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4-27-10

This is the sums up our day:

Aaaaaahhhhhhhh

This was probably the most serene place in which I have ever been blessed to spend a day.

Abbazia di San Pietro in Valle from the front

We approached the Abbey from behind the day before so from here you can see our route coming down hill

The only walking we did on this day was to walk far enough to take the picture above.  We also had our feet massaged today….aaaahhhhh.  We toured the beautiful church that was attached to the Abbey.

The altar of the San Pietro Chapel

And that night we had a wonderful meal at the restaurant in the Abbey.   The region is known for it’s cured meats so we had a lot of proscuito and salamis.   Something that I had not heard of before in Italy, they garnish the cheese with honey while enjoying the cold meat plate.  yummy!

cold meat plate
guinea fowl with liver sauce and spinach - it was delicious.
fruit with custard - mi piacere - I like it.

The Big Bad Walk

4-26-10

Today we are walking from the top of the hill outside Spoleto (they gave us a ride there 😉 to a place call the Abbazia di San Pietro in Valle.  (Our luggage gets a ride all the way there).  We are armed with a picnic, compass, small Italian phrase book and lots of water.  We walk mostly through woods and the trail is not difficult.  We see Castle ruins, village ruins

the ruins

wildflowers, waterfalls and beautiful views.

bellisimo

Finally we walk into the tiny hillside town of Le Cese where we saw 4 people, all over 50 all speaking only Italian but they were very friendly.  The nun invited us to sit down at the tables in front of the church where we enjoyed our picnic lunch.  This is also where I heard for the first of many times the word “qua” which I am surmising means “this way ” or “here” but it was a word we heard a lot of on our trip.

Le Cese looking down from the church

Out of Le Cese we began a steep and seemingly never ending ascent on hot dry pavement.  3 dogs decided to follow us out of town probably because we smelled like salami.  Our directions indicated we should be on a dirt path but all we found was the paved road heading up the hill.

It was almost 2pm and I did not even think we were halfway yet. I was not sure we were on the right route, I began to wonder if they had phones in Le Cese, I thought about how difficult it would be to find our way in the dark even though we did both have flashlights in our pack, I wondered how cold it would be if we had to sleep outside over night… basically I began thinking that we were nuts for the two of us to be wandering the pretty much deserted countryside of a foreign country.

We lost 2 of our dog friends but couldn’t shake the 3rd so we named him Enzo.

Enzo, our Italian Escort

Finally our directions were matching our route and it became more shaded, we were more than halfway – yay! and I began to think we could actually do it.

We came across some lumberjacks on the trail and we would have loved to get a ride with them down the hill but  I could not think quickly enough how to ask that plus we didn’t know if we were on the same route – we were!  We did manage to converse about the fact that we were tired and we were American and that they were harvesting firewood but that’s as far as we got.   This is also where Enzo finally deserted us.

Logging in Italy

Our next encounter was with a goat herder.  He was very friendly and began speaking to us in Italian – I told him I only speak a little then he asked if we were on our way to Abbazia di San Pietro (I guess they are used to these crazy walkers coming through) and then he told us we were about 1.5 hours away- HA – but at least it was encouraging.  Then he took a shortcut up the hill and we ran into him a little further up the road (yes he was kicking our butts and by the way he was about 60) but he had 2 walking sticks he was using and he gave us one of them – he was so sweet!  I guess he could see that we were going to need it!

our goat herding friend and his goats

Loreno

Finally we walked into the tiny town of Loreno where we saw 2 other herders lots of goats and cows I am assuming this is where all those fabulous cheese come from  – maybe that incredible pecorino. They also harvest truffles in the area.

So we continue climbing and every time I take a picture we climb a little higher and get an even better view.

Umbrian veiw

Finally we are back in the woods, run into some more lumberjacks who open a gate for us and say “qua, qua” and then we are headed down another steeper path than yesterday and with more loose gravel – this is where those walking sticks really come in handy!      Finally our destination comes into view – The Abbazia – see that tiny castle looking building in the center – that’s where we are headed!

Abazzia di San Pietro in Valle

Lynn decided to try an alternate method to get down the hillvacation my ass!

After 10 hours of walking, we finally made it!

