Questions and Answers -- FAQs

Browse through the topics and some of your questions may find answers.

Being a pilgrim is an experience of inculturation. We ask all pilgrims to wear casual, but tasteful, clothing when we go out as a group. Cool, washable clothing is best in summer months. For early spring or late fall programs, you will need warm clothing, such as a jacket, gloves, scarf, and hat/cap. Rain gear (umbrella and or disposable raincoat or poncho) is also needed. Leisure clothing such as slacks, jeans and t-shirts are acceptable, but shorts and tank tops are not allowed in the churches and sanctuaries.

Please do not come with any personal agenda that would prevent you from following the daily schedule. Full participation in the program, from beginning to end, is a non-negotiable expectation/commitment.

Additional correspeondence from the Pilgrimage Office includes: the Final Correspondence packet, which includes last minute information, a rooming list, a list of your companion pilgrims with their addresses, and a detailed itinerary.

If you are used to snacking a lot and think that the meals served during your flights may not be sufficient, an option is to pack a few simple snacks in your carry-on before you leave home (granola bars, candy bars, a bottle of water). If you bring a bottle of water with you, you can refill it from the water fountains in the airports. Airport food is generally quite expensive!

Airlines vary on the kinds of diets they provide, but some of the possibilities on some airlines include: Bland/Soft; Diabetic; Gluten Free; Lactose Free; Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Cholesterol or Low Sodium; or Vegetarian.

The pilgrim hotels (pensioni) we use do not have diet kitchens and are unable to provide for highly specialized diets. For those with medical needs the Staff will do what they can to provide for you. You may need to choose from what is available and/or supplement your diet by purchasing any special foods from local grocery stores.

No immunizations are required of USA citizens who enter Italy.

If you have any health problems that would create difficulty during a pilgrimage, such as heart disease or mental health issues, please consult with your doctor before deciding to make this journey.

Please be aware that the pilgrimage is STRENUOUS! We do a lot of walking, some of it up and down hills and on uneven, cobblestone streets. Past pilgrims have commented on how rigorous the terrain can be and have asked us to “warn” future pilgrims.

Any pilgrim who is physically challenged must inform his/her doctor of the above requirements and submit a certificate from his/her medical doctor stating that he/she is capable of taking part in this pilgrimage without assistance.

If you are taking prescription medications, bring along enough medicines to last the trip, plus a little extra. Some like to bring medication for diarrhea or constipation. You may want to consider bringing small amounts of over-the-counter medicines for headaches, colds, etc. if you normally use these items. Do not put YOUR MEDICATIONS into your checked luggage. Please take all your medications with you in your carry-on bag. In the event of misplaced luggage, it can be difficult or impossible to get replacements. It would be helpful to write out a list of your prescription medications, their dosages and when you take them, and keep this information with your passport. Please contact your medical insurance in order to understand what kind of coverage may be available for you in Europe.

If you take a medication that requires the use of syringes, a general rule is that a limit of five syringes can be put in your carry-on luggage, with the rest of the supply packed in your checked luggage. Your name should be written on the prescription label, and it would be advisable to obtain a note from your physician stating your name, the name of your injectable medication, and the purpose for its use.

A brochure for travel insurance was sent to you (or is available upon request). As noted in the accompanying information, this brochure is provided as a courtesy but should not be considered an endorsement by Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs. It is offered as an option for those of you who have asked about travel insurance. You are free to choose any provider you wish. Any communication about this insurance is to be done directly with Travelex Insurances Services, Inc. (or your carrier of choice), not Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs .

Internet service and WiFi is available in most of the places you will visit. However, the service is often unstable and irregular. There are locations -- usually associated with cafes -- that provide internet service for a fee. The pilgrimage staff will provide direction to help in this area.

If you want to make your own travel arrangements, you would choose the Pilgrimage Program only on your travel plans forms in the First Correspondence packet. After your flight plans are finalized, we ask that you send us a copy of your itinerary as our Staff needs to be able to track your arrival in case of flight delays or cancellations.

There are no washing machines or dryers available. You will need to bring a small supply of laundry soap and a traveler’s clothes line (available where you buy luggage). In some pilgrim hotels there are outdoor clotheslines available.

Generally, the maximum weight of a carry-on is 22 pounds. The dimensions for the carry-on can be no larger than 22" x 16"x 8" so that it can fit under the seat or in the overhead bin. Some domestic carriers may limit you to slightly smaller dimensions (20" x 12" x 8"). The average weight limit for checked baggage is 70 pounds.

Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs, Inc. is not responsible for additional luggage fees charged by the air carriers

ATM’s are available in some places but they do not always work. You need to be aware that in addition to the ATM fee there is also an exchange fee and interest

All major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, and American Express) are widely accepted in Italy.

For your pilgrimage needs, the staff will have Euro currency available for exchange on the first evening of the program and throughout the program as needed. You can give staff members checks, cash, or Traveler’s checks in the amounts of $100.00 or $50.00 at a time and they will exchange the equivalent in Euros. Please be aware the dollar's relationship to the Euro changes almost daily. See the following section entitled Personal Spending for suggestions on how much money to bring with you.

Snacks and beverages – including water – on some airlines are no longer free and you may need to purchase any desired items. You will need to have cash available.

Look carefully at your itinerary. Every meal is provided unless stated otherwise. You will need to pay for any coffee, beverage or snacks between meals, or after the evening meal. Meals are usually served at 8:00 AM, 1:00 PM and 7:30 PM (European custom). The meals are very adequate, but time in between is quite long and you will get hungry. Don’t be surprised if you spend about $20.00 per day for snacks. In addition plan what you intend to spend for gifts/souvenirs, postcards and stamps (about $1.50 per card). Many pilgrims say that a good guide to use to cover EVERYTHING is $400.00 per week ($700.00 for two weeks). These are generous, but safe, figures. Whatever you don’t spend you can bring home. The fluctuation of the dollar needs to be taken into consideration.

Please obtain your traveler’s checks in US dollars, NOT IN EUROS. American Express, AAA, and Visa traveler’s checks are accepted in most places. Make sure you copy the serial numbers of your checks and carry them separately from the checks themselves.

Our pilgrimages are open to all regardless of gender, religion, or race. Age and physical limitations need to be a consideration by the individual due to the amount of walking necessary on uneven surfaces and on hills. Most of the major churches and basilicas in Italy do not have handicap access.

Our programs are not suitable for children under the age of 15. Signed parental consent and a designated chaperone who takes full responsibility are required for participants between the ages of 15-18.

Everyone must have a valid passport to travel to Italy. A photocopy of the signature/photo page of your passport must be sent to our office with your forms and payment. Also, PLEASE MAKE A COPY OF YOUR PASSPORT AND AIRLINE TICKET and keep them with you in a separate place while traveling. Click here to visit a government web site that may be helpful in applying for a passport.

You are encouraged to send in your full payment with your completed forms as soon as possible. There is a deadline given in the First Correspondence packet which is based on the requirements of the air.

We must provide information to the airlines 95 days in advance and we do not confirm final reservations until payment is received. If a payment is 30 days late, a $25.00 fee will be added; if payment is 60 days late a $60.00 fee will be added. Tickets will not be sent out until full payment is received. Payment must be made by check, bank draft, or money order. Electronic transfer of funds is possible – please contact the Pilgrimage Office for information. In an effort to keep our prices as low as possible and to avoid charges that add costs to our pilgrimages, we do not accept credit cards.

If you want to purchase phone cards to use for calling home from Italy, wait until you get to Italy and buy the cards there. You will not be able to use your USA phone cards in most Italian phones. The Staff will have a small sheet available for you in Italy that gives instructions on using Italian cards and Italian phones.

There are some USA cell phones that work in Italy, but the roaming charges may be very high. Your phone may have ot be "unlocked" to work in Europe. Church with your cell service provider at least two weeks before the pilgrimage. Tell them where you will be on pilgrimage to make sure your cell phone will operate when you land!

This is a pilgrimage, not a tour. It is a “cross-cultural journeying together in the spirit of Francis and Clare in order to nurture an encounter with Jesus Christ through the spirituality of place.--Mission Statement

