The first thing we do when we reach Assisi is to visit the hermitage not far above the town. It is built on the north side of a ravine around a little cave said to be the one sought by the young Francesco before he renounced “the world.” Although many, many people come here every day, the eremo still has the tranquil quality fostered by Franciscan friars everywhere they go. It happens to be in an ilex grove surrounded by a beech forest.
There are several altars in the woods; we pass one of them where a German priest has just finished saying mass for his little band of travelers. The melody of the final hymn they sing floats through the trees, embellished by the trilling of birds.