Archives for the month of: July, 2013

We arrived back at Roccamandolfi on the 18th July after a 3hour drive in mostly pelting rain.
The town when we arrived was bone dry and they had not had a drop of rain that day.
We were going to go up the next day to the “campitello di Rocca” to the large open Alpine field where they were holding the next two days the “Festa del Pastore”- the shepherd’s festa however it was pouring with rain so we decided to wait until the 20th before we headed up the mountain.
The two days were held to showcase old Molise artisan methods such as the making of ricotta cheese,various forms of pasta, a display of old farm tools and implements as well as having a shepherd with a large flock of sheep, a herd of cows,some horses and a donkey to ride and some goats from a local monastery with the monks who were selling the goat’s cheese.
A group of about 200 children had come from all over Molise to see them milking the cows,shearing the sheep. There were talks about the local area and foods found in the region.
We saw a few men walking around the mountain with their baskets collecting porcini and other mushrooms. In Italy they have to do a course on mushroom selection and care and they must carry wicker baskets in order for the spores to fall through and regenerate.
We supported the local community and bought some goat’s cheese, local honey,truffle paste and a ricotta cake. The truffle people told us that 40% of all the truffles in Italy come from the region of Molise. The had a basket of truffles which were reasonably cheap compared to Australian prices.
We chatted (well I chatted) to several of the stall holders who were all very enthusiatic about their products especially the pastry chef who said that there was not enough promotion of this area of Italy which is very beautiful.
On the Saturday there were not so many people but those that were there were well set up with generators with lights and fridges and tarpaulins to protect them if it rained. One group above us had a set of drums, acordion and spent the afternoon singing and playing traditional music which was great to hear everyone enjoying themselves. We ate at the “Rifugio” which is manned by locals and who provide excellent food at very reasonable prices.
Our friend Liberato prepared our delicious meal of local cheeses, meats, pork steak and sausage. We downed this with an excellent bottle of local red wine.
The Sunday morning was sunny and there were a lot of new arrivals for the day setting up in a big way – tables, chairs, fires set, fridges in some cases, kegs of beer. There were also more stall holders selling all sorts of tools, copper pots, cowbells and everything you could need house, farm animals etc.
A large marquee was set up for mass and many tables and benches for people to later enjoy their lunch.
There was even an icecream “morrison” van with the words “Pasquale’s soft serve” and a note on the windscreen “I am a Scott from Glasgow” and the lady was one – still with a strong Scottish accent even though she had married and lived in Italy for 30years!
We had another great meal at the “Rifugio” and then t 3.30pm a small clap of thunder followed by a large clap of thunder finished the day abruptly. There was an instant deluge with hail and rain and we were OK just having to put our little mat outside the campervan inside, but the poor people who had so elaborately set up their picnic/BBQ areas were awash within seconds. They had set up to stay until late evening, it not getting dark until about 9.30pm.
Needless to say there was a mass exodus so we decided as we were dry and inside the campervan to stay put until the rush ended. The rain eased off and many who were in their cars ventured out to clean up the mess.
We drove in convoy back to the town but had to sit in the van for another hour and a half to wait out the second round of hail and rain before we could walk down to the house. Such a shame.
We stayed in Roccamandolfi for the next week to catch the “Gniocchata” a festa all about Gnocchi. Many ladies of the town gather and make wonderful gnocchi with a special tomato based very tasty sauce infused with a pork fat/garlic/parsley mixture. We had gnocchi for lunch followed by gnocchi for dinner with Giulia and Liberato and then four folk groups from Roccamandolfi and nearby towns performed traditional dances and songs.
Maurice fitted right in sitting with the old ladies who admonished anyone getting in their line of sight!
We were sorry as always to leave our friends and the mountains of Roccamandofli on the 26th July for more adventures to the north but we will be back in Roccamandolfi in November after travels to Germany, England, Ireland, Spain and Morocco.

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We had attended a communion celebration for two of my cousin’s grandchildren on Sunday the 30th June which was more like a full blown wedding with a breakfast at the parent’s house,a change of outfits for the two girls 10 and 8years old,,lunch at a restaurant for over a hundred family members including a 4 piece band and a top table and many courses of food!
We recovered at one of my other cousin’s houses on the plain at Sezze Scalo the next day before leaving for Roccamandolfi.
We detoured to drive up to Montecassino an abbey which was completely destroyed by the American bombs during the second world war and later rebuilt to it’s present state by the Germans.

