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.







Who in the World is Terence Hill?

Goodbye to Trevi

Goodbye to Trevi

May 17, 2013 — Trevi to Spoleto

“What do you do when it rains?” asked the skeptical American tourist, seated across from us at breakfast this morning at our hotel in Trevi. “We have rain gear!” we replied cheerfully. As we left the hotel an hour later, the same American waved to us from the dry comfort of his rental car as he passed by with his wipers busily clearing rain from his windshield.

The weather reports had predicted rain for today, and they nailed it. It came on and off for the first hour of our walk — once again through olive groves — then it came with a windy fury after a couple of hours. Within seconds of the worst deluge we were discovering the limits of our rain gear. I had started the day with just my rain jacket, but during the hardest downpour we found a garage and ducked in so I could put on my long pants (to keep rain out of my boots), my long sleeved T-shirt, and my down sweater for beneath my dripping rain jacket.

The torrent continued as the trail led us down to the valley floor, and after a left turn onto the highway we found a bar where we took off our wet gear and warmed ourselves with coffee and hot croissants. Soon we were joined by our four French friends we’d met in Assisi, and also a quiet Italian couple we’d seen several times along the way. All of us took refuge on the covered patio as we waited for the rain to subside.

After about an hour the rain slackened and we all headed out, just a little drier than before. We walked along the highway, then turned right onto a quiet, paved track alongside an irrigation ditch. Here we met one of the most interesting characters from any of my caminos, Daniele Marini of Italy, and his dog Atan.

Daniele and Aran, pilgrims to the world

Daniele and Aran, pilgrims to the world

Daniele is a tiny 25-year old with a quick and warm smile who’s off on a 10-12 year walk around the world. He’s already walked from his home to Rome, Barcelona, Santiago and other places. He’s now heading to Rome, then is off to Sardinia, France, Germany, then Asia and Africa, followed by North and South America. He subsists solely on the generous offerings of strangers and the occasional odd job as a bartender or laborer. Today he is heading to Spoleto because Terrence Hill is there filming a TV show.

When he told me this, my first question was, “Who in the world is Terence Hill?” Daniele and Sebastian were shocked that I didn’t know this famous European movie star. I quickly consulted Wikipedia and discovered that I have not seen a single movie in the Terence Hill filmography, not even Miami Supercops or I Quatro del Ave Maria or Nobody Hits like Don Camillo with his sidekick Bud Spencer. Apparently I know nothing about movies. 😉 When I return to the US I’ll begin a raid of the Netflix archives to find out what all the fuss is about.

Engrossed in conversation with Daniele and seeing no waymarks for awhile we started to get nervous about directions to Spoleto. Since the rain had stopped and the town was clearly visible on the hillside ahead we shifted to the highway which went in that direction and in an hour or two were having lunch (our treat) with Daniele and Atan at a nice outdoor lunch spot in Spoleto.

We walked up to the Duomo at the top of town, where Daniele had heard Terence Hill would be filming. As we arrived we passed films crews staked out all over the Duomo Piazza and Daniele pointed out a blue movie star’s chair emblazoned with the name, “Terence Hill.” Since our goal was the Duomo, not the movie star, we said a fond farewell to Daniele and headed into the beautiful church.

Just as Jacqueline and I were finishing our tour of the cathedral, Sebastian rushed through the front door and said, “We have to leave now! The film crews are clearing the Piazza!” Sure enough, we were instructed to leave right away, and as we walked off the piazza we noticed an older man in a black priest’s cassock wearing a black baseball cap. “That’s him!” said Sebastian. “That’s Terence Hill!” I took a quick photo of the back of his head as stage hands instructed me in Italian, “No fotos!” and as we turned the corner off the piazza I noticed Daniele and his dog, discretely situated across the piazza, out of view of the cameras.

Finished with our brush with fame we headed to a hotel we’d passed along the way and were shown to a nice room with three beds, our home for the night. Jacqueline and Sebastian, full of energy, headed out for sightseeing while I snoozed for a couple of hours under the warm covers of my bed.

Sebastian awakened me at 7:30 for dinner and we made our way down to the hotel dining room. After ordering, we noticed the hotel owner seating a wiry young Italian man — Daniele! He joined us at our table and told us about how a nice woman in the Duomo Piazza had inquired about his dog and he’d told her he had no place to sleep for the night. “Come and stay in my hotel,” she said. So now we know how Daniele will make his way around the world — on the kindness of strangers, his friendly smile, and people’s love of dogs.

We voted Jacqueline to be first in the shower, but she immediately noticed there was no water coming from the tap. Checking with the desk, we learned that all human and canine guests will have to wait until the morning for the hotel’s main water line to be fixed. So while this entertaining day included the occasional mendicant hiker and Italian movie star, tonight there would be no showers or washing of clothes for our little pilgrim fellowship.