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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