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Basilicata and Umbria, April - May 2017


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We are spending the night in Anagni, a hilltown in Lazio south of Rome, an hour's drive from the airport (FCO). We arrived at 5:30, checked in to our hotel, then walked through town and out into the countryside (3 miles - we have to keep walking daily for our walk1000miles project!).

This town is beautiful and lively. Thanks to @Valerie for recommending it. There are Roman walls, Roman gates rebuilt in medieval times, buildings from the 12th and 13th centuries when Anagni produced four popes. The cathedral crypt is covered in frescoes (which we did not see!! yet).

There was a food festival going on and the two main piazzas were lined with food booths - artichokes, sticks of fried potato slices, pastries etc. We save our appetite for supper and ate at the restaurant below the hotel. Wonderful. A modern twist to Italian classics.

Tomorrow, onward to Basilicata, a 3+ hour drive. The cold snap is ending and temps for the next week look good. Mid 60s with sun. A bit cooler and wetter next weekend, then back to good.

Flight: British Airways, London Heathrow to Rome FCO.
Hotel: Le Stanza del Duomo, Anagni. Inside the city walls, beside Porta Santa Maria, in an ancient palace that was the Cardinal’s home in the sixteenth-century.
Dinner: Convivium


View from hotel balcony.​


Walking music.​


Food festival.​




More windows.​


My pasta. Spaghettoni Artigianali Trafilati al Bronzo Cacio e Pepe, Pomodori Secchi e Pesto di Mandorle (homemade spaghetti with cheese and pepper, dried tomatoes and pesto made from almonds).​
On our walk outside town, on the north side in the direction of Rome, we saw signs for Via Francigena, the pilgrimage trail that runs from France (some say from Canterbury in the UK) to Rome. We walked along it but it was on a road, not a footpath. What is that trail doing down here? Must be people walking to Rome from the south?

This is part of the same trail that @Red Red Wine walked in her book (that I just read).


Via Francigena in Anagni.​
Sunday morning we had time before we left Anagni to visit the cathedral. On the lower level is a crypt covered in frescoes.

From Wikipedia: The crypt contains the tombs of St Magnus of Anagni, the patron of the city, and of St Secundina of Anagni. The frescoes covering all the walls and ceiling are among the best preserved examples of Romanesque/Byzantine art in Italy, and form a single iconographic scheme, which includes natural philosophy, saints, the Apocalypse, and the Old Testament Ark of the Covenant. The unrestored Cosmati floor is in excellent condition.


Anagni Cathedral and Museum.

For the crypt we had to wait outside until the lights came on. We were standing in front of many signs. Don't go into the crypt when the lights are off. Don't go back the way you came. Wait. No photos. The lights will stay on for 20 minutes and you have to leave when they go off.

We waited by ourselves for about 10 minutes and then the lights came on. The crypt was magnificent. Beautiful tiled floor. Everything else covered in frescoes.

Anagni's history goes back to the Etruscans and then the Romans. You can see it in the town wall across from our hotel.


Town wall.


The hotel we stayed in - Le Stanze del Duomo.

It was a 3.5 hour drive on uncrowded autostrada to Trivigno, a small hill town in Basilicata, east of Potenza.
We stopped at an Autogrill for coffee. We have fond memories of stopping at Autogrills in our early travel days in Italy.



We had an excellent vegetarian Sunday lunch with Valerie whose house we are staying in. She is going to France and we are looking after her cat Lucano. Valerie made baked pasta and a dessert pizza! Sweet pizza bottom with strawberry jam to look like tomato sauce, slices of strawberries to look like fresh tomato and the mozzarella replacement? Shaved pear!


Dessert pizza.

We went over the house details and the cat feeding routine, then Valerie drove us around on the lanes to show us the good walking areas. We were up on a ridge coming to a farm when three big dogs ran to the car, barking and running in front. It was hard to not run them over. Valerie crept the car along, then turned around and we got out of there with the dogs still barking and chasing. All while the farmer stood watching. We won't be walking down that road!

After a walk around town, we visited with friends of Valerie's. We have to figure out how to refuse offers of coffee and alcohol. Valerie has it figured out. It was too late for coffee for us but we figured that was better than alcohol. But there is no refusing the homemade liqueur, so we ended up with both. Next time, no coffee.

