This Can’t be Italy

May 18, 2013 — Spoleto to Ceselli

Our room for the night in Spoleto had three beds — two singles and one double — and somehow I managed to score the double! That meant a luxurious night in a bed which was not only big, but comfortable. I slept well.

We awoke at 6:30 to discover the water was back on, so it was showers all around, followed by a breakfast of brioches (croissants) and Nutella, which seems delightfully omnipresent. By 8:30 we were out the door, then off to the ATM for cash, then up to the top of town to find the waymarks for our route.

At the sunny Duoma Piazza we discovered the road blocked due to more filming of the Terence Hill show. Next to the policeman who told us to find another way to our goal was our friend Daniele, with Atan. He was eagerly awaiting Terence Hill’s arrival so he could get an autograph, and it was great to share a final “arrivaderci!”

Our detour led us handily to the necessary waymarks and we were soon climbing east of the piazza toward the castle above. The castle sits on a circular mountain above the city and we walked around its base to the side opposite the city, where we discovered an enormous stone bridge that stretched across the canyon to the next mountain. Our waymarks directed us across the bridge and we made the most of the acrobatic walk, snapping photos of the wooded mountains and distant valleys.

At the end of the bridge the signs directed us to a steep, gravel path that switched back and forth up the mountain, climbing 300 meters (900 ft) in two kilometers (1.4 miles) through thick forest to the tiny settlement of Monteluco. Here we found a hotel with an outdoor bar, where we enjoyed an orange juice and rest, well-earned after our tiring climb.

As we paid the bill, Sebastian pointed out an old motorcycle sitting across from the bar. “Come,” the bartender said, and he led us back to his shop/showroom full of restored and nearly-restored Italian bikes. We recognized Moto Guzzi, Vespa, Piaggio, and many others. After admiring his motorcycles and thanking him for the tour we headed along the path and discovered a small, medieval Franciscan monastery from the year 1218. We toured the tiny monks’ cells, met a young friar, and asked him to stamp our pilgrim credentials, a task to which he cheerfully obliged.

We headed again to the trail, knowing we were only part way through with today’s ascent. After first missing our marker near a field below the monastery we rejoined the gravel path up the mountain. By noon we reached the summit of our climb, Valico Castel del Monte, nearly 500 meters (1500 ft) and just 7 km (4.5 miles) from our starting point in Spoleto. As we shared a lunch of bread sticks, tomatoes, cherries and cheese looking down on a view of green mountains and rich valleys we congratulated ourselves on how quickly our legs were at pilgrim strength, allowing us a big climb in good time with little pain or weariness. After four days we felt ready to climb anything.

For today’s hike it was all downhill from here. We walked down and down, by vast vistas of mountains and valleys, through the ghost village of Sensati, then past a cemetery and the tiny town of Nevi. Finally at about 3:30 we reached Ceselli and were waved into the town’s single hotel, “Il Ruscello,” by it’s proprietor. Famished as we were by now we accepted his offer to take us to Schreggino, where we had beer and ice cream for snacks and bought pasta for dinner. Arriving back in Ceselli we had showers, did laundry, then cooked our dinner, which we enjoyed over a bottle of the local vintage.

Most surprising of the day was the realization that the miles of green mountains we’d enjoyed were Italy. I’d always thought Italy was made up of dry grass, barren hills and lone cypress trees pointing to the sky. Turns out this part of Italy could just as easily be the hills of North Carolina or France or Wisconsin. Today was a beautiful experience in joy and beauty in a warm, green place with dear friends. A day that began in an annoying detour ended in a gracious meal of pasta and wine and loving conversation.

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