Thursday, October 26, 2006

Day 10: Campobasso

The sun is shining may be a little cooler than yesterday....but it is another fine day. Today is our last day in Campobasso and we decide to stay close to "home" for the day. We drive to the "centro" and find a convenient parking spot without difficulty....the traffic is pretty bad in Campobasso and the signage is poor, but parking has not been a problem.

We first make a quick pass at the food is located in large building but it is barely half full, giving it a somewhat forlorn feel. We stop to buy some local apples and ask for four apples....the lady begins counting out 4 kilos. When we stop her, she refuses to give us less than 1 kilo and we pay her 1 euro.

Our next stop is the Samnite Museum....located in an old palazzo part of the way up the hill in the old city.

Getting there requires some climbing but the museum is worth the effort. The displays are very attractive and well-organized...this has been true of the other small museums we have visited on this trip. There is one big room with artifacts arranged in four categories....war, home, personal decoration and religion....and there are the usual assortment of weapons, pins, brooches and combs, lamps and cooking utensils and sacred objects. There are other rooms devoted to the costumes of local people in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. as well as an exhibit about 7th century AD warriors and some recreated burial sites. There is a large (room-sized) relief map of Molise with lights set in the map to mark locations. When the corresponding button is pushed on the control panel, a picture of the site is illuminated on the wall and the bulb showing the location is lit......pretty clever.

We stop for a quick look at the church at the bottom of the hill--Santo Leonardo

--and the Duomo--which is of pretty recent origin--then decide to go and visit the dentist that we had met at dinner a few days before. We find his office and he rings us in, asking us to wait while he finishes with his last patient. On the walls are many certificates attesting to the continuing education work he has done at Harvard in periodontology, as well as pictures and framed Italian documents. After we sit and chat for a while, he shows us his modern office. He invites us to come to his house for lunch in the neighboring town of Oratino--he will cook spaghetti carbonara and give us a tour of his village.

We follow him in our car and he doesn't make any apparent allowances for the non-Italian driver following him on the narrow and winding road....but we make it to his house without a problem. He lives on the edge of the village in a new three-unit condominium which is quite modern and attractive...but the best part is his terrace which looks out over one of those amazing Molise landscapes.

We sit in the sun while he cooks the spaghetti.....his brother, who is running on the Communist ticket for the Regional Parliament, stops by and we meet him and his wife.

Lunch is very pleasant...the carbonara, local pecorino cheese and salad and Sardinian wine....the day is warm and sunny and the view is fantastic.

After lunch, we walk through the village--a particularly beautiful town with lovely stonework everywhere--and Luigi introduces us to friends and relatives whom we meet. The view from the town park on the main square almost trumps all the other views we have seen in Molise....a broad expanse with towns perched on hills everywhere you look, high mountains in the distance, rolling hills in the foreground---the usual.

He shows us the house he grew up in and the school where his mother taught....he likes to say that he is a "citizen of the world" (he has traveled extensively) but it is obvious how connected he is to his home town.

We say goodbye and we head back to Campobasso. I take a last walk in the old town climbing almost to the top to see two of the churches and to admire the view.

For dinner, we decide to go back to Vecchia Trattoria di Tonino (since it was just about the best meal we have ever had) and we find a parking space right across the street. Unfortunately, the restaurant is dark and obviously closed...even though Thursday is not its regular closing day. We then head out on foot for one of the other restaurants on my list....which I had trouble finding because it had moved in the last year. We find the new location of Miseria e Nobilita (I haven't figured out what the name alludes to yet) and walk up the stairs. I push on the door and it doesn't budge. Can this restaurant be closed also? But I notice that the sign on the door says "spingere forte" (push hard) so I do and the door opens.

Miseria e Nobilita is another very stylish place...more heavily decorated than Tonino...dark walls, elaborate light fixtures. The menu is equally inventive.....and the meal is good although not even close to the meal we had at Tonino. Diana has the better experience, starting with a sformato of local radicchio with a piece of gorgonzola on the plate followed by an excellent, very simple ravioli with cherry tomatoes. I started with a different sformato--made with savoy cabbage (verza) with strips of guanciale on top and a fresh local cheese on the plate followed by a somewhat bland cavatelli in a colorful brocoletti sauce. We drank another Molise red...lighter than the other two we had on previous nights...but very distinctive.

The evening is still pleasant as well walk back to our car but by now the streets are just about empty.

We have no problem finding the hotel (I think we have finally solved Campobasso) and tomorrow we--somewhat sadly--leave Molise for Pompeii.


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