We spent the night at a B&B down the hill from the town.

Monday. Valerie left early in the morning and we were moved into her house by 9am. First thing, coffee and cornetto at the cafe. We spent a few days in Trvigno two years ago and we loved the cafe. It is run by one woman who does everything. Fantastic coffee!

Then we walked all round town. Out on the new path to a viewpoint, along another path to a small church, around the outskirts of the town. To the shop for groceries. There is a good alimentari type of shop, a small deli, a fruit and vegetable shop, a post office, and two cafes. One cafe is frequented by the retired male community and their small dogs. They watch as you drive to the parking area and then walk past. We go to the other cafe, even though Steve is male and retired.

Lunch at home (fresh eggs left for us from Valerie's neighbor).

After lunch we drove out to try a walk Valerie suggested.
This closed road looked like a good place for a walk but after 30 minutes we could hear barking dogs ahead, and I think they were the same ones from yesterday, so we turned back.


The old road from Trivigno to Ansi.

I made dinner at "home" tonight. There are no restaurants in Trivigno but there is a bakery that makes very good bread and we are told we can get a focaccia style pizza from them in the evening.

It took us three travel nights to get here, but now we are settled for nine nights. The house is very comfortable and the cat is getting friendlier. We thought we were in great walking shape, but walking up and down around this hill town is challenging, especially when we were dragging our suitcases in.

Last night I left digital breadcrumbs so we could find the house again in this maze of narrow pedestrian streets (photos on my phone of each turn).
After not being sick once this winter, I feel like I am getting a cold. Let's hope it is allergies because they weather looks great for this week. Sunny and up to 70F!
Well, I have a cold. Sore throat, tired, running nose. Not too bad. It was very cold here last night and I felt chilled. We kept the heat on all night long (!!!) and now the house is warm. The temperature swings are extreme. It was up to 70F today in bright sunshine, then clouds moved in during the afternoon and night temps are around 40F. Similar to our mountain weather in Santa Fe, but very different from the weather where we live now in the UK. Hence, the cold I think. Now I am wearing a fashionable scarf to keep my neck warm and will have tea with lemon and honey when I finish this post.

How interesting to live with a cat again. Our irreplaceable Buddy has been gone over two years and for the first time last night a cat was sleeping in bed with us, curled up at my feet. Valerie has Lucano (the cat) on a strict diet, but he is not fat in the least so we are not following this diet!

We did some grocery shopping in the village in the morning - fresh bread and some vegetables. Then we drove about 30 minutes to Castelmezzano, the most well-known town in this area because it has a famous zip-line from it to another mountain town. We were there two years ago with Valerie, when that zipline was new. Today the town was packed with tourists (Italian tourists) and the zipline doesn't start until May! (I am NOT going to do it, neither is Steve.) We could not get into the main car park, so parked along the road with everyone else.

There are several hiking trails from Castelmezzano but the map I have is not the right scale and I can't see the details. We walked through town and found one hiking trail sign, so took that. The town is built into the top of a mountain. We walked up and up through the town to a paved path above the town to a small church. We could have kept going but thought walking for an hour was good enough considering I am not well. Easy downhill return to town. The signs were sparse and you had to guess at several intersections. No nice red-white-red stripes painted along the way to show the trail. At one point we saw a sign laying on the ground! There were people on the trail, but not that many. Most were in town wandering along the lanes to a viewpoint.

We tried for lunch in town but one restaurant was too fancy, others were full, so we drove home and had a late lunch here. Then a nap. Then a walk around town stopping at the bakery for foccacia-style pizza (vegan and very good!).


