This week I am in the Umbrian region of Italy in a town called Norcia. It’s a mediaeval town set within city walls and is accessible through the old Roman gates or “La Porta Romana” in Italian.
I am here on a one- week intensive course to coach an Italian fashion designer. He asked me if I would be available and willing to teach him English in this beautiful town for a week!! After much thought (one second), I accepted and here I am.
He chose Norcia for the peace and tranquillity it exudes. Norcia (Nursia) is the birthplace of Saint Benedict who established the Benedictine order of monks. At the heart of the town, in the square or piazza, stands the monastery which is on the same site as where Saint Benedict was born.
The monastery was closed for 200 years before a group of American monks came to Norcia and re-opened it in 2000. The church is simple when compared to other Italian churches, but what you notice upon entering it is the silence. Rather than feeling eerie, it’s actually very comforting. I am not a regular church-goer, but I found myself drawn to the silence and spent an hour or so sitting in quiet reflection.
I fell in love with Norcia as soon as I set eyes on the piazza and started wandering around the town on Sunday evening. It’s exactly as I imagined a mediaeval town to be. I explored all the little alleys and shops selling such wonderful produce as lentils, pulses, cured hams, salamis and black truffles. Norcia is famous for its black truffles and for its cured meats. Needless to say, I have already bought some products to take home.
And the food – what can I say….it’s absolutely divine!!! The hotel I’m staying in has an excellent restaurant and my client has introduced me to a number of dishes that are typical of the area – each one better than the other. It’s a good job that there is a swimming pool nearby where I have been doing my laps every evening!
The presence of the monastery and the monks give Norcia a sense of spirituality which is something my client seeks in his daily life. He chose Norcia for his course so that he could concentrate completely on his studies with me. I have to say that the silence is extremely conducive to study. We have been working for 6 hours each day and the time flies by. We have talked about all sorts of things – his work, his philosophy, his spirituality and what motivates him in life – as well as the nitty gritty of English grammar.
Before I leave, I am going to listen to the monks sing the Gregorian chants this evening. They pray and sing every evening at 7.45pm and everyone is welcome. I cannot wait.
It’s been a most spiritual, fulfilling and energising experience for me. I hope to re-visit Norcia in the not too distant future.
Ciao for now
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