Posts Tagged With: mountains

Earthquakes, Traumatic Treks, Castrum Sarnani and Opera…

Buongiorno,

I wrote the blog below before the terrible earthquake struck central Italy yesterday morning.  I’ve experienced two or three earthquakes now in Italy and I thought the others were quite strong but nothing like this. The epicenter, where the most damage was done was only 24 miles away as the crow flies. I woke up at 3.36, like I think almost everyone else did in central Italy and it felt like I was in a washing machine. It’s very difficult to orientate yourself, or even get out of bed when everything is shaking so violently and things are falling from the walls and smashing around you. There wasn’t any warning – it doesn’t slowly warm up, it just hits. And it went on for such a long time, well over 2 minutes. Myself and the neighbours all convened outside. Each year in August, families from Rome come to stay in their holiday homes in the hamlet so there were about 10 of us outside in our night clothes on the road for 3 or 4 hours too scared to go back inside. We gradually began to get dribs and drabs of information about those that weren’t so lucky. Watching the terrible scenes unfolding from the worst hit places has just been heartbreaking. Over 240 people are dead and there are still lots missing.  Obviously terrible things like this happen all the time but rather unjustly, when it’s so close to home, it really puts things into perspective. My neighbours and I have all been very lucky.

There have been dozens of aftershocks, lots quite strong and each time everyone rushes outside again. The families from Rome have all gone back to their main homes and so there’s just the core of my little hamlet here now. It’s a lovely community spirit and everyone watches over everyone else though so I don’t ever feel too alone in that regard.

The house is full of cracks, a couple I’m a bit worried about but apart from a few glasses and a mirror broken, all is pretty much as it was. Someone will come today to check that all is ok and I hope it will be. There are 30 families in Sarnano who are not so lucky and have had to move out of their homes as they’ve been classed as too dangerous to stay in. AirBnB have a disaster relief scheme and I’ve offered my spare rooms on that, even though I’m a bit nervous to sleep in the house myself until the aftershocks calm down a bit. Last night I slept in my tent. Of course, life goes on and you can’t not sleep at home for fear of something that will probably (fingers crossed!) never happen, but at the moment it’s just not a very relaxing thought sleeping under concrete whilst there are still aftershocks (even one as I write!). In fact, there were at least another couple of tremors last night, one fairly large but under canvas (and putting aside the concerns about everyone else), it’s less scary and more awe-inducing!

Lots of friends and family have been in touch worried about me so thank you for your concerns and well wishes, it’s much appreciated 🙂

So that’s the earthquake. My thoughts (and hopefully more practical things like blood and clothes in the not too distant future!) are with the people of the towns worst hit. On a lighter note (though admittedly not much the first part of the update!) here’s everything else I’ve been up to!

Last time I wrote was a month or so ago so there’s another mass of things to update on. Summer here in Le Marche just seems to be very busy with things to do and people to see which is nice of course. Anyway, first things first.

The walk in Gran Sasso I was about to embark on the last time I wrote…

It was absolute stunning. I need to go back there again under my own steam to take more photos. However, I feel like our “day out” could be made into a disaster film without using much imagination. It was not a 10 hour trek as planned; it was 16 hours and consisted of more climbing than hiking (a particular challenge given I’ve never climbed before!). The fixed ropes that should have already been in place were not there, ladders fixed to the side of the mountain were missing the majority of their screws and rocks the size of footballs fell on our heads (thankfully  only on the ones that had helmets). We got down to the bottom of the mountain on our return just before nightfall and then had to try and find our way in pitch black to the cars. Nobody had phone reception to call for help, nobody had enough water (mine fell out of my bag), angry horses chased us and the angry wolf-killing dogs protecting them chased us too for good measure. And to cap it all I broke my very expensive camera…. On the whole it wasn’t an enjoyable experience and I eventually got into bed 24 hours later; an exhausted, sunburnt, aching mess. I haven’t quite worked up the courage to go out for any more group excursions since!

The views were stunning though…

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Valle dei Tre Santi

However, I have been on more successful walks and Valle dei Tre Santi was one of them: to discover the Valley of the Three Saints. It was a local walk, about 12km long and included some lovely little waterfalls and a “gola” (basically where two large rocks/mountains meet and leave a gap).

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Monte Vettore

I also finally made it up to Monte Vettore, the highest mountain in the Sibillini range at 2,476 meters. It’s the highest place I’ve ever walked up to so I’m pleased about that! It’s been on my list of things to do for months 🙂 Here are some photos…

Around Sarnano

I also had some visitors here so did some of my usual “tourist” route activities with them!