Beautiful Castelmezzano​
Pauline...hope you recover quickly. I had a horrible experience two years ago with a bronchial infection that lasted almost two weeks and left me weak for the entire month. I don't wish that on anybody. :(
Pauline, I am so sorry that you are sick! The temperature swings sound just like where I live now - It was 65 degrees yesterday and I woke up to snow on my car this morning! I hope the tea with lemon & honey works! Are you spoiling Lucano or not following his diet for your food? :0

Take care! Enjoy Italy!
Hi Pauline, I'm sorry that you caught a cold. Wishing you a speedy recover. I'm really enjoying reading your reports. The town you are staying in very nice and looks to be in beautiful surroundings. Thank you for sharing and continue to have a wonderful time.
I am getting better. Today we drove into the park (Parco Gallipoli Cognato Piccole Dolomiti Lucane) to the park headquarters to get hiking information. I had hoped to get this in Castelmezzano but the tourist office was closed even though we got there well before noon. Turns out it is closed for the season and does not open until June. The park headquarters are in a hamlet called Palazzo, a few miles before the larger town of Accettura. You could easily miss the office. It is a small log cabin beside the entrance to a camping area.

The woman in the office gave us the information she had, but they don't have hiking maps or even books for visitors. They have one printed copy. You have to download an app. I had the brochure downloaded to iBooks on my iPad and had that with me. The hike descriptions are in Italian but she printed out a few English translations. The information for the walks is not well presented. You can't figure out where the hikes start and the maps are unusable. She pointed us to the start of a hike she thought we would like (Sentiero 706).

We drove down the road to the Palazzo main area (park office, cafe, botanical garden, adventure play area) and parked but could not find the start of the walk. We asked at the cafe. At one point three people, one smoking, were huddled over their copy of the hiking descriptions book and they could not figure it out. Finally they said they thought it was down the road.

We walked about 50 feet down the road and there were the trail markers. But they did not have the same numbers as in the description we had. I think they recently changed all the trail numbers in the online material (and the printed books they have) but have not changed the hiking signs. Only once, at the end of the trail, did we see a sign with the correct number. So different from hiking in the UK!!

We started out with me reading the English translation of the wrong hike, so got a bit of extra walking. We recovered soon and were back on track. We went off the trail to climb up to the ruins of a medieval building - Gallipolis - but there was not much there. We had our sandwiches on a stone bench near there.

We walked for 3 1/2 hours, about 8 kms, with a lot of uphill and downhill, through gorgeous oak forest. It was warm (high 60sF) and sunny. The trail was dirt, except for the last mile which was on a (not busy) road. Some of the downhill was steep and the trail was dry and rocky. But most of it was delightful. At one point there was a view to Castelmezzano where we were yesterday. We were serenaded by cow bells for much of the walk. We saw them several times. They had interesting horns. Early on in the hike we came across a heard of cinghiali - wild boars - adults and young ones. There were about 30 of them. We could hear their grunting. Eventually they all ran off, but we got a good look at them.


View to Castelmezzano.​


Oak forest. Hiking sign does not have the number of the trail we are doing.​


Cinghiali - wild boars! Babies and adults.​

I was still coughing on the trail but was feeling better. When we got back to the car around 4pm, we decided to not drive on to Accettura as we had planned, but drove home so I could rest.

Tonight we walked up to the bakery for fresh bread for breakfast tomorrow and got slices of their focaccia pizza again. That made an easy dinner.

When we arrived and Steve set up my computer, he realized he forgot a mousepad and grabbed a brochure that Valerie had left for us. I just looked at it, and it has a lot of hiking information, exactly what I have been looking for. Good thing I found it at the start of the trip!
A few photos of Castelmezzano from yesterday.


View from the trail above Castelmezzano.​


The trail high above the town.​


View from the church above town.​


Hiking sign not being much help.​
The cafe in Trivigno during the part of the day when everything is closed. At other times people are usually sitting outside.


Cafe in Trivigno.​

The cat we are cat sitting. You can see the toy I made him last year in the background. I am working on a new one.


Try the loop road around the village I pointed out. It is a good walk. And the Laghi di Monticchio is a nice place to walk, as is around Aliano.

(Lucano's "diet" was because he *was* getting fat and had some health problems. His feedings don't take into account the fact that he goes and eats and three neighbors who put out food every day! He is not going hungry on his "diet"! :D )
Pauline...hope you recover quickly. I had a horrible experience two years ago with a bronchial infection that lasted almost two weeks and left me weak for the entire month. I don't wish that on anybody. :(
I'm in my second week of one now. Really hard to shake. I'm wishing good thoughts, that you will be on the mend soon.
We spent the day in Matera with @Wendy&Rob !!

