Life in Abruzzo shared Porta dei Parchi’s recipe for Shepherd Steak. We ate this wonderful cheese dish at the end of the transhumanza. It is a good way to use day old or dry bread. We were at the shepherd’s hut in the alta plano and ate Shepherd’s Steak and a stew with wild greens. This is truly one of the first times that I had mint and liked it! Maybe I am not allergic after all.
Porta dei Parchi is hosting the third and last (ultima) transhumanza of 2011 from August 26-August 28th. This video shows the transhumanza very well. Still no matter how many pictures you see, it does not compare to being there in person. On the first day, they will walk from Anversa to Old Frattura. You can find them on facebook on the Adotta una pecora page.
The third day of hiking was much like the the first in length and intensity. We started at Agriturismo Valle Scannese da Gregorio where many stayed for the night. Gregorio’s farm is close to Scanno and features a restaurant, retail shop, and rooms.
We ended the day at 1666 m. (5,466 ft.) at Stazzo Casone Chiarono. Literally this translates as the big sheepfold house of Chiarano. The shepherds will stay at this large shepherd hut with the sheep until the August transhumanza. Mountains and rocky outcroppings ring this high green plain. Brown ski slopes of Monte Pratello crisscross one mountain to the east.
We are treated to traditional shepherd’s steak (bread topped with cheese and mint and baked with milk) and a stew mixture made of a dandelion-like wild greens served over dry bread. After staying to watch the Romanian cheesemaker make fresh ricotta, we pile into his car for the ride back to Anversa. With loud Romanian folk music blasting, we drove down to the National park entrance, through valley towns and back to the restaurant for one more meal as a group.
In all of my research on Calascio, I had not devised a plan to get there. Why? Because I did not want to rent a car. Why? I would love to say that my reason is totally my green travel scruples, but fear of driving in the mountains played a large part. I have become a flat-lander here in Wisconsin. A few months before leaving I found a bus schedule, so I knew car free travel was possible. Finding a place to stay within walking distance was the bigger obstacle. When I found a B&B or an agriturisimo, they required a car. The bus left from L’Aquila, but again I could not find a room near the bus line. I started to think of how to make a day trip. Leave my luggage in a hotel in Pescara or Chieti and bus to L’Aquila then bus to Calascio. Walk around Calascio, then return. The free time at the yoga retreat paid off. Bingo! I found Rifugio della Rocca in an Abruzzo Bradt Travel Guide on the bookshelf in the den. I made a reservation. After a night in Pescara, I left in the early morning for L’Aquila then Calascio. A young man returning to the University in L’Aquila was also taking the bus. He told me about the two buses. One is for university students and one for the center of town and the Collemaggio Bus Terminal. He was in a dorm during the earthquake, but survived. The university is now on the outskirts of town. Thanks to him I took the correct bus. I just did not plan on how to get from the bus stop in Calascio to the Rifugio, nor did I realize how far Rocca Calascio is from Calascio. I told the bus driver where I was going and he dropped me off at the closest possible spot. In hind sight, I should have known to get off in the center of town, find a bar (a coffee shop in Italy) and find a phone. Someone at the Rifugio could have given me a lift.
|00:55||11:30||L’Aquila-Terminal Bus Collemaggio||Calascio||12:25|
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Scanno and its people have been favorite subjects for photographers, such as Henry Cartier-Bresson, Pietro di Rienzo and Mario Giacomelli. After leaving the lake area, we walked the sheep through the crooked and stepped streets of this charming medieval hilltown. Here we became the subject of many photographs by both tourists and towns people . Leaving … Continue reading
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We hiked down a steep hill to Lake Scanno. This was not too vigorous. There was no way to get lost as long as you went down hill. The trick was to avoid branches in your face as you wound down thin paths. When we arrived at Lake Scanno, a band was playing music. Nunzio … Continue reading
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On the second day of hiking, I was up early and ready for another long day. I took early morning pictures of Frattura with one or two sheep dogs following me around the town. The British chap sat on a bench at one end of town looking towards Scanno and painting a landscape in his … Continue reading
I am often asked how many people were on the transhumanza. The number changed daily. Sometimes it changed part way through the day as people met up with us or left early. Here is what I remember.
An American family living in Rome: a mother, father, two sons and a niece from Portland, Oregon. Because the sons were preparing to audition for a place in an orchestra, they left at times to practice.
A British family: The mother and father own a house in the French Alps and the grown daughter lives in Vancouver British Columbia.
A British couple: He painted wonderful watercolors in his sketchbook and claims to never make any watercolors bigger than the landscapes he produced on this trip. She was lively and friendly making for a great hiking companion.
An American woman from Alabama who lives in Kyoto where her partner teaches American history: She was working at the farm for 5 weeks on a trip devoted to studying organic agriculture in Italy. We spent many hours together hiking. She was happy to find another “single woman” on the trip. She tried to advise me to be a balanced woman and sometimes do things for myself. I assured her that I was an artist and possessed a healthy dose of selfishness. I felt a connection to her very quickly because my son just returned from a Rotary Youth Exchange in Japan. We talked about many things, including the differences between the Japanese and the Italian cultures.
