights on bed and breakfast basis. We meet again at 1pm for a visit to St Peter’s followed by Mass. We will then have dinner at a local restaurant before returning to our hotel. Overnight in Rome.
Day 2: Wednesday 14 September
Today we visit St Peter’s Square for the general audience with Pope Francis (subject to the Pope being in Rome). In the afternoon we will visit the Basilica of St Mary Majors and the Basilica of St John Lateran, considered the ‘Mother Church’ of Roman Catholicism, the Cathedral of Rome and therefore the Church of Rome’s Bishop, Pope Francis. We will enjoy our evening meal as a group in a local restaurant and return to our hotel.
Day 3: Thursday 15 September
We depart Rome today for a full day visit and guided tour of the Montecassino Abbey. Located overlooking the city stands the abbey which symbolises the endurance and resilience of the Christian faith. This abbey is of special importance because it has been destroyed and rebuilt on four separate occasions, the most recent was in 1944 near the end of WWII. We continue to Benevento, the town where Padre Pio was ordained. We will stay the night in the Grand Hotel Italiano. Dinner will be served at the hotel. Overnight in Benevento.
Day 4: Friday 16 September
After breakfast we depart Benevento to visit Piana Romana and Pietrelcina, the birthplace of Saint Pio. We visit St. Pio’s family home and the church of St. Anna where Padre Pio was baptised and received his First Holy Communion before we continue to San Giovanni Rotondo. We check into the Centro di Spiritualita Padre Pio on arrival and proceed to visit the Capuchin Friary, the cell where Saint Pio lived and died, the crucifix before which he received the stigmata and the old and new churches. Dinner and overnight at the Centro di Spiritualita Padre Pio.
Day 5: Saturday, 17 September
This morning there will be time for personal reflection and we will attend Holy Mass. We will spend the full day in San Giovanni Rotondo following a religious programme and visits around the shrine including Padre Pio’s tomb and the English Office, which was established to help English speaking pilgrims visiting San Giovanni Rotondo.
Day 6: Sunday, 18 September
Breakfast will be served at the hotel. After lunch we travel to Monte Sant’Angelo to the shrine in the cave where the Archangel Michael appeared in the fifth century. Many Saints and Popes have visited this cave to pray to the Archangel, among them St. John Paul, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Pio of Pietrelcina. We will have some free time to stroll around its cobblestone streets and browse among the colourful shops and stalls selling handcrafts and local produce. We will also visit St. Matthew’s Monastery in the nearby town of San Marco in Lamis. Return to hotel for evening meal and overnight.
Day 7: Monday, 19 September
After breakfast we depart to Assisi. Comfort stops will be made in route. On arrival in Assisi we continue directly to visit Upper Assisi. We have a walking tour of the main sights of the medieval town of Assisi. We visit the impressive thirteenth century Basilica of St. Francis, the mother church of the Franciscan order. Construction of the Basilica started a mere two years after the death of St. Francis. This was uncommon at the time but the enthusiasm of the people to create a permanent home for the body of the beloved Francis pushed them to complete the masterpiece of the lower church in just two years, an amazing feat for that era. We proceed to check into the Hotel Frate Sole for dinner and overnight.
Day 8: Tuesday 20 September
This morning, after breakfast, we visit the nearby Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels which houses the Porziuncola, the abandoned chapel that St. Francis restored. This was the chapel of St. Francis’s first community and is the cradle of the Franciscan order. After mass we depart to Rome for our return flight to Dublin. On arrival in Dublin our coach will meet us at the airport and we return to Cork.