Thursday, October 19, 2006

Day 3: Fermignano-Colletorto

No fog this morning...the sun is shining and we can see the beautiful vistas over the countryside from the Locanda. At breakfast, all three couples--one Canadian, one English and us--have a lively conversations about educational systems, movies, television programs and our travels the day before. The "structured sociability" of the Locanda has certainly has been successful....we exchange e-mail addresses and say our goodbyes.

Before we leave, we talk to Giulia about her experiences starting the agriturismo. She and her parents have been running it for the past seven years. They had never been farmers or in the accommodation business (her father--an architect--had designed hotels, however) but they were interested in organic agriculture and running a "green" operation. The house was built in the 1920s but they completely reconstructed has solar panels for hot water (augmented with a wood stove) and it is designed to keep cool in the summer and warm in the autumn. (They are only open from June through the end of October.) They use their own products--meat, cereals, vegetables, fruit--in the meals that they prepare. The house is decorated in a very attractive modern style...lots of wood and clean lines. The furnishings are comfortable and each of their six rooms has a distinctive "look and feel". The biggest problem we find is that--because the hot water is fired by a combination of solar power and wood fires, it is difficult to maintain a steady temperature resulting in quick shifts between very hot and cold.

Even though I don't usually like to stay in the countryside, our two nights at the Locanda are very enjoyable and turn out to be a good way to start our Italian trip.

We say goodbye and start out for Molise about 11:30 am. We are planning to stop on the Le Marche-Abruzzo border for lunch with our friends, Romina and Thomas and to meet their new baby girl, Gloria. We make good time on the autostrada and are in San Benedetto del Tronto just after 1 pm. Romina and Thomas have moved into a large house on a big plot of land overlooking San Benedetto del Tronto and the Adriatic Sea. Thomas meets us in town and leads up the hill on his scooter.

The baby is very sweet and we have a very nice visit and a good lunch. They are planning to open a b&b in the house and we get the grand tour of the house and the grounds. We have to tear ourselves away because we still have a good distance to go (Colletorto is almost on the Puglia border and about 45 minutes inland from coast) and we would like to arrive before dark. I make excellent time on the autostrada and we get off at the Termoli exit before 6 pm. The first part of the trip from the coast to Colletorto is very straightforward but then the road that we have chosen gets windy and narrow as it starts to get dark. We have a few anxious moments wondering if we are on the right road but it all works out and we make it to Colletorto just after 7 is now dark but the last part of the trip is not too confusing. There is a sign for the Hotel P.E.D.A. as soon as we enter town so we go directly there. The hotel is a modern building...there is a bar and restaurant downstairs and the rooms are plain but all have private baths and a small television set but no telephone.

The rest of the Olive Oil Weekender group hasn't arrived yet...they fly into Pescara from England and will be be taken by bus to Colletorto. We check in and wrestle our bags up the three flights of stairs (no elevator). We unpack a bit and rest for a while while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. The Olive Oil Weekender is annual event organized by two British-Italian cousins--Giovanni Nasillo and Luigi Scalera--whose family is from Colletorto. They have been bringing groups from Great Britain to Colletorto for the last six years to take part in the olive harvest and tour the area. I found out about the weekender while surfing the internet and made arrangements to take part.

Olive Oil Weekender

Dinner is scheduled for 8:30 pm so when we hear some activity in the hall, we head downstairs to the bar and find it full of people having a welcome drink. We meet Giovanni and Luigi who are very welcoming and are very happy that we have come. We are introduced to some of the other "weekenders" and quickly learn that a large percentage of the group are of them has been to six of the "weekenders" many of them already know each other. But we find that they are very friendly and welcoming to newcomers and very enthusiastic about the program.

Dinner (for about 25) is served in the banquet room of the hotel around one large table. Wine flows freely and the food is very antipasto plate, spaghetti with bolognese sauce, roast veal and potatoes and a plate of panna cotta and semi-freddo with chocolate sauce. There is lots of conversation and lots of laughter and a very warm feeling around the table. Dinner is over about 11 pm and we are ready for bed but a large contingent of the group heads out for the local bar to continue the festivities. We climb the three flights of stairs and are asleep pretty quickly (although I am woken up at about 2:30 am when the group returns from the bar.)

In the morning, we are scheduled to take a walk around the village and then head for the olive grove for our day of picking.


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