On Thursday we were picked up by Maretta and driven up into the Apennine mountain range that runs down the middle of the country. This is her favorite area of the country and much of her research comes from here.
We left Rome on one of the main highways (Autostrade) and headed east. The views were beautiful, with small towns sitting on the tops and sides of huge hills. Most of the buildings were painted white or light colors and would sparkle when the sun hit them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get photos easily because we were traveling at 70+ miles per hour, but they were beautiful.
As we moved further east, the mountains became more rugged and exciting.
We entered the National Park of Abrezza and spent the rest of the day inside the park area. Our first stop was to the town where Maretta’s father was from…..I think that it was called Pescaciroli. We enjoyed driving thru the small town and ended up at the top of a hill where there were beautiful vistas…
Directly behind us was the local cemetery and Maretta had brought flowers to place at her Mother and Father’s grave so we entered to wait for her. The cemetery was very different from any at home. It was filled with all types of crypts, sepulchers and graves. Each had a photo of the person who was buried there and many of them had lit candles and fresh flowers placed on the graves. It was a quite and quaint place…..
] We next drove into a campground area that was mostly deserted since it is no longer vacation time in Italy. We walked for about 1.5 miles down a blacktop road, enjoying the beautiful mountains and other scenery….
There was a small stream running parallel to the road…..
We enjoyed the walk back down to the car park. Here I am with Maretta…
We drove to the town of Villa Barrea where we had another of their “light” lunches at a wonderful cafe. Michael and I each ordered a pasta, planning for that to be our entire meal, but unknown to us, Maretta added a few other items to the meal. So, the first thing to arrive was Bruschetta , 3 slices of bread covered with herbed tomatoes and 3 slices covered with a fresh Ricotta cheese….we are talking REALLY fresh….like made that morning!!!! It was so light and creamy.
The first course was pasta….Michael had Ravioli filled with Mozzarella and spinach. Differently from our version, it did not have a heavy sauce on it, but was simply drizzled with a light olive oil and garnished with sage leaves.
My first course was Gnocchi (pronounced “Yonkee”) which are a potato based pasta. This one had a very light meat sauce on it. They were very dense in texture, but light in taste.
Maretta had two first courses….the first was a flat pasta with chopped Truffles and the second was a tomato sauce with basil.
Then came another surprise……Maretta had ordered a lamb main course for us. Now, lamb is not a favorite of mine, but this was so mild and tender and was wonderful. It was cut into tiny, tiny cubes and put onto skewers and then grilled. It was excellent.
Final course was coffee, tea and cookies. One was a cake type cookie that had a fig filling. The other was a very light almond based cookie. Maretta called these “Good and ugly” cookies, so named because they are ugly (dropped dough rather than something formed) and the are so GOOD!!!!
Our next stop of the day was to the town of “Civizella de Alfedna” which is a wonderful lake town up in the mountains. The lake was formed many years ago to provide electric power to the town and apparently you can sometimes see the old church bell tower in the middle of the lake. It was a beautiful area…..
We finally returned to the original town that we started from and walked around a local botanical area. There were some beautiful plants and trees and even a small zoo….
This small church was in the middle of the town square…..
The final stop was to the church where Maretta was baptized. The church was dominated by a statue of a Black Madonna. Apparently women from Africa were brought to this area and this particular one did various miracles that brought her to sainthood. It was a great day and a wonderful opportunity to see a part of Italy that I didn’t know existed!!!!