For months before we began this visit to Italy, we studied the geology, plants, and animals and did our best to learn the language. We did this research for The Natural World of Saint Francis so that we would know where to go and what to photograph.
But before we even left Rome, we recognized elements of the Italian landscape that we had never noticed on previous visits to Italy. For the first time we could call the cheerful green lollipop trees clustered on hilltops by their rightful name, “umbrella pines.”
In the past, the pretty scenery here has made a great impression on us. But before, we couldn’t really distinguish individuals or understand how everything fits together. Now we can appreciate that many of the lively little songbirds here have just returned from Africa to court and mate and nest, and that the luminous early green of the meadows is due to the Mediterranean pattern of winter rain. We are no longer simply admiring a scene out of a medieval painting. We are experiencing the natural world that Francis knew.