I Tre Gufi . . . The Three Owls

Having just completed my drive through La Strada Rotto, I decided it was time for some liquid refreshment. Arriving in Pisciotta was interesting; I barely blinked and I was already out of town and doing a three or so point turn on the narrow road to retrace my recent path and locate parking. I found a piccolo parcheggio (small parking lot) immediately on my right and pull in. While it had three levels, there were only about six or so spaces per level and maneuvering around the turns proved to be “not very possible”.  But I managed to make it work and the car was now parked.

Resolving one problem immediately revealed the next as I could not determine how to pay for the parking, as there were no machines or attendants. Fortunately, a gentleman returning to his car came along that very moment. Once again in part Italian, part English and part charades, I managed to communicate with him and learned that I would need to walk into the main piazza and pay for the parking at the bar and get a biglietto (ticket) to place in my car. Until I returned, how would they know that I was planning to pay, I wondered? So, not wanting to get a ticket along with another opportunity to visit Posteitaliane to pay it,  I hightailed it over there to buy the ticket, returning with the strangest looking parking receipt I had ever seen. It was issued on the honor system. I paid for the amount to time I thought I would need, but I would need to indicate the time my parking began by filling in little circles with a pen on each of the one hour tickets, just like taking the SAT exam.

Pleased with that I had navigated yet another interesting Italian experience, I headed off to do my thing . . . explore the town and discover the best it had to offer. As I exited the piccolo parcheggio and strolled to the main piazza, I could see why we almost missed it completely. The town was on two hills with the main road (and only road that could be traveled by car) cutting through the middle. To the left was the main piazza and to the right was a staircase – yes, only a staircase that led to the other side of town, with tables from a restaurant lining the beautiful stairs. It was so inviting, but I held out, opting for the Centro Storico instead.

img_7830

I spotted the sign for Centro Storico (the historic section) when I went to the bar to pay for the parking, so I knew it was to the left beyond the piazza.

The main piazza was mostly in the shade at this time of the day and all of the locals were gathered in various groups talking, sharing stories and smiling. I never fail to enjoy these Norman Rockwell-esque scenes I frequently encounter in the small towns of the Mezzogiorno.

img_1136

As I neared the back of the piazza, the gradual upward slop abruptly ended upon entering the Centro Storico. Just before the climb up, I came upon this beautiful Osteria, but sadly it was not yet time for lunch.

img_7753

The views off to the left of it were stunning, and I had not even climbed a staircase yet (note, I did not say hill)! I could see the peninsula of Palinuro jutting out into the sea.

img_1138

Then, I began my initial ascent into the beautiful historic area. I walked all around and did my usual “official town photographer” stint, enjoying every second.

The initial climb up was a bit steep and I encountered small, tank-like vehicles with actual tank treads that were used to make deliveries to restaurants and shops up the staircases. Very. Interesting.

At the one edge of the Centro Storico, I were rewarded with a gorgeous view for my efforts. Little did I realize, the best was yet to come.

img_7784

As I climbed the last remaining stairs, I discovered the pinnacle and crown jewel of the entire Centro Storico – I Tre Gufi!! Our jaws dropped as we took in the amazing view and I felt so lucky that I had explored before choosing my lunch destination. Before my eyes lay a stunning “bird’s eye” view of the beach town portion of Pisciotta. As many ancient towns often do, Pisciotta had both a coastal town and a hill town to escape to whenever the Saracens, or any other unwelcome breed decided to ravage their seaside towns and women.

img_7757

Once again, I found my magic place in yet another beautiful town as I ascended onto the outdoor terrace of I Tre Gufi feeling privileged as though I were entering the Gates of Heaven.

I lingered over a very long lunch of fish, roasted potatoes and a wonderful arugula salad with parmesan and walnuts and finished pranzo with an incredible light and moist lemon cake, wishing I would never, ever have to leave! By now, I realized that I was taking longer than I probably covered for parking. “Non ti preoccupare, nessun problema” (don’t worry, no problem), the owner told me. “La polizia sta anche mangiando il pranzo ora, in modo da non disturbare la vostra macchina.” (The police are also eating lunch now, so they won’t bother your car)

Oh, and did I forget to mention there was plenty of wine flowing? I would need that for facing the broken road on the way home! Va bene . . . I could certainly say d’accordo to that!!