Montemonaco

We also went to Il Tiglio, a very plush Michelin starred restaurant in Montemonaco. We went for the “degustazione” menu – a tasting menu where you try a bit of everything on the menu. I had a vegetarian version which was very tasty. I think the best bit was just the sheer creativity… as a starter a branch came out with “berries” stuck on made of parmesan etc. Pudding was a sort of custard poured on the table with fruit and granola type stuff which sounds pretty normal but then the waiter poured liquid nitrogen over it to freeze it! It was a very interesting dining experience all around.  On the way back we stopped off in the town and took some photos…

Rocca Varano

We also made it to Rocca Varano, a castle on the outskirts of Camerino. I’ve often driven past and wanted to investigate. It looks particularly elegant at night, all lit up. So we headed there and predictably it was shut! We still had a wander around though. I’ll have to go back and explore the inside at some point.

Pescara

Pescara is another place that’s been on my list of things to do for months. It’s a city about 2 hours drive from here on the coast. I met a friend for lunch and a quick walk around the town so didn’t do too much exploring but it looks quite a nice town on first impressions.

Opera at the Sferisterio

I’ve also been to see the opera at the Sferisterio, a sort of ancient semi-circular Colosseum in Macerata. It was quite an experience. I was pleased to note that most of the Italians don’t understand what on earth is going on either. Even with the subtitles which were flashed up at the sides, it’s difficult to understand what’s happening because it’s all in ancient Italian that often doesn’t bare any resemblance to Italian nowadays. I think they could have been a little clearer as well in terms of the scenes and costumes (it took me a while to work out that there were two separate main women as they both looked the same, dressed the same and sounded the same…. note: I am reliably informed by my opera singing expert friend that they didn’t in fact sound the same).

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Castrum Sarnani and the Serafino

Finally, last week, we had Castrum Sarnani, a big medieval festival in Sarnano that happens every August. It’s a great event with things going on every day for a week or so. It kicks off with the Serafino, a competition between the four zones in Sarnano where they compete to win things like tug-of-war, tree-trunk cutting, tree climbing and a race with a jug of water on your head!

During the taking of these photos above, I got stung by a wasp. Over a week on, my finger has only just gone back down to normal size!

Once the Serafino has finished, the real party starts. Sarnano is filled with medieval demonstrations – candle making, flour milling, juggling, singing and falconry. There are 4 or 5 different “taverns” to eat at within town and you can pay for everything using special coins made by the resident blacksmith! It’s just a really lovely event – I highly recommend it!

I think that sums up the last few weeks. I hope you’re all having an excellent August 🙂

x

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Alpe di Sue-si (Siusi really but I’ve renamed them after myself)

Buongiorno all,

How is everyone? I had a lovely few days in Trentino. I took about a million photos. We stayed in a lovely hotel called Hotel Pinei which is in Castelrotto (not the town itself, the hotel was in the middle of nowhere but in the Castelrotto vicinity). It was a great setting with views across one of the valley towns called Ortisei. We stayed full board-ish (I say “ish” because although lunch wasn’t included, a merenda/snack large enough to be lunch was).

We spent the first couple of days skiing/snowboarding in Val Gardena and Alpe di Suisi. I haven’t snowboarded that much in my life in one go. I think there might actually be a tiny bit of definition to my stomach as a result just of those two days! I also make a new discovery: “bombardino”, a sort of alcoholic hot sickly yellow drink with whipped cream on top. Delicious!

The third day we went walking on the same slopes we’d been skiing on the previous two days. It was a much more relaxed way of seeing the mountains and a good opportunity for me to practice my photography without worrying about falling on my camera 🙂 I thought we’d have needed snow shoes but in fact there were lots of well trodden paths which were good to walk on. If any of you go and fancy doing something a bit different, they also have horse drawn carts to take you around and bikes with snow tires! In fact, we even saw some llamas being walked down the mountain. Perhaps llama walking is a thing there too.

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The scenery was spectacular

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Tracks in the snow

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I think this is a refuge – it just wasn’t open. There are lots of refuges (rifugi) dotted around though where you can have a drink and get something to eat

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The mountains are sprinkled with these adorable little wooden huts. I wonder how much they cost!

The other place we went to was Laghetto (little lake) di Fiè which, despite the lack of snow in the surrounding area, was completely iced over. Apparently you can ice-skate on it. I did not take my chances and nor was anyone else. The lake is well worth a visit as it’s set high up in some woods and there’s lots of walks that start from there.

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Laghetto di Fie’

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This was taken just around the corner from the lake

I think that about sums up the holiday. I’ll leave you with a photo from Filotrano taken a week or so back. It’s all so pretty everywhere at the moment, it looks like all the fields have been combed!

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Pretty pretty pretty…

Hope you all have an excellent week!

x

 

 

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Dog attacks, the abandoned village and gigs!

Buongiorno a tutti!

Well it’s been a very mixed couple of weeks here.