We hope that you will find time to read a biography of Francis and Clare and pray for God’s revealing inspiration. Our purposes/goals are: to focus attention on God under the guidance of Francis and Clare, to broaden our experience of life, to probe Francis and Clare’s experiences in order to clarify our own. We try to make our pilgrimage a dramatic expression of God as center, with all that it might imply for our personal lives. Recommended reading:
“Legend of the Three Companions,” (Francis of Assisi: The Founder—Early Documents, Vol. II, 61–110)
Clare of Assisi , Bartoli, Marco, trans. by Sr. Frances Teresa, OSC. (Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 1993)
Clare of Assisi: A Biographical Study, Peterson, Ingrid J., OSF. (Quincy, IL: Franciscan Press, 1993)
Francis of Assisi , Fortini, Arnaldo, trans. Helen Moak. (New York: Crossroad Press, 1981)
Francis of Assisi , Frugoni, Chiara. (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998)
Francis of Assisi : A Revolutionary Life , House, Adrian., ( Mahwah , NJ : HiddenSpring, 2001)
Francis: The Journey and the Dream , Bodo, Murray
God’s Fool , Green, Julian.
Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Martin, Valerie. (New York: Vintage Books, 2001)
St. Francis of Assisi, Chesterton, G.K., (New York: Image Books, 1957)
The Pilgrim’s Italy , Heater, James & Colleen. (Nevada City, CA: Inner Travel Books, 2003)
The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis, Sabatier, Paul. Edited with Introduction by J. Sweeney. (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2003
)

For Francis, participation at the Holy Eucharist, as in the Liturgy of the Hours, was a celebration of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, bondedness with the community and with the Roman Church. Thus, all pilgrims are invited to participate fully—as they are able—in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Because it is rather difficult to arrange for presbyteral concelebration at the various shrines in the pilgrimage, it is our custom for a member of the staff to preside at all prayer (including the Holy Eucharist) and for no concelebration. Ordained presbyters and deacons are invited to abide by the admonition of St. Francis: “I admonish and exhort you in the Lord, therefore, to celebrate only one Mass a day according to the rite of the Holy Church in those places where the brothers dwell. But if there is more than one priest there, let the other be content, for the love of charity, at hearing the celebration of the other priest.” (A Letter to the Entire Order, 30–31.)

Our official guidebook and text is Pilgrim’s Companion to Franciscan Places. This book contains all the readings, prayer services, Scripture texts, liturgies and rituals for the Pilgrimage. A copy of this book will be given to you when you arrive in Italy. .

We travel as pilgrims and are invited to be flexible. Because of the nature of our pilgrimage we ask you to understand that there are only a few single rooms available. All rooms have their own bathrooms, however. We try our best to meet individual needs. If you find that you are not compatible with the roommate assigned to you, please confer with a member of your staff who will make adjustments if possible..

You will need to carry your own suitcase on and off buses, and in and out of our places of lodging. Please, do not expect others to carry your luggage for you. Pack your suitcase, take out half and you will still have too much. Walk with this around the block and you will get some idea of what we mean by traveling lightly. Suggestion: try to manage with one small carry-on bag and one average sized suitcase as checked luggage.

Because of the changes brought about by the ability of finding airline "deals" on the internet, many pilgrims elect to make their own flight arrangements. While this can be cost effective, it does create, possibly, some difficulty in arriving at your destination at a time for the coach to depart for Rome and Assisi.

If you elect to have our office provide your place ticket it will be sent to you approximately three weeks before your date of departure. If you haven’t received your ticket two weeks prior to departure, please contact Sr. Linda at 414.427.0570 x223. Remember to check your ticket for accuracy as soon as you receive it.

If you have a connecting flight within the USA, reconfirm your ticket the day before you depart. This will avoid any surprises as occasionally the airlines make last minute changes to flight numbers and times.

Plan to arrive at the airport a good two and a half hours before your international flight departs. Unless you inform us otherwise, your air ticket will be sent to the address you list on the Invoice–Travel Plans Form. Note that airlines no longer issue paper tickets for domestic flights; you will receive confirmation of an electronic ticket. If you want or need a paper ticket, the airlines charge an extra fee.

For citizens of the USA, no visas are required for entrance into Italy. If you hold a passport from a country other than the USA or the European Union, please check with your local Italian consulate to find out if you need a visa. If you need a visa, you will need to initiate the process several months in advance in order to assure that your visa arrives in time. The Pilgrimage Office can send a letter confirming your participation in a pilgrimage.

There are robbers and thieves in Italy just as there are in other countries. When you are on your own in Rome, take only taxis that have a meter. Drivers may solicit you at the airports and train stations. Walk right by them and look for a legitimate taxi stand. If the taxi driver does not turn on the meter, write down the number of the taxi and tell him you will report him to the police. Ordinarily there are cards in English in the taxis explaining additional fares. Carry your Itinerary Booklet with you—it has the address of your pensione and phone numbers of the Staff in the back.