Ciao!

Giovanna (Gio)

Cambiando Cieli del Cilento (Changing Skies of the Cilento)

I awoke on this Monday, Labor Day in the U.S., but just a normal day in Italy. My plans included just staying in town, taking care of a few things and simply relaxing a bit at Villa D’Amore.

As always, my morning ritual begins with taking in the view of Monte Stella. It’s truly so beautiful that I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing it. I also do not believe that I will ever take it for granted. It’s never, ever the same view twice.

On this particular morning, Monte Stella was MISSING!!! Who stole her? Dove è Monte Stella? Little did I know this was a clue that today would be a very interesting weather day.

img_7402

My plans for the day included stopping by Bar Pasticceria Franco, owned by Sandra’s (who I met at the beach two days prior) friend, Gaetano. As I walked into the shop to get some breakfast, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a full case of pastries spanning almost the length of the shop! What to choose?? I finally decided on three small pastries.

Then, as I was eating, I saw Sandra and Gaetano leaving the bar. It was great to meet Gaetano and see Sandra again. I thanked her once again for the interpretation assistance on the beach a couple of days before. I made plans to have them come to my house for apertivi and then go out to dinner together later in the week.

img_7421

They sent me home with some delicious cookies, wrapped beautifully like a present, just like everything else you buy in Italy, even pasta.

So, on to my next activity, which was paying for a parking ticket I had received when at the beach.  I forget that all times are noted in military time and the meters said you had to pay until 1:00, so due to our orientation, I took that to mean 1:00 pm as in the afternoon. But that would have been 13:00, so that is why I found the ticket on my car when I returned from the beach. The next day, I had tried to pay the ticket in the police station. There was a lot of chatter between the two officers and some laughing, none of which I understood. They reduced the fine from 25 euros to 18 euros, but told me I couldn’t pay them.

Instead, I would have to go to PosteItaliane to pay the fine, but they were closed on Sunday, so here I go on another new experience in Italy. I could walk there from the bar. I chuckled to myself all the way there – I heard you can do anything at PosteItaliane except buy postage stamps!! People pick up and cash their pension checks, pay their utility bills, anything except  buy a stamp. As I approached the doorway, I could see I was in for another lesson in “Italian lines”. There were a couple of women sitting on a bench by the door, both windows were occupied, and there were several people scattered all around. This was not dissimilar to an earlier experience I had at a bank in Rome a few years ago. Really, all you need to do is remember who was inside before you got there, then once they were all taken care of (no matter where they may be standing), you will know it is your turn.

img_7422

The “PosteItaliane Experience” took some time, and after that I required some liquid refreshment, not to mention a wifi fix, so off to Isola Verde I went to grab a prosecco. This bar is right across from the beach. I went inside to order and let them know I would sit outside at a table. While I was waiting, a man at the next table began speaking to me in Italian, but I did not understand him. So, in Italian, I told him, I could only speak a little Italian. He immediately began speaking to me in perfect English (he was actually German).  He wanted to let me know that there was something of interest out over the water. I looked up and saw it.

At first, there was just one very skinny waterspout and then a thicker one also dropped down. I always wondered what I would do if confronted by a tornado – and, now I know! I would stay put and photograph it. A moment of fear swept over me as the thought crossed my mind about what if it got too close, but before it could take hold, the waterspout dissipated.

Wow, all this excitement for one morning! It was now time to stop by the local wine store and pick up some wine and go home for lunch. I tried a few different wines and selected my favorite. I didn’t have my own container, so he filled an empty water bottle for me. This set me back a whopping 2 euros!!

img_7433

Once back home from my local but eventful morning, I prepared lunch. I had some fresh tomatoes and white figs that were absolutely delicious and so fresh. Fig season is the end of August/early September. They are the best. Eating in Italy has really ruined me – the bar is really high now.