It was like coming home when we arrived in Roccamandolfi on the 2nd July.
Eliana a lovely lady from Lima who ran the bar gave me a big hug and insisted on giving us complimentary coffees. She is very sweet and good fun.She said that it is hard to make a living in the town as for a population now of about 1200 there are 7bars all trying to make a living. It is better in Summer when more people come back to see relatives or visit the
town again but she said in winter there is nothing going on. We arrived to a full blown 3 day rock festival and the large stage was erected by the fountains. For 3nights I went to bed very late – up to 3am as the music was very loud and I wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway. My cousin Maria Letizia and her husband Salvatore came up to Roccamandolfi
to the place and stayed overnight and it was nice being able to repay some of their great hospitality. We all went on the Friday night down the 250 wide steps to where the Rock concert was being held and stayed listening to the very loud music for a while
and then up the 250 steps to the house again. Giulia and Liberato our Rocca friends came to lunch on Saturday which we all enjoyed followed by a quiet day on Sunday.
The window boxes and potted flowers dotted all around the town are very pretty and for most residents these are the only plants they have as the lie of the land doesn’t allow it.
The weather has been a bit changeable but on the whole it has been warm and sunny with cool nights. A lot of the older people in the village venture out in the late afternoon with their walking sticks to walk along the flatter places in the town although there aren’t too many of them. On the occasions that we have gone for a walk after lunch the whole village seems deserted while everyone else has their siesta. July and August are festival months and we will be back here for two of them in July.
Maurice drove us into the large town of Campobasso to celebrate my birthday. We both had some retail therapy. When I was buying something in a boutique an older man came in and I asked him directions to a restaurant that was well written up on “trip advisor”. He said straight away “why do you want to go there – it is very expensive”and so he recommended a typical “casareccio” home cooking trattoria in the old part of town where he said we could experience true Molise cooking at a very reasonable price. We were all for it and when we said we were in a campervan he said that he would show us where to park for free and how to get to the restaurant. He proceeded to get his car and guide us to the parking area. When we got out he said that it would be easier for him to take us to the place and so we got in his car and he zoomed around the streets to show us how we should get back to the car and then dropped us in front of the trattoria “da concetta”.
He told a man who was at the entrance to look after us to which he replied that he was a guest at the trattoria. Unperturbed he wished us a good meal and off he went. Such a lovely man. He also told us that we must go to Oratino (a small mountain top village) on the way back to Roccamandolfi as the views were superb.
In the small two room trattoria we had a wonderful meal – There was no menu – the waitress (the cook’s daughter) just gave us three alternatives for
entree and two for main course. We had between us pasta soup with lentils, Crunchy pieces of polenta with chicory, eggplants topped with fresh mozzarella and and the tastiest cherry tomatoes followed by home made sausage and pork steak with delicious fresh lettuce salad. To top it off it was also the cook’s son’s birthday and his sister had made the most delicious torta so we shared a piece of that. This was all accompanied by their most expensive red wine which was very good. The whole meal cost us 60euros!
We then visited the Fiat service workshop to get some oil and a spare fuel filter and went back to the shopping centre where we delivered a bottle of the red wine to the salesgirl whose father had given us the lift and the restaurant recommendation.
About 6.30pm we travelled about 6kms to Oratino to have a look at the town and the views and we were not disappointed. It was a beautifully kept hilltop village with a lovely small piazza and a park with fountain overlooking all of the surrounding countryside. Just beautiful. We sat at a bar and had an Aperol aperitif with tiny diamonds cheese sandwiches (not that we needed them but they came with the drinks) and a packet of crisps. This came to a total of 11euros.
It is a lovely custom that if you order an alcoholic drink in many bars they automatically bring out some free nibbles. At the prices they charge in
Australia for drinks I’m sure they could afford to do the same and it is a nice gesture which does not cost much.
The day had been nice and sunny and we were surpised to find our towels sopping wet when we got back to Roccamandolfi. It had obviously rained very hard there.
The next few days were also unseasonal – warm but with afternoon storms and intermittent rain.
We had a couple of very frustrating days trying to book flights with credit cards where the banks (although we had advised them) that we were travelling overseas and needed to effect some transactions did their best to block our payments. We have decided to leave the van here in Roccamandolfi for the winter before we travel towards the warm of India, the middle east and Asia again.
On Friday the 12th July we drove via a very scenic route through the mountains to a small town of about 400 called “Salle” on the way to Chieti where my school friend Anita,her parents, sister and niece had come from Perth the week before. The entrance to the town with a bridge over a wide chasm of limestone with a river running through the centre is spectacular.
There is only one bar and a two small shops in town and a pharmacy. A couple of kilometres away is a wonderfully restored castle where the old town of “Vecchio Salle” was previously located. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1932 and there is now practically nothing remaining of the old town which was renowned for the production of strings for violins, guitars and surgical sutures.
We went up to the castle one night for a concert and it was lovely sitting outside in the castle grounds which were lit up. The castle now houses a restaurant.
When we got out of the car in the dark the bushes were twinkling with fireflies which I had only seen once before in Gemany. There were hundreds of them and it was like having fairy lights all over the countryside.
The following day Anita, Maurice and I drove an hour down to “Sulmona” which is a town famous for the sugared almond and chocolate “Confetti” used all over Italy and abroad.
We were taken on a tour of one of the companies. It was very “state of the art” with over 40 copper drums and other large drums in which the confectionery was made.
The showroom consisted of confettis made into every kind of flower, animal and other items. This company which only employed ten workers only services the local communities and their main export was to Greece and containers of the confetti to Libya of all places.

