LEVANTO – THE ITALIAN RIVIERA

There is one word to describe Levanto: Gorgeous!!

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P1030419Levanto is a fishing village, here Our Lady stands vigil over the ocean to watch for the men to return. People have left flowers and rosaries with her to represent their prayers for the safe return of their loved ones.

 

San Rocco

The Church of San Rocco; this small church in Levanto stands in stark contrast to the towering, lovely churches I’ve visited in the past. This is the chapel from an ancient monastery, the Monastery of the Order of St Claire; most of the building is now used as a City Hall. Even though it looks forlorn and abandoned, it offers services every morning and loyal members come each day to celebrate Mass and greet one another. Inside, the paint is peeling, the plaster is cracking, but the sense of reverence and faith is as strong as ever.

P1030416Saint Rocco, he was born to nobility, but as an adult, he gave all his wealth to the needy and spent much of his life ministering to those with plague. He eventually contracted the disease and was banished to a cave outside of town. He befriended a dog who brought him bread every day; eventually, the dog’s owner, who was a wealthy property holder, followed the dog, found St. Rocco and brought him to his home where St. Rocco recovered from the illness. (1348-1376) St. Rocco spent the rest of his life ministering to the sick and poor.

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In RCIA one day, someone asked why Catholics have so many crucifixes, don’t we know Jesus has risen and isn’t on the cross anymore? I’ve thought a lot about that question, and I can only answer for myself. I have always been very aware and pained by my failures; I know I have made some huge mistakes and I’ve hurt Jesus by my failure and by my crass rejection of Him. In my Protestant background, we were assured that once we pray the “sinner’s prayer” we are forgiven of all past and future sins. If I lie to someone to cover up an indiscretion, I can just glance up to heaven and say, “excuse me” and it’s all done, clean, forgotten. But, I still feel the sense of failure, I still know that I’ve failed; I still want to do better. I learned that the Catholic Church, from the very first Century, has always taught that sin is serious; it is something we need to acknowledge and struggle to overcome; it can’t just be brushed aside. Jesus died for our little goofs and for our big betrayals – they are a big deal, Christ paid the ultimate price by suffering unspeakable torture and then giving up His life because of our shortcomings. It’s easy to get busy in life and to excuse ourselves for the mistakes we make, but if we don’t recognize how ugly our sins are, we will not grow in holiness or grow closer to Jesus as quickly. I believe that is one reason the Church puts a crucifix in the front of most churches, it’s so that when we enter, we are immediately reminded of what Jesus did for us. The crucifix isn’t there to make us feel guilty or to cause us shame; it’s there to remind us of our personal need for holiness, to ask forgiveness and to encourage us to strive harder next time. The crucifix is the best image of Jesus’ perfect love for us; it’s a love letter, it’s a tool to help us overcome temptation and it calls us into worship acknowledging Who we are worshipping. It does not indicate Jesus is still on the cross, it reminds us that he’s alive and sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us because He loves us THAT much.

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Another picture of Saint Rocco, even though the church is badly in need of repairs, the dignity and grace is retained beautifully. It is a sweet place to worship.

P1030482Right across the narrow lane from the church is this beautiful flower shop

 

P1030491I asked the shop keeper what these flowers are, but I don’t remember what she said, something like caliender. They are beautiful, but they look like little bottle brushes.

 Like most places in Italy, Levanto has its share of ancient ruins.

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P1030493A free museum of tools and devices, the ancient building houses a modern school; the bicycle probably belongs to a student.

P1030484The Chiesa San Andrea (The Church of Saint Andrea) from 1226 (Talk about OLD!)

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Levanto is probably the most beautiful place I visited on my trip. From the azure blue ocean to the towering hills and ancient architecture it is very much worth a visit. It is almost tourist free, uncrowded, leisurely and restful. The residents are friendly and helpful, there are delicious restaurants and quiet strolls.

 Levanto is just to the north of the Cinque Terra that is so very popular with tourists right now, it’s beautiful, but I’m afraid it has been destroyed by too much publicity. I took a boat from Levanto to Cinque Terra, that’s my next blog post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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