No sore throat today but sneezing and nose blowing, with a side of coughing. I think Letizia may be right - allergies. Everything is in bloom.
By a nice coincidence, Wendy and Rob are in Matera some of the same days we are in Trivigno. We decided to meet in Matera. Google Maps said 1 hour drive from Trivigno to Matera, so we left an extra 30 minutes to park and get to our meeting place. Once in the car when I set the Garmin GPS, I find it is 1 hour 20 mins, so there goes our extra 30 mins. The drive to Matera was easy, but once we got into the city center near the Sassi (the area with the ancient cave houses), the traffic was thick and the parking lots full. We found a spot on the street (2 Euro for 6 hours parking) and with map in hand headed to find Wendy and Rob at the San Pietro Caveoso church.

We got so lost! We have been to Matera only once, for one night, two years ago. I misread the map and thought the church was above the Sassi (it was at the bottom, by the gorge), so we tried walking along the top but ran into blocked off roads and headed down through the steep and small lanes of the Sassi. I was able to take us to the hotel we stayed in that time (like a homing pidgeon but that was not where we were heading).

Texts were not going through but finally I was able to phone Rob's US number and talk to him, but I wasn't sure where we were so he wasn't able to tell me where to go. He said to look for the church - there are many, many churchs in Matera! Eventually, quite behind schedule, we found each other. In hindsight, I should not have thought everything would come back to me when we arrived and should have done some research to where we were going.


The Sassi in Matera.​

We had not seen Wendy and Rob since the San Diego GTG in 2010, just before we moved to the UK. With SlowEurope/SlowTrav/Facebook friends you feel like you see them, but nothing beats meeting in the non-online world! We walked through the Sassi, back up to the talk, found a casual restaurant and had a leisurely lunch. They showed us their hotel and we saw their large cave room - a luxury cave! Beautiful high ceilings with arches.


Wendy and Steve in front of the hotel.​

Apparently there are two or three public holidays this week in Italy, which explains Tuesdays large crowds in Castelmezzano and today's traffic in Matera.

The part of Basilicata that we are in is mountainous and wooded. As we got closer to Matera, the scenery changed to open fields, vines and olive groves. We spent more time catching up than seeing Matera, but I enjoyed being there.

On our way out we found a bakery in the Sassi area and got the Matera bread (and torelli and some dessert for tonight). The bread from Matera is special - and is recognized as a special local product.



Easy drive home but I spent most of the car ride sneezing (Steve was driving). We still can't work out if what I have is allergies or a cold, or which one would be better, but it isn't that bad and we are probably doing the same things we would have been doing if I had been well.

We picked up a few things at the local shop and I made dinner at home.

I am starting to recognize people, not just the old guys outside the cafe, as we walk through town. Some people delight in saying "hello" to us because they know we are English speakers. Last night we walked by the cafe and "hello" rang out from several people (probably Valerie and Bryan's friends). Tonight it was only the older generation and it was buona sera.

Cat is back on his diet. He is asleep on the bed as I sit at the nearby desk.
Miles today: 5.2 (using the health app on my phone which is not that accurate).
Flights climbed: 24.
Pauline, I'm enjoying your report and great photos. Glad you finally got up with Wendy and Rob. Matera is very easy to get lost in!

If you think you might have allergies, the thing that has really worked for me is Flonase nasal spray (generic name Fluticasone). I don't know if you can get it there, but it is over the counter in the US. I used to have bad spring allergies as a child, but they tapered off when we were living on the East Coast. Then when we moved to California, the pollen allergies came back with a vengeance, and I could hardly bear to go outside from April through June -- just when the weather was getting really nice -- because it made me so miserable. Finally I went to an allergist who suggested Flonase, and it changed my life.

It is not the antihistamine kind of nasal spray they tell you to stay away from because of the rebound effect. I'm not sure how it works, but you can google it if you want to find out more about it.
I was hit by allergies when we moved to the UK. Steve too. I tried antihistamines but did not like them. I have a natural nasal spray with me and will try it. I'll look out for Flonase. Steve, who is our medical expert, now thinks it seems like a cold. It is worse at night.

The last time we were in this area, exactly 2 years ago, I had a swollen eye. I was bit by a spider (I think) before we left England. I had to take antihistamines for that!

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