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Installments of Italia: Day Five

Day five was very sweaty.

We began the day in the villa, mapping our routes and areas to explore in the neighboring town of Spoleto. My brother and sister, Petey and Lauren, were touching down in Rome in the morning and taking the train. There were a few complications and delays, but we guesstimated that they’d be arriving in Spoleto sometime after 3pm.

So here’s the plan. The (approx) nine of us drive into Spoleto divided up between two rental cars. We explore the town, hit some wine shops, hit the castle (prison) and explore the Sacred Forest. Then we end up at the train station by around 3 or 4pm to pick up my sibs. Sounds easy!

Spoleto is about two kilometers from our villa in Eggi, so we could practically walk there if it wasn’t 90 degrees out or if any of the narrow, windy roads had sidewalks. Split between the two cars, we arrived in Spoleto and got separated almost immediately in a rotary. My car went a couple streets further before wrapping around, ending up in a square and parking in what we believed to be a safe parking zone. We parked on Via Gregorio Elladio, if memory serves.

I have a photographic memory. [rolllllllllllll SMASH]

We paid for a parking stub, threw it on the dashboard and headed towards the castle to rendezvous with the other car of family. We knew the castle was at the top of a giant hill, and I was kind of looking forward to climbing up it. I figured it would probably be a cobblestone path right? Wrong sucka, it was actually a series of insanely giant escalators which lead all the way to the top! These feudal lords had it made. Along the way I took a picture of some of the forbidden escalator actions, such as the dreaded ‘standing on tip toes’ and the semi-retarded ‘wedging of the umbrella in between the escalator steps’. Really, all this sign made me want to do was break laws.

IT IS COMPULSORY

I didn’t think to get a picture of the escalators themselves, but they took us up virtually the entire hill, to the sublevel of the castle. And when we got there, there was an air conditioned elevator up to the final few levels! Talk about roughing it. Here’s Spoleto below us as seen from the base of the castle:

So we finally got there, but still weren’t sure where the other half of us were. Had they parked already? Were they still driving around down in Spoleto? Perhaps they were already in the castle? No one had phones, so really the only thing we could do was to check the castle and if they weren’t there, we could wait. And that’s what we did. The castle had a reception desk and we asked if they’d seen another group of confused Americans. We were the only group of confused Americans so far, so we knew they hadn’t arrived yet. We waited back out in some shade outside the castle again, and within about 10 minutes we spotted the rest of them walking up the path. Whew! We breathed a collective sigh of relief then plotted our next move. Over the right side of the castle, we could see an aqueduct/bridge. Crossing it would lead to Spoleto’s Sacred Forest, which you can read about here, I guess.

That’s the aqueduct/bridge from the right; you can really only see the aqueduct part of it. The bridge part is on the left. It took as awhile to get there, and we stopped at a conveniently placed gelato store on the way, but we made it.

The base of the Sacred Forest is on the other side.

It was actually really cool walking across the bridge, because if you notice that rail is really low, like waist level, and there are no guardrails or anything. And in case you can’t tell, we’re really up there.

Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., you’d have to sign all sorts of waivers just to walk across this thing and it would probably be all fenced off due to liability issues, but over there this was basically, literally a walk in the park. There didn’t seem to be any issues with legality; the logic was very simple: Don’t fall off. It was refreshing.

We all managed to somehow cross the bridge without falling off, and made it to the other side. There was a twisting trail that we could see leading up to the top of the mountain, and here at the base was some kind of fountain, perhaps a little holy spring.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy…

Damnit man.

Refreshed, I crossed myself and journeyed onward!

The hike up the path in the Sacred Forest was vigorous, but not too tough. For me. Even so, it was kind of slow going. What you have to remember is I was accompanied by about eight other family members. The younger, the older, in flip flops and sneakers, and traveling as a pack. After about 10 minutes a few of us broke away and headed back down to Spoleto. They needed to refresh the meter for the parked cars, and also they figured they could get some shopping in before my bro and sis got into town.

The remaining six of us pressed on.

