We have had a relaxing and interesting time for our last week in Roccamandolfi. We caught the bus to Campobasso which is a much larger place than Isernia. It has about 80,000 inhabitants and is very spread out. We had a look around the old town which was pretty deserted. We got there at 8am (too early for the Italians) and only a couple of bars (they sell coffee, snacks an alcohol ) were open so we had a coffee and caught another bus up to the commercial centre where there were two small malls.

We happened to meet Raffaele, Antonietta and Joe there so we all shopped a bit and then they very kindly took us back in their car to Roccamandolfi. We went for our usual evening hike and were told that there would be a procession through town. A couple who are getting married soon are doing everything in the old traditional way. He works in the museum and has studied the traditional costumes and culture of the area. This meant that the bride came from her house with all her dowry which was carried in baskets by local girls in traditional costumes preceded by two accordionists. Three donkeys followed laden with bedclothes,

copper pots and pans and wooden utensils. It was great to see and we followed them up all the stairs to the top of the town. The procession passed directly in front of where we are staying and we had to move back into the doorway to let the donkeys pass.

Family and friends had set up in a cul de sac – bales of hay, tables and chairs and tents where they cooked and decorated tables where they laid out the food. They also had an open fire and it was a wonderful atmosphere at the top of the town overlooking the evening lights around the mountains.

We then went back and had dinner and set off for the main piazza where a two piece band. a girl with keyboard who also sang and a guy on a piano accordian were set up for the evening.

They started playing at 9pm but no one really turned up until about 10pm with children of all ages. They played great music and we sat on the steps leading up from the piazza with many others and watched the dancing. I got in a couple of dances but didn’t join in the line dances.

Line dancing is a very big thing here in Italy. They line dance to the old traditional music but have concocted many different moves. We left about 1am but it was still going strong and the bar was still open. There are no specific closing times for the bars – I did ask and was told when the last person left was when they closed!

Maurice had a couple of Peroni beers (the only beer together with the Chinese Tsingtao that doesn’t affect his arthritis) and I had a whisky which was very cheap and very liberally poured – no measuring cups here!

The next day we walked to the mountain opposite the village and around it. We met a goat herder with 4 accompanying dogs one of which sat down and watched us eat our picnic that we took along. That night was another “festa” this time a sausage festival. These always begin about 9pm so we got a table early and our friend Raffaele who has lived in Sydney for 42years and his niece and German boyfriend and Remo and Svenia – he is Italian/German and she German. We had interesting English/German/Italian conversations all going at once.

We had our friends over for lunch so Maurice went and picked some mountains flowers for the table and I did pasta and then meat and salads with delicious peaches for dessert.

Raffaele and Antonietta took us on a tour the next day up to the ski resort area at the top of the mountain range. They make the most of the area in Summer with quad bikes and horses for hire and they have a wellness centre there presumably for when you get off your horse!

We drove around the mountains and to and through a number of old historic towns. The drive high up in the mountains was beautiful and with the heat you could smell the pine trees.

We learnt a lot about the plants that grow in the moutain areas – wild spinach, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. The strawberries were fininshed but we found some blackberries and raspberries. In one valley we could smell the wild oregano and the wild fennel was in flower. They dry the fennel flowers, collect the seeds and crush them and put them into the sausages when they make them.

We had a picnic lunch under some trees and had a lovely day. In the evening we met at one of the 4 bars in the village for a couple of drinks.

On Thursday we caught the bus into Isernia again to visit some museums and the cathedral. It was extremely hot and humid but we walked throught the town and had a bite to eat while everything was closed between 1-4pm and then waited for the cathedral to open but it was on Italian time and still hadn’t opened by by 4.30pm so we couldn’t wait any longer and will see it next time.

The towns become like ghost towns between 1-4pm and we were the only people on the street – there is definately something to be said for a siesta when it is so hot in the middle of the day.

It is such a pleasure to open the shutters in the morning every day and look to the lovely mountains and the beautiful deep blue sky. We are making the most of it as I don’t think it will be the same in Ireland! The last couple of nights we have heard a couple of wolves high up in the mountains and then the dogs start barking their heads off. They have only in the last few years reintroduced the wolves to the area but they stay well hidden apart from when they go looking for sheep at night.

They had an extremely rare winter here in Roccamandolfi last year with several metres of snow that hadn’t been seen since 1956. Now they are having the hottest summer for a couple of hundred years! At least it cools down at night as there are no fans or air conditioners here!

All the locals are saying that within a few weeks the weather will change and it will get cold so there are truckloads of wood which have been cut and stacked and are now being delivered around the village. Only some of the smaller tractors with small trays attached can make it around the village but even then some have centimetres to spare when navigating around the narrow laneways.

It is also “passata” time where several families or friends get together with hundreds of kilos of tomatoes and boil them up (in vats big enough for a person) to make the real tomato sauce – delicious!

A lot of the families here for the millenium reunion of Roccamandolfi are heading home to Toronto, New Jersey and Australia this week and the locals say that within a few weeks when it does turn cold some of the residents will move out over the winter. Eliana – our Peruvian bar lady married to a local said it is dead here over the winter.

We are off to Naples for a few nights on  the 25th August and will meet up with one of my second cousins Ruth from the USA who is now living in my dad’s village of Sezze and who is going to come on the train down to Naples to meet us. I have met some of her brothers in the USA but it will be nice to meet her. We will  then off to party time with Maurice’s cousins and friends in Ireland for a couple of weeks and to catch up with our friends Des and Mary and family who are in Ireland for a family wedding.

Then on to Germany to the Automechanika trade show in Frankfurt and spend a couple of weeks visiting friends in Germany, Sweden,Norway and Switzerland before going back to England and Ireland for a couple more weeks. When it gets too cold we will make our way out of Europe towards India.

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