I relaxed a bit after lunch and then decided to take a local drive on a road I had not been on before. As I drove, the skies became very dark suddenly and a severe thunderstorm skirted around us and the sun soon appeared.

img_7467

As I rounded a bend, I almost drove off the edge of the road as I let out a scream (of delight)!! I parked the car as soon as I found a spot where I could safely pull off the road.

img_7460

It was the most unusual rainbow I had ever seen and it was a double, although the top one was faint. The darkness of the sky was the perfect backdrop for this magnifico arcobaleno!! As I zoomed in you could see it was framing Salento, one of my favorite little hill towns.

img_7462

Wow, what a day with such beautiful and dramatic skies!! How beautiful is God’s canvas? I could watch it always. Rainbows are God’s checkpoints for me letting me know I am exactly where I am supposed to be at that moment.

Ciao,

Giovanna

Coastal Exploration (L’Esplorazione Costiera)

On my second full day, and the last day of August, I decided to take a drive up the coast and check out a couple of beach towns – Acciaroli and Santa Maria di Castellabate. I love the beach, but I also love exploring, so my love for the unknown trumped my desire for another lazy day at the beach.

As I headed out for the day, I passed one of my favorite little towns, Pioppi. A tiny hamlet by the sea, Pioppi boasts views of the curved protected bay at Marina di Casalvelino that compete with the best. Think Bay of Napoli – on a smaller scale, but just as spectacular and even more so to me without all of the buildings and population nearby.

img_4700-1

As I leave Pioppi, I am on “new turf”.  I always take note of this, wherever I am. Maybe it’s the gypsy in me. How do people get like this, I wonder? Here I am, a person here on this earth, who treasures, in fact, craves new experiences. Crazy? Or pazzo? One person’s craziness, is another person’s fun and entertainment. Sometimes I think about how I got that way. For the most part, I am the explorers of my nuclear family and I also happen to be a first-born. Once, I moved to California, forcing a trip to visit my parents who likely never would have made the journey, had I not moved. I have lived many places across the U.S. while my parents and sister have remained living in the same areas where they were born and grew up. I’m not sure why . . . it just IS me!!

After Pioppi, I do a few zigs and zags on the SRexSS267 (big name, small road) up over a large “hill”, I’ll call it due to the huge mountains within view, and the road brings me down to near sea level when I catch sight of Acciaroli.  I take a slight left, and park down by the marina and take a stroll through town by the beach.

IMG_7342 (1)

The beach is still buzzing with activity. After all, it is still August. I enjoy watching people swimming and sunbathing and jumping off of rocks and make a mental note to bring my swimsuit next time.

IMG_7339 (1)

I linger for awhile and then reluctantly return to my car to continue on to Santa Maria di Castellabate. This is the sister (beach) town of Castellabate.

img_7379-1

SM di C is a classy beach town with great shopping, hotels and restaurants. I see the stately Hotel Villa Sirio along the beach and enter to explore. Inside I find a very friendly owner, who graciously gives me a private tour of various rooms, all beautiful.  As I leave, I comment on the beautiful portrait in the lobby and he proudly tells me this is his family.

img_7364

I meander around town enjoying the buildings, shops and a the occasional adorable kitty.

As is always the case, I decide it is time for a rest at the local bar and I find the main piazza and a bar by a beautiful umbrella cypress tree. I just love these trees and stare at them along the way from Rome to Casalvelino.

img_7369-1

As i refresh myself, I have a lively discussion with with the Nonna of the bar owner, who shows me a beautiful hibiscus plant that bears two different colors of blossoms. I don’t speak much Italian and she speaks no English, but that didn’t stop either of us from having an enjoyable conversation.

I decide to take one more pass by the beach before I leave. Although it’s still light out, I am quite interested in driving home in full day light because of the narrow, cliff-hugging road with lots of sharp switch-backs! I sometimes squint my eyes briefly while driving on roads like that, especially when someone near us decides to pass on a blind curve. . . let’s face it – any crash they would cause at those speeds, and we’d all be off the cliff!!

img_7357-1

I sigh as I absorb the sight of this beautiful beach and hate to leave, but I know I will return again soon.

img_7362-1

Ciao!

Giovanna