Generally I thoroughly recommend being an ex-pat. Living abroad and learning a different language and about a different culture is eye-opening. Every day is exciting because there’s always something new, something weird on the TV, a strange festival you’ve never heard of or a new phrase to learn. I don’t know whether that lets up at some point after years in the country, but at the moment I find it just as refreshing for the soul as ever almost three years on. However, being an ex-pat does come with its down sides. The most difficult thing by far is being away from friends and family and rather than it getting easier with time, it gets harder as everyone, including me rather depressingly gets older and frailer. It’s only a 2 hour flight to get back to the UK from where I live in Italy but it takes a full day by the time you take into account getting to and from airports etc. Then of course it’s difficult to drop everything in your new country because you’ve built a life there – work commitments etc. And herein lies the heart of the matter, deciding to live away from family and friends because the weather is nicer and it’s just more exciting, seems an inherently selfish choice! It becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile that choice when something bad happens at “home”. Last week, my grandmother died. So, it’s been a sad few days but I feel somewhat cheered that she fully supported my life over here. Despite being almost ninety she used to always read by blog and when I came home was full of questions.

On a far less depressing note…. I finally got to go to a place I’ve been meaning to for the last few months, Laturo. Laturo is a little village in the middle of the Abruzzi Mountains. In the 1950’s there were 50 families consisting of about 200 people living there. By the end of the 1970’s the last family had left and the village was left to go to ruin. It really is in the middle of nowhere, there are no roads to get there. I had attempted to come here with a group a couple of months back but I mistook directions. Now some of the houses have been bought, vegetable patches have been planted, a new church has been built and other aspects are all slowly being restored with the help of a group called Amici di Laturo (Friends of Laturo). We met a few other walkers/explorers whilst we were there and were offered a beer with them! I hate beer. I know that people’s tastes change over time and I’ve actually grown to like olives and coffee when before I would have thought I was being poisoned. So every so often, I try beer. Usually I’m left wondering why beer manufacturers go to such lengths to make the stuff when the dregs of my washing up water probably taste the same. Anyway, in Laturo, drinking with some random men, I discovered a beer I actually like. But it was a local artisan beer that the guy had bought with him that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find it again! Anyway, what nice people you can meet out and about 🙂

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Overlooking the  mountains…

I also went to see an Italian / Irish music band last week at a pub in Civitanova. You might remember a few weeks ago I went to see an Italian / American Country music band and was gobsmacked at how authentic the music and accents were. This time was the same – authentic even to the point of not understanding half of the words.  Anyway, that was a lovely night and I discovered that the pub does a good veggie burger meal!

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The Green Mussels 🙂

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And my doodle of them on a place mat!

Weather wise it’s been a very interesting week! At the beginning of the week there was so much wind I’m surprised it wasn’t called a hurricane! One tree blew over by the house blocking one road and a big branch fell down blocking another. It’s been good for wood collecting though to top up my supplies which I’m a bit worried about to be honest! Yesterday we had our first snowfall and today it continues! Hopefully I’ll be able to get out and do some snowboarding this week.

In other news, I’m just in the process of getting house insurance. Buying insurance here isn’t a simple case of going online to one of the comparison sites. I can only think of one here and it gives you about 3 very expensive options.  You can go to specific companies and they might be able to give you a quote but even that’s rare. It seems an absolutely archaic way of going about things, actually having to SPEAK to someone! Still, I braced myself and contacted my Insurance Man who sold me the car insurance. I told him how much I paid last year and what the policy covered (that was an online thing but for stupid reasons, I couldn’t renew it this year) and he came back with a much cheaper and better policy. So perhaps this archaic way of going about things isn’t really all that bad.

I’m on a “making bread stocks” mission at the moment. I’ve just made several sourdough loaves and next up is pita bread, hamburger buns and pizza bases. I’ve also resolved to make a new recipe every week so working my way through my new Christmas recipe book as we speak (thank you Mum & Dad!).

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And this morning I narrowly escaped (in my opinion!) being mauled to death by four angry dogs. There’s a breed here local to this part of Italy, Pastore Maremmano. They protect sheep flocks from wolves so they’re pretty vicious when they need to be. And very, very protective. I went for a walk this morning nearby. I could hear the gentle jingling of sheep bells but didn’t think much of it. When I turned a corner, two of these large dogs came running at me, teeth bared.  I thought that was the end of me! They slowed down and followed me up the road and then another one came running behind me barking. Then there was another one up ahead that had thankfully just veered off the road so I could at least head back home and then another one joined in at the side to ensure I was properly scared away (I was, I was!!). I shall not be walking here on my own for a while.

I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks here. I hope you’ve all had good weekends! I’ll leave you with a photo I took on the mountain above the Garulla Rifugio last week…

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xxx

 

 

 

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