Note from a Papagirl

October 9, 2013 / Local Interest
Assisi, Umbria

Daniela and Paola sipped cappuccini dreamily in “Papal euphoria” the day after Pope Francis’ visit to Assisi on October 4th. Sitting at a table near mine in an Assisi cafe, we soon formed a common ‘Papagirl’ bond. This Papa Francesco’s magnetism overpowers – and there’s not much you can do about it.

Two -Papagirls-

From the time the helicopter set down at 7:27 near the institute for the disabled, indefatigable Papa Francesco captured the assisani – and not only. Security was at maximum level yet this Pope was out front for everyone, blessing babies, caressing severely-disabled in wheelchairs, hugging the elderly, and throwing out a grin and joke now and then, “What, you want to photograph this face?”

After morning stops at Assisi’s Franciscan sites, and Mass in front of the Basilica di San Francesco, the Pope lunched at the shelter for the poor and homeless. Next stop, up to Mt. Subasio to the Hermitage, the 15th- c monastery built over the caves where Francesco withdrew in prayer.

On his way down the mountain, the Pope accepted a bouquet of flowers from a young man in a wheelchair – and then on to the Cathedral of San Rufino down a narrow alleyway, his vehicle at a crawl. Hands grasped out to touch him and Clara connected. “Guarda!”, she triumphantly shouted, showing me her hand. “And all my friends want to touch this hand now, too.”

Clara joy

The stunning floral tapestries of the infioratori of Cannara and Spello stretched across the piazza to the Cathedral. The Spello group’s floral image reproduced the Giotto fresco of  San Francesco holding up the crumbling Church:  a clear message? Cannara’s floral image depicted African immigrants, one face with a tear dropping from the eye; after all, Pope Francis’ first Papal visit had been to the island of Lampedusa where thousands of refugees have arrived. Not all survive the trip… on October 3rd, the day before the Pope’s Assisi visit, hundreds had drowned just off Lampedusa.

Someone else had died on that day centuries ago: San Francesco di Assisi.

-Many thanks to Janet Eidem for letting Anne use (and letting all of us enjoy!) some of the great photos used in the note. Much appreciated, janet! – Apologies for not including the credit from the get go.

Banner with coffee invite

A tear in the eye of the suffering
Francesco in fiori
Floral embrace
Yellow and white decorations for the Pope
Assisi pigeons await the Pope in flag-draped piazza
Assisi artist, Paolo, prepare for the Pope's arrival
Still waving and smiling at the end of a long day

blessings and smiles for all as he leaves Serafico

Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

39 Responses to “Note from a Papagirl”

  1. Anstell Ricossa

    Great fotos ! Appreciate seeing the floral display ! Viva Papa !

  2. Diane Lennon

    Anne, I love this! I was hoping you would do a piece on the pope’s visit. I only wish I was there. I will forward this on to friends I know would be interested in reading your commentary and seeing you wonderful pictures. Grazie, Diane
    PS. How have you been?

  3. Nancy Mazza

    What a great personal and detailed account, Annie. And what a special day for Assisi! I’m glad you were able to be there and report back to us. Viva Papa Francesco.

  4. Sandi Spector

    Great article Annie. Was in Verona (now Venice) & didn’t hear about visit. Thx for wonderful story & photos.

  5. Laraine

    Dear Anne, I received my daily notebook this morning and was thrilled to see the article and wonderful pictures. Thank you for the report back to us and we only missed the Pope by a week! I did make sure Kathleen and Roe and John saw the article. Hope you and yours are well.

  6. Edward Chmelewski

    What a wonderful report on what must have been a great day for Assisi! May the pope successfully spread the message of Francis – Pax et Bonum!

  7. Marianna Raccuglia

    Oh my dear Anne, Your descriptions and photos almost make me feel as though I was there! I love to read what you write about the Umbrian area (And just about anything else. Thank you, Marianna

  8. Marie Stavros

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. Would have loved to have been there!