We went into the historical side of town and had a walk around before having a wonderful lunch in a michelin starred restaurant called “Ristorante Gino”. The meal and the service were second to none. We made our way back over the mountain roads to Salle which was about 50minutes away.
Like Roccamandolfi the population of the town is much reduced with many residents moving away for work over the years. The following day the 14th July we took part in the tradition called “the pied piper” whereby the Lord Mayor and residents in traditional costumes walk around the streets of the town in procession and other residents who who have cakes, sweets, wine, cheese, olive oil etc bring these along and join in the procession to the main square where many tressle tables were set up to take all of the produce. This was then sold to anyone who wanted to buy the wonderful array of produce.
The procession nearly didn’t take place as sky was full of black clouds and we had a torrential downpour for a couple of hours around lunch time. The event was scheduled to start at 5pm but luckily the rain passed and the sun came out.
We bought some lovely wine and local olive oil and at an art exhibition we bought a small painting by a local artist who at 86 is still painting.
We went back to where our friends were staying to have a tradional meal of “porchetta”- from three pigs which had been roasting on the spit in the square.

In the morning Maurice and I walked down to the bridge and back and then left Salle on the 15th July and the wonderful hospitality from Anita and her family. We again took the lovely scenic mountain route north east via Terni and Perugia to see Mary again at her home near “Greve in Chianti”. Mary has two Australian carers at present Jude and Joan and we had a lovely meal outside overlooking the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
The next day we went with Mary to lunch at “Le Panzanelle” in Lucarelli and had a tasty meal in the garden area.
We played scrabble in the afternoon which I really enjoyed not having played it for such a long time.
Maurice, Jude and I went into Greve the following day and wandered around the quaint town and Maurice and I both managed to buy some shoes. We had some lunch at the Coop trattoria and went back to the house. Mary’s car had been taken away by the mechanic the previous day and she had had bad news about it so Maurice, the mechanic and Mary left in the early evening to go over to the other side of Florence to look at a year old Peugeot which Mary did buy.
It was handy to have Maurice along and with his Samsung Tablet he was able to use Google translate to ask the salesman many questions.
We left Mary and the girls on the 18th July and drove 5hours to the “Passo San Leonardo” near Sulmona to have lunch with Anita and her family. The meal was delicious – again home style cooking and some interesting food such as the stems of garlic plants which had been marinated and fried.
We saw a large number of young hikers coming down the mountain and I thought it was a flashback to the “Sound of Music” when I saw two nuns walking down the slope! They were accompanying the children on their pilgrimage to somewhere and all stopped for a drink at the restaurant which was also a hotel and round in shape. We set off on about 5.30pm for the 3hour trip back to Roccamandolfi.

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