Sunday, October 22, 2006

Day 6: Colletorto-Campobasso

Another sunny day......and a somewhat late start after the party last night. The group at breakfast is slightly subdued--both from fatigue and perhaps the prospect of the end of the weekend. After we eat, we head up to the village and go to the church on the hill that has some intarsia (inlaid wood) choir stalls. The church is being repaired--there is netting to catch any pieces of falling ceiling and lots of scaffolding--but the door is unlocked. We are able to walk right up to each of the 23 panels...all but two are Old Testament scenes... and see them very clearly. The intarsia work is a little rougher than others we have seen but the panels are very appealing and direct. The accompanying decorative intarsia designs surrounding the panels are also quite intricate.

We return to the main street and hang around with some of the group at the bar, watching the passing parade and talking. Then we go back to the hotel, pack up and wrestle the bags down the three flights of stairs. Luigi and Giovanni pass out the spoils from the weekend--two bottles of Colletorto olive oil per picker. There is a lot of discussion of how we will pack the bottles since liquids are not permitted in carry-on baggage right now.

The last offical activity of the weekend is a pizza lunch at the hotel--the pizza is actually pretty good and most people are able to eat most of theirs despite the amount of food that had been eaten over the last 2 1/2 days. We walk up to the main street to say goodbye to the group getting on the bus, heading to the airport and returning home to England today and then we hang out at the hotel with the remnants of the group before tearing ourselves away and leaving for Campobasso. Perhaps if everything works out, we will be two of the returning pickers next year...

It has turned overcast and there is even a light drizzle as we leave Colletorto. It is not that far to Campobasso--perhaps 40 miles--but the drive is leisurely on country roads. The scenery is quite spectacular....since there are not many trees, there are long, broad vistas--gentle rolling hills in the foreground and high mountains in the distance. It makes the drive very pleasant. We pass quite close to a number of modern windmills set on the tops of ridges...these high towers with large propellers on top look quite out of place in this landscape. Hopefully, the windmills are generating enough power to justify the intrusion on the scenery. (Diana disagrees and thinks they are a charming sight.)

Campobasso appears in front of us.....the town is in a valley and, compared to the rest of the towns we have passed, seems to go on forever. Once we enter the city limits, we find that there are no hotel signs to direct us (as is common in most Italian towns). Not only are there no hotel signs, but there are very few helpful signs to direct us to the center of town. So we make a few passes around and through the town before we finally stumble on a road sign that I recognize as the street that our hotel is on.

The Hotel San Giorgio is a modern building in a commerical strip just outside the center of town. It is pretty deserted when we check in. The room is large and seems fine...although the afternoon is warm and the air conditioning isn't on. We unpack and I expectantly turn on my computer to see if the advertised wi-fi broadband access really exists. Needless to say, it doesn't. The desk clerk at first says that is not working today but later suggests that guests can't access the connection because of the new government anti-terrorism laws. In any case, I will try to ask tomorrow when there is a different desk clerk on duty.

After checking e-mail through the telephone line connection, I take the car out to explore Campobasso. Once I get to the middle of town, I realize that there are lot of people out for the Sunday evening passeggiata so I go back to the hotel, pick up Diana and we park the car and the join the citizens of Campobasso on their stroll. I am able to find my way back to the hotel and then back to the center with not too much difficulty....even though the Campobasso traffic patterns and the lack of signage make this a tricky process.

The passeggiata route goes through a very nice part of the Campobasso downtown....large piazzas and parks, broad pedestrian only streets and nice shops. There is pony and buggy ride for children set up in the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II and people are buying roasted chestnuts and walking eating gelato. The lights are on and they give the town a nice glow. We walk through a large tent where a book fair is concluding, take a quick look in the Duomo and examine the posters for concerts that might be coming up during our stay. The old city, which climbs the hillside that stretches up to the big castello crowning the hill that dominates the town, is immediately adjacent to the center. We walk the neighborhood of narrow, crowded streets for a while before heading back to the hotel.

Many of the recommended restaurants in Campobasso are closed on Sundays so we decide to eat in the hotel restaurant. There is only one other customer when we are there and I think that they have limited options on Sunday nights. But the meal is fine....Diana loves her farro (barley-like grain) soup and my pasta dish (cavatelli with Molisan meat sauce) is very good. Diana's grilled lamb is less successful but my grilled sausages are fine. We have a local Merlot from eastern Molise which is very drinkable. The bread basket has a wonderful crisp biscuit with whole almonds--the waiter tells us that they are something like "taraluci". No dessert tonight and it is a quick elevator ride up to the room.

Tomorrow we are planning to visit the Roman city of Saepinum.


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