  9. Tom Vogt

    What a wonderful town. On our first, we were driving to Assisi, and scanning the hills for a glimpse of the town. My daughter Marie declared, “that must be it over there! “Why do you say that?”, I asked. “it looks like a saints tomn dad” How true!

  10. Salvatore Gerardi

    What a man this Pope is – to bad His Character cannot rub off on morons in DC

  11. ValerieRaccuglia

    Is I read your article I imagined each and every area in Assisi you were describing. What an AMAZING experience! The Assisani must have been in awe. GREAT photos too!! Thank you for writing this article as my mom said, reading it makes you feel like you are there witnessing it too. Xo

  12. Suzanne and Jack

    Dear Annie,
    We have missed Italian Notebook. and your reflections on Umbria. It was fantastic to see ‘our Assisi’ looking even more colourful than usual in celebration of the Papal visit. Your writing made me wish we could have been there. I was also struck by the humble gesture of the Pope to visit a centre for disabled children. So often this group are overlooked. What validation he gave them. It raised much emotion for me in relation to my disabled son. Thank you for sharing this with us. We look forward to being in Assisi again in 2015

  13. In Assisi for an extended stay in Anne’s wonderful apartment. Lucky enough to be here for the Papal visit. With Anne’s guidance, it was an extraordinary day with 5 Papal sightings. His visit had a strong impact on everyone who saw him. It proves that one person can make a difference. Anne contributes her love and knowledge of Assisi to all those she comes in contact with daily. Great article that sums up the incredible experience of the day. I am a papa girl now, too.

  14. Stephanie

    What a once in a lifetime experience. Pope Francesco is such a humble man. One can’t help but admire him. I am especially moved by his agape love for those whom society considers “less than”. Thank you for sharing, Annie

  15. The lingering impression that stuck with me after reading this article and seeing these photos is the honor and respect given to ones spiritual father. We live in a world where everyone demands or wants respect but so few know how to show it. We get what we give, what we sow we reap. I for for one am glad to be born both Italian & Catholic…
    Thank you for such a loving tribute.

  16. Pat Carney Ceccarelli
    Pat Carney Ceccarelli

    Anne, your warm and enthusiastic article conveys the specialness of this Pope, his visit, the people and the beautiful Assisi. Many thanks. Good to have Italian Notebook back and your posts!

  17. What a wonderful article! We cannot wait to be there with you in 2014! I sent the notice out about the trip to my “inside” group and am awaiting deposits. Then I’ll expand it out to the general public.

    Are you coming to the States in February? I’d love to see if we could arrange a dinner/cooking class at the Pickering House in Salem, MA under the auspices of Salem Food Tours. Let me know if that’s even possible!! A presto — Linda

  18. Sue Clark

    Thank you Anne!!! I love Assisi! What a blessing for Pope Francis to experience and an honor for all those in attendance! Sharing these photo’s show how genuine and hospitable the people of Assisi are! Thanks for bringing a smile to my day!!!

  19. Good morning, Anne!

    As usual, you continue to capture the essence and vivid expressions of the meaning of life – answering the question to “why are we here”? It is obvious, by your loving words and your photos, we have many blessings each day to be thankful of, to count on, and to provide and share with others. Love after all, is the greatest gift. Your articles and website never cease to inspire me and provide me with motivation and joy. You truly have the gift of prose as it is not only professionally and technically written, but written with a flair that excites the soul and reaches into the Umbrian of us all. I for one, would not know what I would do without being able to read your articles or visit your site, as I have come to count on being able to glimpse my beloved Assisi and dream of my ventures and life there. Thank you, Anne, for taking me on a “virtual tour” of my favorite places in the world – Assisi and the Umbrian way of life!

  20. Patti Normile

    Delightful article about a special place and a special man. Papa Francis is truly a GOOD man. His humble, humorous, holy manner draws people to him. He is a blessing! Thanks for this warm, personal glimpse of Pope Francis in the blessed city of Assisi.