An Italian mother and daughter: The teenage daughter was the same age as the American niece from Portland
An Italian woman who generously taught me Italian when we hiked together.
A Northern Italian hippie couple who drove a VW style van. I thought they would have been family friends if they lived in Eau Claire. They were also on the WWOOF program to learn about organic farms. They stayed on to work at the farm. We had many wonderful conversations, but I am afraid they were mostly in English and the man sometimes felt left out of the conversations.
An Italian couple: I did not talk to them very often. He is the one who took my picture with the big loaf of bread and often helped to pour wine from the big jugs. She had blond hair tied back with a headband. They definitely seemed like experienced hikers.
Italian sisters from Pescara: They interpreted for the English speakers whenever needed. They spend lots of free time at the farm and treat Nunzio, the owner, as an uncle. They would like to own some property in the country, but Anversa is too far from Pescara for a daily commute.
Young Italian couple with a five year old daughter and younger son: They hiked enthusiastically with us during the first day. On the second day, they met up with us in Scanno.
Another American Family living in Rome: The parents and tween daughter and son. They are friends with the first American family, but arrived the second day. They were soon moving back to America for a change in assignment. The husband works with food aid and the wife is an artist.
An Italian man and his Italian speaking Guatemalan wife: They were very friendly. I muddled through my first long conversation in Italian with him. I was so thrilled. We were comparing Catholicism and Buddhism. I am sure I do not know how to say pray, but we communicated.
An Italian man with a big camera: He was there for some of the trip.
I am counting 30 here, but may be off.
Of course there was Nunzio Marcelli who sometimes walked with us and sometimes organized parts of the trip on the side with other local businesses. Also there were the shepherds (maybe 3), the horse handlers (in one picture I see three of them), Domenico, the bald man in the red T-shirt who worked at the farm and often took up the rear of the hike, and the Romanian cheesemaker. Nunzio’s staff delivered food or sleeping bags at various points along the way.
After a late dinner in the bioagroturismo restaurant, we were up early for the first day of hiking. Nunzio, the farm owner, told us that the hike would be slow. We would be stopping when the sheep ate. Christina from Pescara translated for the English speaking participants. Christina and her sister participate in the Adopt a Sheep program started by Nunzio 10 years ago. They frequently visit the farm to help, much like a CSA member of an American organic farm. The truth of the walking was that the sheep and the shepherds were usually way ahead of us. Once in a while we were walking directly behind them or waiting as they grazed.
I was up at 4:20 am for a shower in my mini bathroom. The shower, toilet and sink were all in one small closet sized space -quaint. I was the first to the square. Oh, yes, there is Italian time. An Italian mother and daughter, Sophie is the daughter, drove me up to the farm. She stopped the car to ask some farm workers a question. I caught the first part and it did not make sense to me. I kept it in my brain to ask later. “Quanti ti manca?” Manca is from mancare-to miss. The mother later explained that she was asking how long will it take before we are ready.
After breakfast, there was quite a wait while everything was prepared for the hike. Shepherds spent a long time tying packs on the horses. Balancing the weight and tying with rope was tricky and time consuming. Finally, about 6 am, we were off.
Giù, giù, giù
We started from the farm at about 600 m (1,837 ft) and walked down to the Valley of Sagittarius or Gole del Sagittario, a designated WWF nature preserve. This gorge was described by the mid nineteenth century author, artist and poet, Edward Lear, “frightening and beautiful.” We followed a path through dense vegetation along the clear running Sagittario River that reminded me of the Laurel Mountains of Pennslyvania. The water gurgled over rocks and the path remained cool and refreshing.
Su, su, su, su
We emerged from the wooded area and climbed to Castrovalva, a village that clings to the steep hills above Anversa. Castrovalva is a a frazione or ward of Anversa. Anversa is home to 40o people and another 50 – 1oo people live in Castrovalva. Castrovalva derives its fame from M.C. Escher’s 1930 lithograph “Castrovalva”. One of Escher’s early works, it does not explore the themes of impossible constructions, tesselations, or mathematically inspired work that later made him famous. We stopped for tea and snacks at the plaza named to honor Escher. This is the point where he stood to capture the view of Castrovalva with Anversa below and Casale off in the distance. Later, we cross a sunny hillside and climb to a height where we see these villages, as well as, Cucullo to the north. We also have a view of windmills on a mountain to our north. These windmills serve 10,000 families but were often quite still as we walked. We kept looking at them to guage our own height. The afternoon seemed long as we searched for shady spots to rest. Finally we thought we were as high as the windmills.
There were two very young children on the hike. I found it amazing that they lasted the day. I heard that they sometimes rode the horses. The youngest napped on his fathers stomach as we rested in the shade of some short, scrubby trees.
The views were fantastic at every turn. From the start, I knew this was one of the best things I had ever done in my life. Sometimes in the heat of the afternoon, I would remind myself of this fact. With each magical view, I had no problem convincing myself that the fatigue was well worth it.