Thursday, September 27, 2012

….Be Silent and a Time to Speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

I thought I was going to have to entitle this post “…Be Born and a Time to Die (Ecclesiastes 3:2)” because I’ve had a rough patch since Sunday evening.

I woke up some time in the middle of the night after the Mushroom Feast (see previous post) and felt that the Guelphs and Ghibellines were in my throat having a serious sword fight.  I’m serious - I think swallowing double-edged razor blades would just about describe how my throat felt. 

And the next day when I was able to drag myself out of bed and speak to Missy Kitty, I found that I had no voice.  As everyone knows, the best treatment for laryngitis is vocal rest, so for the first time in my life I was actually able to maintain silence.

Unfortunately that did not keep the cold viruses from marching up into my head and down into my lungs, so for about three days I’ve been lingering in a bleary limbo, with a short incident of fever-induced delirium or hallucination (I’m not sure which) on Night Two thrown in just to keep things interesting.

So as a tribute to the beauty of silenzio – I give you these photos I’ve taken on the mornings that I’ve woken up in the clouds………….


But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.
Habakkuk 2:20

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

…Weep and a Time to Laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

I had occasion for both of these “times” on Sunday.  I’d seen a poster announcing the “Sagre del Fungo” (Feast of the Mushrooms) in the hamlet of San Leo Bastia while riding around on my bike one day.  I pulled up my trusty Google Maps and found that I could reach San Leo Bastia one of two ways – one was 11 km and the other 18 km.  Of course, I decided on the 11 km route.  I wrote the directions on an old rail ticket, packed up a couple of bottles of water and a granola bar, and took off for my adventure.

Everything was lovely until I took the second right turn and almost immediately started climbing a mountain – it wasn’t a hill, it was a mountain.  Switchbacks, steep inclines.  And by this time, the sun had decided to come out from behind the clouds – so I was roasting.  It wasn’t long before I was walking the bike and having a conversation with God that went something like this….”Why did I decide to do this?  Is food really this important?”  At one point, I do remember being on the verge of tears but I sucked it up and kept walking the bike.

What seemed like hours later, I crested the mountain and suddenly I was whizzing down the other side approaching the sound barrier.  For some reason, I had in my head that San Leo Bastia was on the top of the mountain – so about halfway down the mountain I applied both the front and rear brakes and pulled over to check my directions.  Scrabbling around in my bike basket, I realized that the directions must have flown out while I was going Mach V down the mountain.  This is when the tears came.  I was lost, didn’t have my directions, my breakfast brioche was long gone and the clock was indicating that I might miss the “Feast” altogether because of my late start.  I hadn’t seen one sign for the festival or San Leo Bastia – nothing.  I looked back up the mountain I had just flown down and said, “I’m not going back up that mountain – I don’t care if I have to go the 18 km way home……. that is, assuming I can find it.”

I dried my tears, hopped back on the bike, prayed that God would send me an angel and started zipping down the mountain again.  Just about the time it started getting level, I saw two cars pull out on the road.  I flagged down the second car and asked “Where is San Leo Bastia?”  I expected him to point at the top of the mountain from whence I’d just come, but instead he turned in the direction I was going and said, “Around the curv-uh, go over a leetle bridge and theen turn left.”  Hallelujah!  I was totally wrong about San Leo Bastia being on the mountain top, and I might still be able to make lunch!  I don’t know if that man was an angel, but he was definitely an answer to prayer. 

Soon I was peddling the main street of San Leo Bastia and in short order found the big white food tent (the sure sign of an Italian festa).  There was a little hut where everyone was queued up and seemed to be the way to get food, but I wasn’t sure what to do.  A young lady was standing near me, and I asked her if she spoke English.  She said “Yes”, so I asked her what I should do.  She explained the menu to me and then an older woman came up and spoke to her.  They talked for a moment, and the young lady said, “This is my mother.  You must come and sit at our table.”  I filled out a form with my menu choice, handed it to the incredibly good-looking man sitting in the hut, paid my money and went off to get something to drink at the “Drinks Window”.

