A Travellerspoint blog

Reflections in the night

After breakfast and Ripobottonesi good-byes, we headed towards Venezia. I was so intent at looking at the map that when I finally looked up--there was the beautiful coast of the Adriatic Sea. Olive groves and the sea in Abruzza...
We were making great time and by 11:30 am we were nearing Castelfidaro and the home of Anne's friend Liz and her husband, Alessandro. We drove up and down their street for about forty-five minutes asking pedestrians for directions but they confused us even more. Finally a man in a shop showed us their entrance gate on Google Earth, we arrived, pushed the button and the gate opened to reveal their beautiful home. We had a wonderful visit and lunch at Pippo, a very nice little restaurant. Then Liz and Alessandro graciously drove us to the autostrada so we would not get miserably lost, and by 3:30 we were on our way again.
And now a piece of advice for anyone thinking of driving into Venice--don't. Amazingly we made it to the train station after what was one of the most stressful kilometers of my life. But stepping out of the station to see the waterway, lights, and what looked like a medieval festival was exhilarating. Vendors selling "Gucci" bags set out on blankets, kiosks of Venetian masks, tee-shirts, chocolates, fresh produce... Storefronts with jewelry, gelato, upscale clothing and kitsch. We walked for fifteen minutes--up the stairs, over the bridge, down the stairs to find our hotel street. The "street" is more like a passageway three feet wide with tall buildings hemming you in. Look to the left and you can see and smell the stench of more water, but the beauty of the lights shimmering over it is breathtaking.
It's dark, late, and I can still hear the sound of people walking on the cobblestone walkway outside our window. I'm looking forward to seeing the city in the light of day.

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Good wine and good byes

Fresh peaches from the produce truck, lunch meat, pizzas and Italian lessons from Michelina and finally our mystery solved! One final request, and armed with a note from Janine, we returned to the Commune for another chance at finding my great-grandfather's death date. Success!
Took a walk, or rather a climb, up and down the streets of Ripabottoni for one last time. Stopped for a caffé at the local Trattoria and were adopted by Fabrizio and Giovanni, two of the local townsmen. We spent an hour and a half drinking wine and attempting to have a conversation with hand gestures. Giovanni looked so much like my nephew Mark that I wondered if we had an ancestor in common. That question was beyond the scope of hand gestures. Fabrizio wanted Anne and Tom to have bambini and come back to live with him. Well, at least that was our interpretation. It's very sad that there are so many vacant houses in need of repair and very few young families here. Here in the photo, Anne is standing before one she'd love to buy and renovate. Before the war there were about 3000 people living here and now only 600 remain.
Sat on the porch swing amid the fragrant roses, mint, rosemary and many fruit trees, relaxing before tomorrow's drive to Venice.
Wonderful dinner of pasta and pesto, salad of orange and fennel, sauteéd zucchini, Dutch potatoes, homemade sausage and tirimisu made by Janine.
Time to pack for the next leg of our journey. It's always bittersweet to leave when I feel like we're leaving friends.

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Four at the Forum

Refusing to give up on my great-grandfather's death date, we drove to Molise's capital city, Campobasso. Luckily a gentleman actually walked us to the Archivio di Stato, or we'd still be there climbing up and down the mountains of stairs searching for it. Once inside I said, English? She said, Italiano? Non!! Parlez-vous français? Oui! Voila! We can communicate!
Document after document, phone call after phone call, two hours later we were actually relieved they gave up. Michelina's prosciutto di cotto and prosciuttella were calling to us. And then luscious desserts from a pasticceria!
Having missed the turn-off for Saepinum we drove first to Isernia with its church dating back to 1275 and the cattedrale. Also known for its lace, we were only able to window shop since siesta time is 1:00 to 4:00.
Saepinum is situated on the spot where in 1000 BC, the shepherds traded their wool with the farmers. Those Samnites were conquered by the Romans in the First Century BC, so Augustus built a commercial center in Saepinum that lasted for about four hundred years-complete with forum, amphitheater, market, necropoli, walls, and baths. After the fall of Rome in 476, Saepinum went into decline and was sacked by the Saracens in 882. Now you can see farmers living amid these overgrown first century ruins. Imagine having a whole Roman town all to ourselves! Sitting in the amphitheater, standing in the basilica built to honor pagan gods, walking through the massive entrance archways was a humbling experience that none of us will forget.
We arrived back in Ripabottoni just in time for dinner of zucchini soup, pork chops with Indonesian spices, saffron risotto, and herbed mashed potatoes.

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Posted by victorybw 11:51 Comments (1)

Seaside Gelato

Italian music coming from the market truck signaled the arrival of fresh produce in the city. Next stop is Michelina's for bufala, prosciutto, and prosciutella. Michelina loves to give us little Italian lessons. We're learning a little Italian-we just don't know everything we're saying!
We drove by little villages of creamy stone with orange tile roofs perched on hilltops and fields of yellow sunflowers on our way to the seaside town of Termoli. Four exclamation marks entering a tunnel means its long, longer, very long, and, oh sh$t, this tunnel is really long!
Of course, once we reached Termoli, Anne and I had to find a restroom, so we stopped at a gelateria - pistacchio and nocciola.
Walked through a few very expensive little shops and then lunched on a little piazza in front of a school where the children wear blue smocks with little white collars over their clothes. Looked for an ATM machine and almost put my card in a condom dispenser.
And all those people who said everyone speaks English in Italy-must have been in a different Italy! Although sometimes I'll admit that it's beneficial not to know what everyone is saying!
We walked to the beach past trabacchi, ancient fishing wharves, then along a very rugged path for about a mile, thinking it would lead us to the wharf. It didn't. We had to walk another mile back and then needed to stop for more gelato.
Came home and washed some clothes in the bidet, hung them outside to dry in the rain while vicious ants attacked my feet and legs.
Had another wonderful dinner made by Janine- prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe, shrimp with their heads still attached, fried potatoes, peas seasoned with pancella, fillet of fish with roasted pepper relish and chocolate custard with maraschino liqueur.
Now for a toast of champagne to Anne and Tom for their third wedding anniversary. Saluté!

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The Long and Winding Road

This morning we went to the City Hall in search of my great-grandfather's death date. The archives are not open to the public but Maria Amoruso graciously took us down into the archive room to help us research it. Unfortunately we could not find it, but we did extend the genealogical branch somewhat.
We bought a selection of "salumi" from the local Mini Market and the proprietress tried to coach Anne ad nauseum how to pronounce cento grammi. Who knew the pronunciation could be so difficult! What a wonderful relaxing picnic under the grape vines amid the scented roses and herbs of the garden!
Walked the streets of Morrone del Sannio, the closest village up the hill from Ripabottoni. Then we decided to drive to Lorino. The road was like a line zig-zagging up a mountain. It took us especially long since we were unable to pass the hay truck in front of us going 30 km/hr and there was no straight stretch for more than 10 feet.
When we got there Anne and I needed to find a restroom so we ordered four café macchiatos from the Centro Storico Cafê and asked directions to the cathedrale and duomo built in the thirteenth century.
Back down the long and winding road to a wonderful dinner prepared by Janine.
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