Dear Fellow Seekers of Art and Faith,
As those of you who joined us in Normandy in 2022 well know, Dave and I spent much time planning and plotting our European destination for 2023. England or Scotland? Greece or southern Spain? Return to Ireland? I am happy to tell you we finally landed on ROME AND ASSISI! I am thinking of it as a kind of 9th anniversary celebration of our very first Art and Faith Tour in 2014 which some of you may recall brought us to Rome and Tuscany, with visits to Florence, Siena, and San Gimignano. It doesn’t seem that long ago!
I could never tire of walking (or sketching!) (or eating!) in Rome. Whether it be the monuments of the ancient Romans, the great artists and architects of the Renaissance; or the glorious churches and basilicas of Catholic history, there is something to marvel at around every corner. And the food and wine ain’t so bad either!
After savoring the sights of Rome, we will proceed to the hilltop town of Assisi, one of the great spiritual nerve centers of the world and of Italy- and the hometown of St. Francis, the most universally beloved saint. Because Assisi has never lost its
medieval, deeply spiritual character, it offers a quiet relief from the hustle and bustle of Rome. Assisi is a place to relax,
pray, and just be as still as you care to be.
As always, each morning will begin with a reflective slide presentation of my art and stories related to the theme of the day. We will also offer assistance to those who might not feel up to walking everywhere. If you have any questions or concerns, be sure to ask Dave.
In these times of spiritual unrest, ecological crisis, and hate-filled violence, may Assisi and Rome help us each find the peaceful, loving, and creative presence of God in our midst.
Ciao!, Brother Mickey
Villas and Vines
Bro. Mickey McGrath’s
Art of the Spirit:
Rome & Assisi
A Spiritual and Artistic Journey in Italy
September 17th – 25th, 2023
Join world-renowned artist and spiritual leader, Br. Mickey McGrath OSFS, as he leads us for 8 days through the Eternal City of Rome and the humble beauty of Assisi. This tour has been specially-crafted, bringing us to these spiritually and artistically-rich locations in Italy. With Bro. Mickey as our mentor, we explore these inspirational places, connecting with Saints and Sinners along the way, and drawing them into our experience.
During this trip, there will be plenty of free time for drawing, painting, and photography, with Br. Mickey as our mentor. In addition to the many splendors of Rome, we visit the cities of Assisi and Orvieto. Our time is divided between hotels in the authentic Trastevere section of Rome and Assisi, the medieval hilltop village which is home to our beloved Saints Francis and Clare; with the final night in Orvieto, one of Mickey’s favorite villages in Italy (with a stunning cathedral, of course). This is a perfect opportunity to develop your artistic talents, with the help of a true contemporary master!
In addition to Art, with Bro. Mickey we encounter abundant Faith. On this trip, we discover not only numerous artistic treasures in Rome, but also the immense and transforming Faith of Francis and Clare in Assisi, walking on the very same stones and paths as these two humble Pillars of our Faith.
Each morning we gather to anticipate the day’s new discoveries through Br. Mickey’s artistic expressions. Mickey enhances simple, yet profound, messages so beautifully through his artwork. This is the core meaning of Br. Mickey’s Journeys of Art and Faith. On this trip, Mickey shares personal insights into his own spiritual path. During this trip, there will also be plenty of free time for drawing, painting, photography, and contemplation, with Br. Mickey as our mentor.
Every aspect of our journey is exceptional, experiencing this striking landscape in a truly remarkable way. Our explorations include spirituality, art, and the bucolic Italian countryside. Savor carefully selected dining experiences, along with plenty of free time to explore on your own. Stunning scenery will inspire, spiritual moments will abound, and artistic and natural beauty will preside!
Rome September 17th – 21st
The Roman landscape, bathed in golden light, with its cypress and pine trees outlined against the beautiful blue sky, is enchanting. No other city in the world has managed to combine so successfully such a diverse heritage of Classical antiquities, medieval buildings, Renaissance palaces and Baroque churches.
Our time in Rome will be very different than that of most visitors. We will be surrounded by the splendor, focusing on the art and landscape through the vision of our leader, Br. Mickey. We will see many of the highlights of Rome, and several off-the-beaten-track places; but also there is ample free time to explore on your own, seeking out the perfect vantage point to sketch, paint, or photograph. Consult with Brother Mickey and others in the group, practice your artistic skills, and develop new talents.
Our home for four nights in Rome is the Donna Camilla Savelli Hotel, housed in a former Baroque Monastery at the foot of the Janiculum Hill in an intimate and quiet corner of Trastevere in Rome. The Donna Camilla Savelli is a hidden gem. An attentive restoration has preserved the Baroque architecture, creating an indisputably charming atmosphere with artistic nuances. The harmony of the traditional Italian courtyard and the beauty of the Eternal City blend with the lavish architecture of the monastery, offering incomparable views to be enjoyed from the suggestive Roman Terrace. The lively Trastevere neighborhood of Rome has been loved throughout the centuries by artists and poets alike; its ancient streets inter-twine, leading travelers to timeless beauty and authentic flavors. www.vretreats.com/en/donna-camilla-savelli/
Time spent in Rome includes these amazing highlights:
- Four nights’ accommodation at the Donna Camilla Sevelli Hotel (www.vretreats.com/en/donna-camilla-savelli/), set in the heart of Trastevere, one of Rome’s most beautiful and characteristic areas. This charming hotel is a former monastery with many beautiful artistic nuances; a peaceful retreat located in the lively city center.
- Our home neighborhood is across the river from the historical center of Rome, hence the name tras tevere – across the Tiber. Trastevere is made for idle wandering. Besides its bewitching prettiness, it has a powerful local character, and is said to be the heartland of the real Romans.
