Saturday, October 21, 2006

Day 5: Colletorto

Sunny again this morning.....after breakfast, we all get on the bus and head for Termoli, about an hour to the north and east--Molise's largest beach resort with an attractive ( and old) "centro storico"and the embarkation point for ferries for the Tremiti Islands and Croatia. The bus almost retraces our drive from Termoli to Colletorto except that it takes a slightly longer route to avoid the very narrow and curvy road from Larino to Montorio. By the time we get to the coast, the sun has given way to overcast skies. We arrive in Termoli just after 11 am and climb the circular staircase from the ferry parking lot to the town. We admire the views over the Adriatic and look at one of the last surviving "trabucco"...a long fishing pier with rudimentary housing that used to be common in the area.

We walk as a group through the old town, past the Duomo and the 13th century castle built by Frederick II and into the very attactive and busy main shopping street. We are given an hour to walk around before we have to board the bus for the trip inland to Provvidenti for our lunch in the country. After a quick coffee, we stroll down the main drag--window shopping and people watching. We double back on the much less fashionable parallel street heading for the duomo. Unfortunately it is closed for the lunch hour so we admire the rose window, the facade, the Moorish-style arches and numerous carvings of animals and mystical creatures. While waiting for the rest of the group, we sit in the square and catch up reading some of the tourist information about Termoli and Molise.

The road that takes us to the restaurant is fairly new and a good portion of it is on a high bridge that goes for a long distance diagonally across a man-made lake in the is quite a feat of engineering. For the second half of the crossing (maybe three miles) the "lake bed" is barely even damp; it has been a dry summer.

Provvidenti is a small valley town of something less than 100 inhabitants.....although there is housing for a lot more. It was damaged in the last earthquake and there are some "temporary" cabins lining the approach to town. The road is also decorated with several "arches" advertising an upcoming rock and reggai music festival to be held in is a strange contrast with the seemingly deserted town. The town--although losing population--has become something of weekend day trip target because of the restaurant which is large, attactive and fairly new--with nice views of the hills from the large windows in the dining room.

Although everyone professes that they are still full from the night before, we manage to do a good job on the very delicious five course lunch......a very tasty antipasto plate featuring salami and a frittata, pasta shells with a rich sausage sauce which we spiced up with some homemade hot peppers in oil, a mixed grill of beef, lamb and sausage, a green salad and--thankfully--a light fruit salad for dessert. Of course, a large quantity of wine accompanied the meal...which was (again) extremely well cooked and served.

Most everyone takes a stroll around the town...which is not tiny but appears to be underpopulated. The main church suffered a lot of damage and has an extensive set of scaffolding shoring it up. At 4 pm, the town sort of wakes up and we see some children playing in the streets, some old men walking around and sitting on the church steps and people begin to emerge from their houses.

When we get back to Colletorto, some people head back to rest and get ready for the final banquet. Others (incuding Diana) congregate in the optician's shop (he is a relative of one of the organizers and people have shopped there in previous years) to look for Italian designer frames. Another small group (including me) takes the opportunity to climb the 14th century Angioino tower that dominates the town. Even though the tower is "in restauro" and closed to the public, a cousin works for the village and Luigi is able to get the key to unlock it. There are 124 steps to the top (the two young boys on the trip count them for us) and we are rewarded with great views over the countryside.

After another short session for me on the internet at Luigi's house, it is time to go down for pre-dinner drinks......most of the group say that they would be happy not to eat again but everyone is anxious to have this last opportunity to socialize. The group is augmented by a number of townspeople and family--all of whom have had a connection with the groups over the years. In addition, Luigi and Giovanni have hired a local folk band to perform during dinner. The music is fantastic and dinner (although some of us do skip some courses and pick at others) is again excellent. The band is made up of a young accordion player (who was sent to music school so he could replace his grandfather who used to play but died a couple of years ago), his father who plays the bass (made of a broomstick, a bucket and piece of string), a drummer, a very stylish tamborine player, a vocalist and two very unusual rhythm instruments. One is a water filled jar with a skin stretched across it and piece of bamboo that is inserted in through the skin and is "caressed" by the player as he stands over the instrument. Rhythmic sounds are produced as the water amplifies the resonance from the taut skin. The other unusual instruments are two wooden square poles that are hinged at the bottom with cross pieces on the top that have metal disks attached loosely. As the two poles are clapped together, the metal disks create a percussive effect. There is also a smaller version that is worn around the neck of the musician.

The band is excellent and they play for hours....slightly too long perhaps....but they seem to be enjoying themselves very much. There is a "guest" singer....from Turin...who is supposed to sing two songs; he is terrific (a real pro) but he goes on for almost two hours. There is some dancing.....mostly by Luigi, his family and the band but some of the group take part...and some of our group take a turn on the instruments.

And we eat.....the menu is bresaola with rucola and parmigiano cheese, ravioli in a light sauce, baked eggplant with a delicate bechamel and, just when we thought it was safe, a plate of savory porchetta. It is so good that I eat the whole thing...even though I had just picked at the previous two courses. One of the group makes a thank you speech to the town (in Italian), Diana reads a poem she'd written about the weekend that was very well received, and I make some remarks about how much we enjoyed the whole event.

The climax is a big cake with candles with a picture of the olive fields and the town....and there is a final champagne toast. By now it is 12:30 am and, although no one really wants to end the evening, the wine and the excitement have taken their toll so we say good night to all and climb the three flights of stairs.

Tomorrow most of the group leaves for home after lunch and we head for Campobasso to continue our visit to Molise.


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