Thursday, September 02, 2010

Real Travels: Two weeks in Italy

I have just had the shock of my life, to see it is more than two months since I last posted here. Summer has (more or less) happened, Autumn whispers in the wings. For two weeks we made our (very much last-minute) escape to a corner of paradise in the south of the Abruzzo region in Italy and, no, I had not heard of it previously, either... Or to be more truthful, it had not lodged in my memory, for Abruzzo is the region in which one finds L'Aquila, badly hit by an earthquake last year. L'Aquila is in the north west of the region and we were staying in the south east, near the hill-top town of Atessa.

I found the house to rent on the internet and we flew to Rome from Bristol, then hired a car to drive across Italy to the east coast, boggling at the first hill-top towns we passed.  Gradually it dawned that these are far from unique as we crossed the Appenines.  Our sat-nav did not cope well with finding the address of the farmhouse, so we found ourselves in town (Atessa) where some local men tried to come to our assistance.  They knew of "Robert and his 4 bambini" but didn't know where he lived, so we phoned him and rendez-voused outside the town hospital around the corner, as suggested by our Italian Knights in shining armour.  Robert (and the 4 bambini) met us successfully and guided us down the unpaved road to the house.  He showed us around, then guided us back to town so we could eat, in the lovely restaurant "Al Duka", where my offspring fell upon their pizza meal with great enjoyment and I ate a steak before rejoicing in a torrone semi-freddo dessert.  We found our way back to the Casa Pietra and slept well, to wake up to this view (above) of the town.
And this was the view in one direction from the house terrace.  It was a lovely, sunny day and so warm, too.  Now it was Monday morning and we had no food for breakfast, so it seemed best to head out to explore and shop.  We actually did our shopping in the nearby village of St Luca, where they had a supermercado, Conad, which had a fabulous stock of goodies.  Then we went back to Atessa...

This is the first bit of the town we would come to, opposite a modern piazza with water feature which topped off a multi-storey car park.  There was a nice cafe behind the signpost on the right, where we enjoyed liquid refreshment a number of times.

Through a narrow alleyway, between an excellent gelateria and a delicatessen, there was another piazza. backed by an ornate war memorial.  I noticed the forgotten but familiar hard stare of local people which initially seems a little hostile.  It isn't, though.  Smile and say "Buorngiorno" and you receive a friendly response.  I can't recall where I first came across this subtle difference of behaviour - but I did remember not to get paranoid!

There is no escaping that the town is atop a hill - everthing slopes either up or down!

Not surpringly, I experienced architectural echoes of both Venice and Florence despite the differences.

And there was evidence that this was once a walled town, with gated access - or possibly two walled towns, now joined together by the slaying of a dragon by the redoubtable local saint, S. Leucio.

But the rugged countryside is never far away in this region, even by the modern town library:-

Outside the  library was where we found this modern homage to the squid.

Medieval and modern lie almost side by side in Atessa.
And always more steps to climb, another corner to turn to discover another secret place.
At the top of the road opens another piazza, the church basking in the sunshine.
At the top of the hill was also a palazzo, its open door and arched hallway inviting the curious (me!).

While its windows were ornately barred.

So, back down the hill to this quatrefoiled building, which would not look out of place in Venice.

The street lights came on

And the sun set on the first full day of our holiday.


Gill said...

Sue, this looks absolutely wonderful. How clever of you to find such a place! No wonder you were keen to return!

I'm wondering how you coped with the steps?

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous, and I especially liked the squid. Ace. DD2 is off to Italy to live tomorrow morning. I'm ambivalent, but can see why she wants to go.

Frances said...

looks beautiful Sue, thanks for the tour really enjoyed it,

Sue said...

I'm glad you're enjoying my reminiscing. Gill, how did I cope with the steps? Apart from one memorable occasion, account to come, I didn't in Atessa - these were all off the sloping main shopping street which was much easier on the legs, and easy to photograph from!

Anonymous said...

This really inspires me to travel a bit further in Bella next year and see Italy!