Friars have lived at Cortona ever since Saint Francis established a hermitage here in 1211. In the beginning, Francis slept in a little cave in the wall of a gorge. Over the centuries, his cave has been joined by so many cells, chapels, and gardens that the hermitage is now a stone honeycomb perched above the roaring stream that rushes through the gorge.
Tom and I pause on the zigzag path down to the bridge across to the monastery. An old man hoeing a garden below us looks up suddenly and meets my eyes. Tugging off his gloves, he holds up his hands. “You must always remember to be grateful!” he cries, his eyes shining. In Italian so simple that even I can understand it, he tells me that he once lived in Tanzania but had to leave because of illness, and about his coming home to Italy but falling ill yet again. He tells me that despite his struggles, he has always known he is not alone. A bell rings and he rushes off to prayer.
Later we go into the little chapel by the cave of Saint Francis. Brother Tanzania is there. He comes to sit beside me and takes my hands. He reminds me again to live my life in gratitude and praise.