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Peace Love Pilgrimage Sicilian hiking trails “Religious people are in search of unique moments to connect with God and their friends,” says Aldo Caronia of Michelangelo International Travel. “We want to customize the most extraordinary experience for each group.” The company is creating pilgrimage tours and faith-based vacations to allow travelers to explore Italy’s sacred sites, along with other cultural aspects of the country. Aiming for the 2018 season, Michelangelo is enhancing its Divino programs with popular culinary components and outdoor experiences. “Our faith-based itineraries will feature hiking and biking activities that take pilgrims to remote churches or sites where they will be able to celebrate Mass or pray, surrounded by the beauty of nature,” Caronia says. “We’ll also organize fun culinary activities, like cooking classes, a truffle hunt, grape stomping or a nice wine tasting.” One of the programs that will offer spiritual discovery amid Italian flavors and vistas is a 10-day tour in eastern Sicily. Visitors will hike to extraordinary churches on the Aeolian islands of Lipari and Salina and around the Sicilian town of Taormina. The tour will also include a walk to Savoca (the filming location of the “Godfather” movies), an excursion to Mount Etna and a visit to Taormina’s most famous landmark, the Greek Theater. To learn more, contact Caronia at [email protected] or visit michelangelo.travel/us. A capital city People of faith often embark on a pilgrimage to shrines and sacred places so they might pray and draw closer to their God. And for Kerin Buntin, the founder of FTA-member Peace Love Pilgrimage, prayer is the primary focus; the destination is secondary. “A pilgrimage is an investment in your faith,” Buntin says. “Free of distraction, pilgrims give their hearts to God for a special purpose, and unexpected spiritual graces explode from the journey.” The Carmel, Indiana, travel company’s programs highlight Catholic spirituality in both international and domestic settings, including a trip to Washington D.C. tailored for Catholic school eighth-grade students. Holy waters The Indian city of Varanasi is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world; it also is one of the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. “Called the spiritual capital of India, the magnificent city of Varanasi radiates endless energy,” says Yvonne Trudeau of Worldwide Adventures India. “A single dip in the holy waters of the Ganges can wash away a lifetime of sins, and a boat ride across the sacred river perfectly captures the spirit of Varanasi. And you’ll see candlelit paper boats with flowers that carry people’s prayers across the waters.” Faith travelers who visit Varanasi also meditate and pray along the ghats (steps leading to the water’s edge), and they can go to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most important places of worship in the country. Near Varanasi is the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi Temple, which marks the spot of the legendary Bodhi tree, under which Buddha meditated and attained enlightenment. “A journey here is an intensely spiritual experience, complete with meditation sessions and spiritual processes,” Trudeau says. For more about Varanasi and other spiritual journeys, visit worldwideadventuresasia.com or contact Trudeau at ytrudeau@ worldwideadventuresindia.com. “The D.C. tour is inspired by the late Saint Pope John Paul II,” Buntin says. “While cultural exhibits abound there, the Saint John Paul II National Shrine is an invitation for pilgrims to grow in Christian discipleship. His remarkable life and teachings bring a spiritual element to a cultural tour.” The shrine holds a daily Mass, and a John Paul II exhibit includes personal artifacts, texts, images and interactive displays that educate visitors on his 25-year pontificate. The three-day program also includes a guided walk at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and a prayerful visit to Arlington National Cemetery. All of Peace Love Pilgrimage’s tours include a daily service led by a Catholic priest accompanying the group. For more information, visit peacelovepilgrimage.com or contact Buntin at [email protected]. Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona, Scotland faithtravelassociation.com 9