Sunday, January 27, 2013

Last days in Assisi.....Saying Arrivederci...

My last days in Assisi were spent walking and absorbing what I had missed in my 3 week stay there.
Seeing my new friends one last time and of course, toasting with them to their great country of Italia!

I walked to San Damiano.....a monastery I had missed earlier which is right outside the gates of Assisi.
The church and convent of San Damiano is where it all began in Assisi. As the place where St. Francis first received his miraculous calling in 1205 and where St. Clare died in 1253, it is an important stop on the pilgrimage to the Franciscan holy city. The simple oratory is located in a beautiful setting just outside the walls of Assisi.
 The originally hosted a small Benedictine priory, documented since 1030. In 1205, in its dilapidated old oratory, a young and restless Francesco was praying before a 12th-century painted crucifix. Suddenly, the Christ on the crucifix came to life and spoke to Francis, saying, "Rebuild my church."
Francis took the command literally at first, reconstructing the little church with his own hands. The church later became a favorite retreat for Francis and his followers and it was here that he wrote the first draft of his celebrated Canticle of the Creatures.
St. Clare, follower and close friend of Francis, founded her Order of the Poor Clares here at San Damiano in 1212. She lived here most of her life as its abbess and passed away in an upstairs room on August 11, 1253. Her body was transferred a few years later to the Basilica di Santa Chiara, constructed in her honor.

Then I walked miles and miles to just absorb the heart of the city.
Spending an afternoon with Andrea on her terrace with proscecco and an Assisi sky!
On my last night in Italy, we went to a wonderful restaurant for a an even more wonderful meal, bottle of wine and reminisced about the trip!
So...................until next time sweet Italy, I bid you farewell.  You opened up your heart to me and I will cherish the memories forever

"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." --Anna Akhmatova

I will be back to post about my first two weeks of the trip where I participated in a Women's Retreat with 9 other women from other parts of the country!


Castelluccio Italy

Castelluccio is a village in Umbria, in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy. Administratively, it is a frazione of the ca. 28 km distant town Norcia. According to the 2001 census, it had close to 150 inhabitants.  The village lies at 1452 m, making it the highest settlement in the Apennines. It lies above the "Great Plain" (Piano Grande - 1270 m), next to the Monti Sibillini National Park.

It was about an hours drive from Norcia for us because I just had to keep stopping along the way for photos.  And there was a whole lotta ooooohing and aaaaaaahing going on.  The most beautiful of landscape visions!  We drove up up up and around the mountains.......getting almost to the very top. Take the trip with me and just imagine seeing these sights!
Into the clouds looking across and down was awesome!
As we wove around the roads, the fog began to break up and the vegetation on the mountains became more visible.
It was such a beautiful and clear day that when the airplane overhead zoomed past and being so high into the mountains, it seemed as it was right over our head!
At one of my begged for stops for me to ooooh and awwwww once more, I turned around to see this! A parachute spread out all ready for a ride into the sky......and several guys resting on the ground.  Come to find out that this is a great site for base jumping into the wild blue yonder! Awesome! They were taking a break so I didn't get to photograph them in action.  Suffice it to say that young Italians jumping from a mountain was a piece of beauty in and of itself!!  heheh....
Friends taking pics of friends taking pics!! Even the "real" Italian, Franca, couldn't resist taking pics of the glory of it all!
As we rounded the mountains and became to come down a bit, the plains became as pretty as the mountaintops! (and yes clisa! these were REAL mountains!!)
That long strip going from left to right on pic is a long road that leads to Castelluccio.  See the white tip of the small mountain?   That's it!  But before we got into town, THIS was a must!
The prized funghi!!  or mushroom. Several were out with their mushroom hunting paraphenalia. We just picked them with our hands!
I was informed that, do not collect any that you see like this....that is horse poopoo and any mushrooms that may grow in this just might be poisonous!!
all thru the area, there were people foraging and hoping to find enough funghi for dinner!
We met this man who is a professional forager! Did not speak one word of English but it was still fun to learn from him and his art.
As I'm taking pics and looking around, I found myself getting a bit verklempt....just looking around at all the beauty around me and actually wondering what I would be doing on a regular Thursday at this time of day...compared to where I was and what I was doing on this day.  I stopped to make the memory, smell the smells, feel the air and APPRECIATE!
His find of the day so far.
Such a sweetheart!
and behind him, on top of the hill, is his hometown, Castelluccio.
Beautiful scenery.....and the area of vegetation you see there?
Why, it's Little Italy!!!!  the people from the village designed, planted and groomed the area to show their beloved country!!  How cool is that??
Before we got in the car to drive to the village, I just had to turn around and look behind me one more time.  Absolutely Gorgeous!!
Off to Castelluccio!!!
So..............whatdaya think the first thing done when visiting a new village?? EAT!! By this day, which was the end of October, I had not had one single solitary bad thing to eat....and this day would prove to be just as tasty.  I think part of the good food thing was also all about the atmosphere. Each place I ate was not only genuine but also just so cute! Just look at where we chose to eat for lunch this day..
Andre checking out the menu and talking to the chef!
Oh yeah.....we decided this would be the one!
We ate outside because of the views and the gorgeous day but look how cute the inside was.
this was our table outside
the view from our table to inhale while we ate!
this, my friends, is what a real antipasta platter looks like!
The best and freshest cheeses ever! with wild boar, pancetta, boar sausage and prosciutto!
Legume lovers know Castelluccio as the source of some of the world’s finest lentils, which you can buy from local farmers.  They keep their shape when cooked, and have a wonderfully nutty, earthy quality. Toss the cooked lentils with the flavors you want them to absorb: they’ll take on the perfume of herbs and spices, or aromatics such as garlic or celery leaves, and create a superbly satisfying result. I even bought some to bring home!
Caramelized onions.........YUM!
May I just tell you what a religious experience desserts are in Italy?  and they are usually the most simplest of foods put together.  This was a ricotta, heavy cream mixture topped with fresh nuts and drizzled with honey.  To Die For!
Those lentils I told you about?  They are tiny little beans and are hand cleaned and picked thru. By people like this! She sits and cleans the lentils and sells them as she does it. So cool.
After lunch, we walked around to the back of the restaurant and this is what we saw!!
Something about seeing the glory of the mountains.....with a street light in the foreground brings it all home!!
Andrea soaking it all in!

and see the lil black dot down on that road?  that is an older woman walking to who knows where? Nice view to take a walk with, eh?
Whew!!!  (could I put any more pics in this post??!!)
After a very full day, we decided it was time to begin the trip back home to Assisi.
We did stop in Visso and I did find just a few more things to take photographs of!!
Visso....A place where it seems time hasn't passed.
This is a very small, very old village.  I will let the pictures tell the story.
the town was quaint but the drive in was awesome.  Especially the convent that was so old and so majestic....

and we thought uninhabited until we saw this!
On the drive back home, I loved seeing this...
The plains grassland is ideal for sheep husbandry.  So fun to actually witness this happening in person and we just happened upon it!!  so many "little things" like that just made this the most unbelievable trip for me!!