Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Barrea, Italy - I smell ... therefore I am!

Since arriving in Italy by ferry from Greece, campgrounds, and therefore showers, have been quite hard to come by. And so I think that maybe … if you were to stand too close to me … you might say that I smell! 

The first day of cycling in Italy for me and Bart was a dreary ride up the ugly coast north of Brindisi, where our ferry arrived. But at least on the first night we found a lovely camp spot and put the tent up inside an old cow shed in an olive grove. I do mean lovely! It was a beautiful old building with a large arched doorway and all its original features … except the cows! We soon left the coast and cycled up into the hills that form the spine of Italy. Here we found attractive old towns with sunny piazzas overlooked by grand churches and old men sitting outside cafes. We cycled up higher into the hills where the little villages became clusters of flat-roofed buildings stacked precariously one on top of the other on vertical mountainsides or, annoyingly for the loaded cyclist, on the very top of the hills, like the pretty old town of Melfi. I must admit that we did get a shower in Melfi as we stayed in a hotel – a treat from Bart at the end of our time cycling together. Bart is now forging ahead of me to catch his plane back to Belgium. Already I miss him and snuggling up in the tent together but we’ll meet again in a short time. 

Cycling solo again, I battled headwinds across the ugly but appropriately named area of Benevento where the only place I could find to camp was behind the football pitch above the small village of San Salvatore. I laughed to myself in the evening as I thought I had found a quiet spot but didn’t count on football practice starting and the floodlights being switched on full-beam! Next day, I started cycling big climbs over 1000 metre passes up into the spectacular mountains of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park. My efforts were rewarded by views of pretty villages at the foot of snow-covered mountains and quiet roads that wound their way through spring woodlands awash with wildflowers – I recognise the yellow primroses and purple cyclamens – and resounding with the calls of cuckoos and the drumming of woodpeckers. I found a beautiful camp spot on a grassy ledge above the village of Pizzone with the mountains all around. I’d been looking for a spot to pitch the tent in the late afternoon but the mountainsides were so steep that my tent would have slipped down like butter off a hot knife. At last I came upon a small farm with surrounding woods and terraced fields. I asked the farmer, who was chopping wood and tending his goats, if I could put my tent up for the night. He said yes with a sweep of his hand across the landscape that seemed to say “help yourself to any spot in Italy”. The view was gorgeous down the valley, especially after dark when the lights of the villages twinkled like those on a Christmas tree. Even the smell of manure overwhelmed my own smell on another evening without a shower! 

Today I am in an idyllic mountain village called Barrea but I have the triple delights of a campground, internet and a shower! So tonight I do smell again … but at least I smell of roses! 

Photos on Flickr - again, not many as the weather has been mostly grey and wet.


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