- Participate in the weekly Papal Audience, held most Wednesday mornings. We’ve blocked the time in our schedule, provided Pope Francis shows up! (His September schedule isn’t published yet).
- Visit the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel.
- Visit Santa Maria in Trastevere, dating from 337 AD and said to be the oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome.
- Discover the Coliseum and Roman Forum with a private guide.
- Explore the Piazza Navona and Pantheon, both are timeless treasures in Rome.
- Visit the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the final resting place of both Fra Angelico (1395 – 1455), the Patron Saint of Artists, and the great St. Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380).
- Visit the church of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome and the mother church of the world. When emperor Constantine the Great established himself as the head of the Church in 313 AD, this was the first Christian basilica to be erected in Rome. The church was consecrated circa 318.
- Visit the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (St Mary Major), built during the reign of Pope Sixtus III (r. 432-40), immediately after the Council of Ephesus (431) declared the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God.
- Explore Rome’s Jewish Ghetto, hidden in the heart of the city. As the oldest Jewish community in all of Europe, this beautiful, thriving neighborhood is as central to the history of the city as it is to the Jewish faith.
- Two late afternoons and evenings free to discover Rome as you wish, allowing ample time to sketch, photograph, and enjoy the wonders of Rome.
Assisi September 21st – 24th
Assisi is the city of saints – Saint Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226 AD) and Saint Clare of Assisi (1194 – 1253 AD). It is a sanctuary with a priceless spiritual heritage, whose simple and peaceful expression is palpable with every step through its beautiful streets. Perched on the slopes of Mount Subasio, Assisi is the jewel of Umbria, the “Green Heart of Italy”, and rejoices in a friendly welcoming atmosphere.
Assisi, with its historic center and iconic monuments, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and since the Middle Ages has been closely associated with the Franciscan Movement, which promotes an important message of peace and tolerance throughout the world.
St. Francis is the Patron Saint of Italy, a symbol of the renewal of the church, protection of ecology and environmental movements, and therefore is also much loved by the younger generations, who identify with his desire to change the world. St. Francis is adored by everyone for his sensitivity towards creation and for his ability to communicate in a simple, but effective way.
The centerpiece of our discovery of Assisi is the Basilica of San Francesco, one of Italy’s foremost monuments and considered a masterpiece. Built between 1228 and 1253 AD, this relatively-short period of construction, rare for a church of this size, is often explained as a measure of the great love that the people of the time had for St. Francis. Composed of two churches, the Lower Church and the Upper Church; its crypt houses the Saint’s tomb. The Basilica is an extraordinary example of a religious building that influenced the development of art and architecture in the city.
Our home for three days in Assisi is the Fontebella Palace Hotel, located in a stately 17th-century palazzo in the heart of the historic center of Assisi. Both the Basilica of Saint Francis and the main Piazza del Comune are an easy five-minute walk away, and the town’s restaurants, shops, and sights are all within a few minutes by foot. Enjoy peace and quiet, breathtaking scenic views of the stunning Umbrian valley, glorious church bells singing, and the amazing red hues of the terra cotta roofs of Assisi. The main common area features an elegant hall, with its original fireplace, frescoed ceilings, pink Assisi marble floor, and pretty views over the valley. Breakfast is enjoyed in the Sala degli Archi, embellished by magnificent stone arches that have been masterfully preserved throughout the centuries. www.fontebella.com
Our three days in Assisi include these remarkable highlights:
- Three nights stay at the Fontebella Palace Hotel, located in a stately 17th-century palazzo in the heart of the historic center of Assisi. www.fontebella.com
- Pilgrimage and private tour of the Basilica of St. Francis. Composed of two churches, the Lower Church and the Upper Church, its crypt houses the Saint’s tomb.
- Pilgrimage and private tour of the Basilica of St. Clare. Built immediately after her death, in full Umbrian Gothic style, it houses relics of both St. Clare and St. Francis.
- Pilgrimage and private tour of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola (located inside the basilica), built to protect some of the important places in the life of Saint Francis. Inside is the small church where he composed the Canticle of Creatures, and where he died.
- Visit and Pray at the Hermitage of Carceri, the same grotto where St. Francis would retreat in order to pray. This place is permeated with spirituality, as here is the very location where Francis talked with God, while also keeping in close communion with Nature.
- Visit and Pray at San Damiano, just outside Assisi. Built in the 12th century, it was the first monastery of the Order of Saint Clare, where Saint Clare built her community.
- Explore Francis’ beloved Mount Subasio, where he loved to take refuge in meditation and contemplation of Nature; we drive to a lookout point with a spectacular view over Assisi and the valley below.
Orvieto September 24th – 25th
Our final night will be a discovery of the remarkably-situated village of Orvieto, one of Br. Mickey’s favorite places, and on the way between Assisi and Rome. The facade of the Duomo in Orvieto is considered among the most beautiful in all of Italy. We have ample time to visit both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, to stroll through the scenic village, and to enjoy our final dinner together.
Overnight is at a hotel in or just outside Orvieto. Not only is Orvieto one of Br. Mickey’s favorite villages, it is also on the way back to Rome, making for an easy transfer back to the Rome airport in anticipation of our departure.
Throughout our entire journey:
- Each morning Br. Mickey will begin with a presentation of his own images and works of Art and Faith, setting the tone for each day’s discoveries.
- All our experiences are at a slow pace, generously allowing full immersion into the meaning and depth of each location.
- All private English-speaking guides.
- All private transfers.
- All activities included.
- Plenty of free time, giving you the opportunity to explore as you wish.
- Dining together is a special part of our experience; at least two meals each day, with wines, are included at carefully selected atmospheric restaurants and hidden gems.
- Intelligent Trip Design, always with a sense of journey, genuinely connecting you to the region.
Please note this trip begins and ends in ROME, Italy.
Air is NOT included to/from Rome.