Our first full day in Florence hammered home the reality that tourism is big business. A leisurely mid morning breakfast prepared us physically but not mentally to weather the storm surge of tourists (us included) that clogged every artery in the city. Why do we do it? Many countries fully understand how criticali it is to their economic survival to attract their share of the billions of dollars of tourist spending that continuously circles the globe. Florence clearly understands how important visitors are to the future of this remarkable city. All this being said, and having first hand experience fighting the local economic rip tide, I can see a future where virtual tourism might have a place. But, for now we are part of the throng, trying to keep our heads above water. So, although we bemoan the crowds (which we are part of) we did eventually find peace in the the sacristy of the Cathedral as a local priest stamped our credential that officially began our Camino, The Way of St. Francis. We additionally added to our credential by getting a stamp in the bookshop in the Basilica of Santa Croce. We have booked tickets for the Uffizi for tomorrow and after that we will be in the exit mode.
Our plan is to hire a driver and make our way to the Sanctuary of St. Francis at Chiusi della Verna, about a 1.5 hour drive from Florence. We could go by train or bus but then we would not have much time to enjoy the sanctuary. So, while the cost is significantly higher, we feel that time at the sanctuary is more important. Robin and I are are truly ready to hit the road. Our hearts yearn for the peace of the pilgrim road. Rain is in the forecast for most of the coming week. Perhaps this will help wash away the distractions that seem to constantly find their way to our door. I think back to Rome and praying with Pope Francis, and feel curiously called to that simplicity of faith. We spend a lot of time and money trying to shape our lives into something that they were never meant to be. Finding peace in who we are, and witnessing the gifts, which at first might seem small and unremarkable, come to fruition opens us to the grace of God, which I have found is the greatest gift of all.