  21. Due to a late cancellation, we were lucky enough to have Anne Robichaud ( as our tour guide in Assisi. Her intimate knowledge of the area and its people was only exceeded by her warmth and enthusiasm. She truly provided us with exceptional insights into the history of the area and made a good visit there exceptional. Thank you, Anne! Dan & Judy Koenig, Los Angeles, California

  22. Anne, I was there after the Papal visit and I have experienced second-hand the wave and enthusiasm of the spectators whether believers oe not! Thank you for capturing that euphoria that has permeated Assisi. And even the Pope can have “groupies”!!

  23. Linda Stokes

    Beautifully done Anne. As always you have captured the essence of his visit and enthused us with your descriptions and recreated the warmth of the scene for us here back in Houston, Texas. We love your new website. Looking forward as always to your next article. Your love of Assisi and Umbria is wonderfully evident and joyfully shared. Thank you.

  24. Anne: We arrived home from Assisi just yesterday and are already feeling the absence of its intense spirituality and heart-opening culture. Your story and photos bring back with delightful intensity the atmosphere during Papa Francesco’s
    visit. We were fortunate enough to hear the church bells of Assisi ring out on Oct 4th, to be present at the papal mass, and to watch the old, young, disabled, and able-bodied yearning to touch and hug him. Thank you for your tour of Assisi, especially your insights into the effect of war on the young St. Francis and his embodied understanding of the Christ of “suffering humanity”. Grazie!

  25. J. Kevin Crocker

    Great account of the Pope’s visit and wonderful photographs. I wish I had been there, but you bring me there with your blog. Missing Assisi streets and the green valley. Thank you Anne – Kevin.

  26. Lynne Scavuzzo

    Great article Anne, you seem to have captured his warmth and humbleness, perhaps he will make a difference, he is certainly making a good start.

  27. I had the good fortune of being in Assisi for the pope’s visit and for sure count me in as a Papagirl! In addition to seeing Pope Francis twice from a close distance, I enjoyed every stop he made and everything he said via one of the four large screens in the town’s piazzas. His kindness to so many and his messages of compassion, peace, and calling us to more love have touched me deeply. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. What a blessing!

    The prior day I was able to join Anne for her fabulous Assisi tour. -very fun, learned a lot! Thank you Ann. It was terrific. I look forward to a return trip and going to Spello with you.

    Until then remember we’re Papagirl sisters! I had the good fortune of being in Assisi for the pope’s visit and for sure count me in as a papagirl! In addition to seeing Pope Francis twice from a close distance, I enjoyed every stop he made and everything he said via one of the four large screens in the town’s piazzas. His kindness to so many and his messages of compassion, peace, and calling us to more love have touched me deeply. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. What a blessing!

    The prior day I was able to join Anne for her fabulous Assisi tour. -very fun, learned a lot! Thank you Ann. It was terrific. I look forward to a return trip and going to Spello with you.

    Until then, remember we’re Papagirl sisters! ❤

  28. Patrick Doherty

    Great story and photos. I had the great fortune of seeing the Pope the previous weekend in Rome as he came all the way down into the crowd into la Via della Conciliazione. He was just feet away so it was quite impressive. Thanks for sharing, Anne!

  29. Karen Kotoske

    Grazie, Anni, for this wonderful “Papagirl” story! Tom and I are California ‘Papagirls’ and having walked so many of these places with you on the many tours we’ve taken with you in St. Francis’ footsteps (AR: the best guide ever) I felt like I was with you the day Papa came to town. I think there are a lot like me (not a Catholic) who feel a wonderfully refreshing “St Francis’ breeze blowing through Mother Church today. May his compassion be rekindled throughout the world. I hope God protect this new Papa from any dangers, and there are many.

  30. Anne,
    I loved this! It was beautifully written and extremely interesting; I could perfectly imagine being there with you. Thanks for keeping Italy alive for me (I am back stateside after 7 years in Rome and Puglia) through notes like this! Grazie!


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