Anyone who’s been to Europe will tell you: “pack light.” It’s advice I agree with on principle, and even as I was packing I was aware that no matter how vehemently I might agree that yes, packing light is the right thing to do, it would never happen.
To be fair, when you’ve been invited to Italy with a painter, it’s expected that you’ll carry your weight in canvas. By the time our flat owner met us at the Assisi train station twenty-three hours, 4 trains (2 US, 2 Italy) one 9-hour flight, a 15-minute run alongside a track to the train going to Perugia (which we made with 2 minutes to spare), and a three-hour train ride later, we were ready to collapse.
As the flat owner and her husband crammed our bags into the tiny car boot, he muttered “molto pesante” (very heavy), and I responded in my messy bras-italliano, “ela è uma pittore.” (Roughly, “She’s a painter.”) They smiled and laughed, and we made our way up the steep hillside to the walled village of Assisi. The car zipped through the narrow cobblestone streets with mere inches on either side of the car, past crumbling Roman walls, olive groves, and medieval cathedrals, higher and higher, until finally, the car stopped in a piazza.
“We stop here,” our host told us.
That was the moment when the error of our ways became back-breakingly clear: this is why you pack light when you travel to Europe. The flat owner pointed up a tiny alley-way, inaccessible by car, and said, “We go here.”
It’s not lost on me that we’re staying a two-minute walk from the very place where legend says that St. Francis threw off all of his clothes and gave up his worldly possessions. I’m feeling similarly inspired – both to travel lighter, and to fully devote myself to this magical place.