The Abbey at last.

so when you check into a hotel in Italy at least you have to give them your passport – so we pull out our 2 very sweaty very rumpled passports and hand them to the poor lady at the desk.  gross!

the first walk

Our first walk is a 9km (about 5.5 miles) loop that according to our tour company is supposed to take 3 hours.  We  booked our trip through a company based in the UK- Inntravel (they were totally fabulous and I would definitely recommend them but see my *note below) –  we chose the “moderate” level for our walk.

we were so naive

The first part of our ‘walk’ was like climbing the rock steps up to Half Dome.   We finally arrived at a lovely small hotel where people were enjoying a nice lunch and we came in all sweaty wearing our hiking clothes to see if we could buy some orange juice to go.  It seemed to confuse the waitress and took quite a while.  Finally we got our orange juice and left and walked about 75 feet down the hill and found a refreshment stand in a park where we could have easily gotten what we were looking for.scooters at the hotel

On with the walk  This was the day that according to our instructions “we had to follow the directions carefully to avoid unfriendly dogs” – we did manage to do this with no problem – we didn’t even hear a dog but we did get scared by a donkey suddenly braying so loudly we almost fell down the mountainside.

We also went through a small cave bat cave

At last we began going back down hill.  It was nice and steep and there was lots of loose gravel so it was really fun!

5.5 hours later we finally saw Spoleto again!

At Last ... the Beautiful Spoleto!

*note – Apparently moderate walking with “some hills” means something very different to Europeans than to us wimpy Americanas!

Tomorrow we are supposed to do 17 km (10.56 miles) for 6 hours of walking….. oh boy!

The tour begins…

So even tho I am writing after the fact, I must account for the fabulous trip from which I have just returned.  I wrote in my journal each day so from my notes…

4-24-10

After 14 hours in a plane, 2 hrs on 2 trains and some time in between there figuring out where said trains were, we arrived in Spoleto.  It is a lively small town with very friendly people – quite lovely.

Dolce Vita Tour 2010 Spoleto
night scene in Spoleto

Of course we were exhausted but we went to grab a panino at a local cafe (we had many panini as well as gellati) so we are sitting outside and we begin talking with a man who offers to drive us so we don’t have to walk, we can stay in one of his 15 apartments if we would like and by the way are we contemplating divorce at all?  they do move fast in italy.

in the aeroporto

just a quick check in to commemorate the fact that I am in th chicago airport alone.  This is probably completely appropriate considering the reason it came about in the first place.  My friend who made all of the arrangements was not able to come because her daughter had to have emergency surgery.  She is doing well so no worries but itis a reminder that life throws you for a loop when you think you are on stable ground.  So the trip  just ggot  a bit more adventurous.  I wish I had brushed up on my italian!

La Dolce Vita Tour 2010

As I write here I feel like I am just writing in my journal so I want to explain what brought about the trip I am referring to as “La Dolce Vita Tour 2010“.

I made the plan to take this trip about 1 year ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  There is nothing like a little cancer to kick you in the pants to get started on that bucket list.  I was lucky because my cancer was detected very early.  Although at the time I certainly did not feel lucky.  I was 43, I had no family history, I eat well, I exercise, I am and was in great health so “Why me?“.  Going through the diagnosis process and then finally the treatment seemed at the time like it would never end.  But it is amazing how going through that process changes your perspective and even though I tend to think of last year as somewhat lost – I did a lot of good stuff – I did the Big Sur Marathon, I hiked Half Dome with my 13 year old daughter

at the top of Half Dome
We did it!

I did things I never had time for before, saw one of my favorite writers – David Sedaris, rode horses on the beach,  had a great visit with my mom when she came to help me, I realized how fabulous my friends really are, I danced with, cried with and generally relied on my husband more than ever and I was open, honest and straightforward with my kids.

In my heart, I will take everyone to Italy to celebrate my sweet life and I will continue to work on that Bucket List!

Hello world!

People often ask me if I am Italian and I reply “I am Italian at heart.”  I am off to the Umbria

Spoleto Countyside
Spoleto Countryside

Region of Italy on Friday.  Two girlfriends and I are doing a walking tour which includes Spoleto, San Pietro in Valle, Preci and Norcia (the city of fabulous meats).  We have 2 giant maps and detailed directions which include such things as “follow this route carefully so as to avoid unfriendly dogs”!  I believe this may be an adventure.