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Notes from Italy

I've just returned from a short break in Italy - where I lived from 2002 to 2010.

Our first stop was Lago Laceno, a hamlet and ski resort 1100m above sea level in the province of Avellino. There we parked the campervan and later that afternoon we took a shuttle to Bagnoli Irpino, where the yearly chestnut and truffle mushroom festival takes place.

We arrived at Lago Laceno at around 4pm, and the car park was already three quarters of the way full. The festival is very popular and people come from all over Italy and abroad to enjoy it, which makes the shuttle a really comfortable way of getting to Bagnoli. It only takes about 15 minutes to arrive to Bagnoli and it's included in the car park fee. Once you get to Bagnoli, you have to walk through the old, narrow streets following the music to get the heart of the village where you'll find food, food and food.

You can imagine how good it smells as you get closer and closer.

You'll find pizza in different flavours especially with chestnuts and truffles, and local recipes specific to Bagnoli, like pasta, minestre (soups) and risottos, the majority including pork. Cold cuts, cheese, especially caciocavallo is sold in almost every corner, not just as it comes, but also served melted on warm bread or one of my favourites, the "montanara" pizza ("the mountaineer"), a fried pizza usually served with just tomato sauce and grated parmesan, but I went for just caciocavallo cheese. So simple, but such a treat.

Through the alleys of Bagnoli Irpino

Montanara pizza with caciocavallo cheese

A really fascinating feature in Bagnoli is this tree! A 300-year-old hornbeam with its roots growing from the inside of the Clock Tower, a building from the XV century. I'm not quite sure how this came to be, but it's just amazing how this tree thrived in these conditions and when you look at both the tree and the building from the side, it looks as if there is some sort of mutual support happening. Just outstanding.

I'm not posing for the picture, I blinked as I looked up as my mum took the picture!

I concluded the night dancing to Latin-American music in the town square with a bunch of other people and also tried a little of tarantella, but I don't know much about how it works, so I tried to copy what the others did. Great fun!

The next morning, I was looking forward to seeing the sunrise. But being in the mountains, the actual "sunrise" didn't come, as the sun had already risen and it was hiding behind the mountains, if that makes sense. There was a little red/orange tinge on the mountainside opposite us, but that was the closest I got to catching a glimpse of the sunrise colours.

Sunday morning was a really cold morning. Humid. Foggy. So foggy you could hear the cow bells in the field but you couldn't see them. As it got lighter and just a teeny bit warmer, and the fog began to dissipate as the sun rose higher, you could begin to see the cows' legs and eventually, their whole bodies pasturing.

You can hear the cow bells, but you can't see them :'D

The air was so fresh. It felt so good to just, breathe.

It took me about 20 minutes to walk from the campervan to the field where the cows were. I wanted to get closer since the day before, especially after being told that this was the lake I had once been to and that is now almost completely dry but for a little pond on the far left, beneath that white house. I was floored. I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe that the whole field was once underwater and that now cows walked and ate on it everyday.

I was here only once before. It must've been 2004. It was the dead of winter, snow everywhere and no one in sight. We went up there in the campervan with my mum, her partner, my two brothers and sister, and parked on the side of the road by this lake. I remember the amber glow of the street lights on the snow, the trees and the frozen lake that we didn't even get close to as we couldn't even see the edge and we were afraid of falling in. The snow was still falling and as we were teenagers, aside of my little brother Teo who was 2, we started snow ball fights and tried to build snowmen. I remember my sister making the balls too big and being unable to lift them. So there were abandoned snow balls everywhere.

And that place is this now.

The most amazing thing happened that morning as I reached the field. I noticed there was a cow outside of the fence, across the street that leads into the ski resort and car park. She was just grazing there, and at one point, I can't remember if it was her or the other cow in the field that looked at the other one. One of them mooed and the other answered back. The cow outside the fence, started crossing the road towards the field in the direction of the gate as she continued to moo, and the other cow continued to answer. Back an forth they communicated until the cow crossing the street reached the gate and her friend came to meet her. I was in awe!

Later that morning, we took the shuttle to Bagnoli again and after another walk around, I brought back some caciocavallo cheese, and my mum some cold cuts for lunch. We visited the castle, from the top of which you can see for miles and miles through the valley.

These were my first two days in Italy. I had another three days left, which I spent catching up with my family and having more lovely food.

I'd like to leave you with an old italian saying that comes from Lorenzo de' Medici (from his work "Il trionfo di Bacco e Arianna", circa 1490) that my Italian literature teacher used to quote it a lot and I never forgot it: "Quant'è bella giovinezza, che si fugge tuttavia! chi vuol esser lieto, sia: di doman non c'è certezza".

Translation: "How beautiful is youth, which nevertheless flees! who wants to be happy, be it: for of tomorrow there is no certainty!"

Thank you so much for reading and I'll catch you next time,

Love, Mai

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