Twenty minutes later we were all sweating like beasts, and me the beastliest swamp beast of all. The trail had moderate shade but the loose rocks covering the path were treacherous. Another uncle and cousin dropped out, due to flip flops. They would return and wait for us back at the gelato shop, not a bad move. But we wanted to see the top, so we continued. It wasn’t too bad at all really, about 45 minutes in total.

There was absolutely no view at the top. There was a building surrounded by a giant gate, and what looked like a picnic area. No area for a view or anything else though. This is literally the best picture from the top that I could get, and it sucks.

Us remaining brave souls hiked our sweaty asses back down and back across the aqueduct, which was miraculously empty at this point.

We linked up at the gelato shop with my uncle Roy and cousin Erica, who were patiently waiting. I’m sure a gelato or two played a role in keeping them so patient. We hoofed it back to the castle, then luxuriously descended the grand hill on the air conditioned escalators. Not too shabby.

It was around 4pm by this point, so we figured my bro and sister had either already been picked up at the train station, or would be soon. We just headed straight back to the villa for some much needed relaxation and pool time. Within about 30 minutes, a car pulled up and in they came!

They looked haggard and all in all, pretty gross. Even grosser than usual. I guess I should give them some slack though, seeing as how they’d been awake for around 30 something hours by this point. Peter crashed for around an hour, and I gave Lauren a tour of the villa. I had her take this picture of me up in the balcony on the roof.

Don’t try this at home, that’s like an 80ft drop behind me. Or if you’re as dumb as me, try this at home.

It was getting a little late, maybe 7pm, so we all showered up and got ready for dinner back in Spoleto. We re-piled into the rental cars and headed back into town, and actually stuck together this time. Score!

We had a great restaurant in mind, and my cousin Jesse and I were put in charge of navigating us to it. Unfortunately, a quick look at the map told us we were pretty much on the wrong side of town. Rather than risk getting back in the cars and getting lost, we decided to hoof it. More walking! Actually it wasn’t so bad at all, it had really cooled down and Spoleto looked amazing as the sun set.

It was also empty, or at least more empty than I’m assuming it normally is. This is because there was another soccer game going on, and virtually everyone in town was at a bar or restaurant watching it. This proved to be unfortunate, because this apparently included the owners the restaurant that we’d planned to eat at. Yup, we’d walked across town through these twisting (though awesome) back alleys, only to finally find our restaurant with the doors locked and the lights out, because soccer > business hours.

We were all pretty hungry by this point, so we basically resigned to keep walking and eat at the next decent place we came across (that was open). This time luck was with us, and we found a sort of cross between a sit down and fast food place that seemed to serve just about everything. Their menu was huge and sections of it were in English, which was a welcomed sight. I got this delicious deluxe meat thin crusty pizza “The Porky” and I was very satisfied – I ate the whole damn thing before I even remembered to take any pictures this time.

On the walk back to the cars, we passed through a square where the soccer game was blaring on televisions that were situated all over the place. We stopped at one by an outside bar with a crowd around it and watched the final few minutes. I find soccer to be the worst, so I did some people watching as well. A few feet ahead of us was a group of maybe three guys and two girls, standing with each other but not all right next to each other. The girls were talking to each other kind of loudly in Italian, and then one of the guys came over to try talk to one of them. I don’t speak Italian but “Irate Female” is a universal language that I happen to understand very well. She was kind of pretty, until she opened her mouth and then she became sexy. She started freaking yelling right at this guy in front of everyone; it’s like she ran out of fucks to give years ago. After maybe 10 seconds he tried some sweet talk, but she just raised her voice a couple pitches higher without even pausing and rolled right over him in a continuous sultry stream of Italian. He just took it. Then she grabbed her friend and stormed out of there in a chaotic huff, her heels click click clicking away expertly on the cobblestone street. My guess is he either cheated on her and she found out about it, or he gave her an STD. Haha I dunno but I mean she was mad. Thank God ladies here in the states don’t look or sound that sexy when they get mad; I’d instigate so many more fights.

Anyway the game ended and everyone cheered and we got back into our cars before the streets got too crowded. We managed to get ourselves lost but not terribly so, and made our way back to the villa. When we got home we went almost instantly right to bed, and made sure to get lots of sleep so that we could get up early.

Tomorrow: ROMA

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