While I was wandering around the Papa grabbed my arm and said something along the line of “we have wine at our table, just come sit down” – keep in mind we’re primarily speaking broken English, broken Italian and sign language.  I was seated at a table that was completely full – all stages of life, from a newborn baby to grandparent age.
Tagliatelle al sugo di funghi - I was so hungry I ate
most of it before I remembered to take a photo

Funghi Fritti
Funghi Arrosto
Funghi saltati con aglio e olio d'oliva
Cake with Vin Santo - a very sweet wine that tastes like fire

Francesca and Francesco - the Mama and Papa
Analisa, their daughter, with Ludavica
(someone else's daughter)

I had the best time – and I wish that I could adequately thank that precious Italian family for “adopting” me last Sunday.  They made my day – patiently answered all my questions (there were two or three people sitting near me who spoke beautiful English), described the cuisine and shared everything they had.  One young man even showed me the proper way to dip my cake in the Vin Santo.
The proper way to dip your cake in the Vin Santo

p.s. I took the long way home....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

...Scatter Stones and a Time to Gather Them (Ecclesiastes 3:5)

Spoleto! I hope these photos say more than I can - the Upper  Town (oldest part) is a lovely place. 

Note:  I’ve taken many of these comments from Spoleto Travel Guide (by  Martha Bakerjian, Guide)

The arch in the middle of the Ponte delle Torri and the valley below Spoleto

Spoleto is a walled town built on a hillside with most of the sites in the compact upper town.


Inhabited since prehistoric times, the lower parts of its wall are from the 6th century BC. The first Roman settlement, Spoletium, began in 241 BC and there are Roman remnants throughout Spoleto's historic center. 

The Arco di Druso (23 AD)

Above Spoleto is a medieval Rocca (fortress) and spanning the deep gorge to one side of the Rocca is Spoleto's most famous sight, Ponte delle Torri or Bridge of Towers.

Those little dots on the bridge are people
Ponte delle Torri, Bridge of the Towers, is a 14th century bridge built over the foundation of a Roman aqueduct. The bridge is about 750 feet long and at the highest point it's 262 feet above the gorge. Across the bridge is a small fortification tower.
Rocca Albornoziana, near the bridge, sits on the hilltop above Spoleto. Rocca Albornoziana was built on the foundation of the Roman acropolis in the 14th century and served as the seat for local pontifical governors. It has six towers, two large courtyards, and some beautiful frescoes.

Piazza del Duomo and the Duomo are at the foot of a scenic stairway. Erected on the site of a primitive Christian temple, the original Duomo was built in the 12th century. Its Romanesque facade was remodeled during the Renaissance and now has beautiful pink stone, 8 rose windows, and gold mosaics.

Fountain in P. del Mercato

Piazza del Mercato, one of Spoleto's central squares, was once the site of the Roman Forum. There's an interesting fountain built 1746-1748. Around the square you'll find bars, gelato, and some restaurants.

Church of S. Ansano

Notice the column fragment in the church wall

The Roman Arch of Drusus, built in 23AD was the entrance to the Roman Forum. Nearby is an ancient temple under what is now the Church of S. Ansano (the arch is to the left of the church in the photo above).

The Roman Theater was built in the first century.  (From the Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria) - a gruesome event occurred there in 1319 when 400 Guelph supporters were rounded up by the Spoletans (probably Ghibelline supporters), had their throats slit and were dumped in a pile on the stage of the Roman Theater and burned.
The Guelphs and Ghibellines almost make the Romans look tame - they took their politics seriously!

I could see the Roman Theater from my bathroom window looking straight out .......... and to the left is the view looking straight down. The lady is walking in front of the Church of S. Agata, built in the 11th Century, but no longer used for worship.

I loved my room on the corner (# 47) - not only did it have a view of the antiquities and the pedistrian-only Via S. Agata below, but it had a little balcony.  If you're ever in Spoleto, I would recommend Hotel Aurora (unless you must have total luxury) - it's a great price and Antonella bakes fresh cakes for breakfast every day. On the afternoon I arrived, the first thing I sensed when approaching the hotel was the smell of cakes baking.  Ah!