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Installments of Italia: Day Two

Day Two was an excellent introduction to some of the main themes that would pound themselves into my head for the remainder of my time in Italy. Here they are in cliffsnotes format:

  • Italy in June is hot as Hell and dry as your mom (in Hell).
  • Most architecture in Italy is far older than anything in the U.S.
  • Most architecture in Italy is far cooler than anything in the U.S.
  • When traveling internationally, eat, drink and potty when you can.

I woke up, we ate and piled into the three rental cars semi-immediately. Armed with a paper map and a GPS for ONE car (this will come into play later), we drove about an hour northwest to Castiglione del Lago, the castle on the lake. En route I snapped a picture or two out the car window. If you’ve never been, this area of Italy is pretty hilly. There might be miles and miles of empty hills or fields, then a small town on top of one hill, then miles and miles of empty hills before the next little town. Here’s a good example:

Just some random building (house?) out in the hills.

The plan was to take a dip in the lake and then explore the castle and surrounding town. It was unfortunate however, that when we arrived the lake smelled a little bit like death. Not like pollution; more like the cleaner, natural, ‘decaying organic matter’ type of death. That didn’t stop a few of our party of 12 from venturing in up to their knees, ignoring the smell for about five minutes, then presumably regretting their decision for the rest of the day. I apologize that I have no close up pictures of the lake but I can assure you, it looked just like a lake.

Next we got lunch at a nearby restaurant and gave a wide berth to items on the menu that were marked “Seafood – From the Lake”.

Then we got to the highlight of the day; the castle itself and the surrounding town, which were at the top of a giant hill. We walked to the top and entered the town, then stopped in a giant church to cool off. It had to be at least 90 outside, but in the ancient, non-air conditioned church it was probably around 70, which we were very grateful for. Praise Jesus!

Your Lord, Jesus Christ.

Refreshed, we continued towards the castle. On the way there were cute little side streets and arches.

Cute little side street.

Cute little side street and arch.

At the base of the castle, we crossed a plaque dedicated to the castle. Underneath it was a small black and white photo that had probably been untouched for decad- oh. Well, there’s my uncle Roy, inheriting ALL the curses.

The spirits are peaceful.

The spirits are vengeful.

After saying some Hail Mary’s for protection, we paid the fee and entered Castiglione del Lago. What immediately struck me was how confusing the artwork on the ceiling was. From what I understand it was created in the 1500’s, so the dragon in the first picture makes sense because that’s before dragons became extinct. What I don’t understand though is why the angel in the second picture is committing suicide on top of a naked guy who just committed suicide. The 1500’s were a savage and naked time.

His woman doesn’t seem very impressed; I guess some things stayed the same.

And the angel spake, saying “Lo, whenst thou impale thyself trouserless on thy gleaming broadsword, angle thy pointy end of thy blade towards the heavens, that I might join thee.”

Nope, not weird at all.

We passed through a super long and narrow tunnel that ran the perimeter of one entire side of the castle wall, and climbed some old stone spiral staircase to reach the upper ramparts.

The highest tower; we ended up climbing to the top.

The sweatpatch begins.

We basically walked the length of the entire castle perimeter, along the walls.

Last stop was the top of the highest tower, where I obeyed the posted signs diligently.

“Lean out”? Seems kind of dangerous, but I guess I should…

My cousin Jessie and I.

Having walked the perimeter, we left the castle and headed back to town to get the first of many gelatos. Each one was delicious. We also passed a sassy little boutique.

Check out that SASS!

We were a little bit tired by this point; the jetlag, the walking and steps, and the ever present heat taking their toll. We’d seen just about everything we’d come here to see, and it was time to go home. This became a bit of a dilemma.

My uncle Peter is adventurous and is apparently a speed demon behind the wheel. On the way here, we were sure not to let him lead OR take the GPS, as he likely would have lost all of us. He wanted to go home a different way than the way we came in order to see some new roads and countryside, as well as maybe stop at a market and get some wine. He’s been to Italy and sort of knows the deal with the roads, (and also has an excellent sense of direction), so if that’s what he wanted to do it’d be fine. He might get a little lost, but there was complete confidence that he’d find his way back to the villa, eventually. That all made sense.

What didn’t make sense is why the other car of my family voluntarily elected to follow him. At this point, my idea of having an ‘adventure’ was heading back to the villa and drinking a beer in the pool, but I guess some are more…experimental than others. But everyone was adults and had the chance to make their own decision. My car took the GPS and headed straight home without a hitch. I was beering it up in the pool in no time flat.

The other two cars got home three hours later.

I overheard talk of faulty map reading and poor pilot to copilot navigation, but I wasn’t there personally so it wouldn’t be right for me to point fingers at my cousin Jesse. Oh, whoops!

After everyone showered up, we headed over to a local restaurant about two kilometers away. Italy was playing someone in the Euro Cup soccer match, so we were the only customers at the restaurant. I got the mixed grilled meat dinner; it was delicious.

I kept forgetting to take the pictures first, THEN take the first couple bites.

After dinner, we crawled back into the cars, drove home, and did some night racing.

Erica beating Jesse.

Jesse cheerfully beating Erica.

This brings us to the matter of Cameron.

I mentioned Cameron ever so briefly on day one; he is the super polite and friendly general manager of the villa. Over the next few days he was very valuable, addressing minor problems like broken lights, slow hot water and general maintenance. He gave us very good advice about where to go next, the little town of Norcia which we’ll be visiting tomorrow, yaaaay!

He also lives pretty close to the villa, as in directly behind the villa. Over the course of the night racing, we noticed this:

Notice Cameron’s house right behind ours. Notice the giant glass arched window. Notice the cherry of a lit cigarette that Cameron smokes as HE WATCHES US PLAY IN THE POOL WITH THE LIGHTS OUT?!?!

Now, I have to be fair. I checked the properties of this pic and was past midnight at this point. We didn’t find out until the next day, but we were wayyy past pool quiet hours (there are neighbors). Cameron is the manager and is responsible for our loud splashy drunken American rowdiness. He could be getting shit from the neighbors right now for our behavior. He could have been watching us to make sure we didn’t break anything, or contemplating coming over to yell at us if we got TOO loud.

But if I’m going to be completely fair I have to also say Cameron, mate, most Americans would consider a man watching kids and adults play in a pool through his giant window at midnight with the lights out smoking a cigarette pretty fucking creepy.

I called the cousins to one corner of the pool and discretely showed them the picture. We toweled off and went to bed.

Night night, mate.

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