Built in local pink limestone like Assisi, medieval hilltown gem Spello wins over any visitor with its flowering backstreets, Roman remnants,medieval churches, stunning Renaissance frescoes and one of Italy’s top wine cellars . But don’t leave Spello until you’ve found Brother Paul. A visit with him to a hidden cloister and a frescoed monastery refectory is memorable – but because you are with Franciscan friar, Fra’ Paolo, who seems to me to be almost a “re-incarnation” of San Francesco himself. Fra’ Paolo has lived on his own for nearly twenty years, sole custodian of the Franciscan church of Spello – and adjacent monastery. He eats simply, growing most of the foods he eats in a garden behind the monastery – where he also grows the plants bearing seeds he uses for rosaries. His days are spent in cleaning the church and the monastery, in meditation and spiritual reading, in the garden, in making his rosaries.
I’ve taken many a guest to meet brother Paul and no matter what one’s religious affiliation (or not), each has been moved. By the story of his life (a saga), by his art: astonishing “vertical” flower petal structures (his version of the Infiorate spread out on the streets during Spello’s flower tapestries festival) and his sculptures in iron. When visitors admire his artworks, he responds with a gentle smile, a shrug: “Io solo gioco con la creazione del Signore.”
(“I only play with the Lord’s creation.”)
A visit with Brother Paul leaves a lasting memory:
“We felt a deep sense of peace and love in his presence and the visit with him was one of the highlights of our trip.” Jim H, Cambridge, MN
“Such a serene experience, visiting such a humble person. All the sayings on his flower pictures were wise and inspiring. I am in awe that a person chooses to live as he did.”
Penni H., Cambridge, MN
Read more about Spello
Read about – and see – the flowering Spello backstreets
Read about – and see – Spello’s unbelievable floral tapestries festival
Read about eating flowers in Spello!
Read about Spello’s olive oil festival