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.
I took this picture of the sign in the tourist office in Scanno. It is the first time I actually found the tourist office in a smaller town. Of course, it was not open. According to the sign, the office is closed for vacation on the 18th through 26th of June. I was there on the 18th along with hundreds of other tourists.
I also took a picture of the bus schedule.
Getting around in Abruzzo without a car leads you to buses. The bus system in Abruzzo, as reported in Life in Abruzzo, is run for the locals and may not have service on Sundays. Mid day may also be a hard time to make connections. There are several bus lines that service Abruzzo. ARPA is the major one and it is easy to find schedules online. Some towns, such as Vasto, can be reached by the Di Fonzo Bus Line. If you plan way ahead, Di Fonzo offers low cost (5 euro) tickets online for travel between Vasto – Lanciano – Rome or between Pescara – Chieti – Rome. Check other links on the About Abruzzo blog.
ARPA: Link to search for schedules.Orari = schedules Fermate di Partenza = departing stop Fermate di Arrivo = arriving stop
While trains run from Rome to L’Aquila and Pescara and a few other major towns, if you plan to transfer from train to bus, it will be easier to take a bus in the first place. Then you will be at the bus station or stop. In L’Aquila there is a large bus station, the Collemagio. All the buses stop there. It is easy to buy tickets on the bottom floor and ask advice. The attendant usually knows enough English to tell you the number of the stall where you will catch your bus. Even with a good skill in basic numbers, I carried a small notebook and asked them to write the numbers when I wasn’t sure. When there is no bus station, the right place to make a transfer is not always easy to determine. Some Italian may or may not help here. If there is no bus station, get off in the center where you can go to a Tabacchi, bar, or cafe. You can buy a ticket at the tabacchi and you can ask advice at a bar (coffee shop in Italy) or cafe. In Sulmona, make transfers in the center near the north side of town where there is a city park filled with trees and paths. The train station in Sulmona is down a hill and not convenient for bus transfers. Lonely Planet, however, suggests Bus A from the train station.
Leaving from Rome:
A good description and map of the bus terminal can be found at this site: how to get to the Tibertina bus terminal. While this pdf tells how to find the Di Fonzo bus line, it is the same bus terminal for the other bus lines. I took the ARPA bus.
Cost of ARPA buses:
I paid:Rome Tibertina to L’Aquila-Collemaggio – 9.50 euro L’Aquilla-Collemaggio to Sulmona – 5.50 euro Pescara Plazza delle Repubblica to L’Aquila-Collemaggio – 7.80 euro L’Aquila-Collemaggio to Calascio – round trip ticket – 5.20 euro
ARPA Regional Bus Lines in the Abruzzo Region
ARPA search for schedules
DiCarloBus – schedule of bus directly from Pescara to Fiumicino airport. One per day.
I made a big mistake the day I left Rome for Anversa degli Abruzzzi. I knew I needed cash to pay the rest of my bill at Porta dei Parchi and I knew that there would be few cash points out in the country. But I did not go to a bancomat in the Roma Termini Train Station. I took the 10 to 15 minute walk from my hotel, the Domus Nova Bethlem, to the Termini Metro stop. For one euro, I took the Metro from Termini to Tiburtina, another train station. I assumed that it would be easy to find a bancomat there. But it wasn’t. In hind site, I took the metro, not the train and while the two transportation systems are connected underground, I did not go to the areas at either train station where there would be a bancomat. Eager to be on my way, I decided to go ahead and find my bus and try to change money in L’Aquila. The bus station was not easy to find. There were no signs. If I asked anyone, they just said, “Non lo so”. “I don’t know it.” I walked from the Metro stop towards the train station and then outside where I crossed streets under an overpass. Once there, the biglietteria, ticket office, was easy to find.
Excited to see the mountains, I took a seat in the upper deck of the bus to L’Aquila. The dinner at the bioagriturismo was not until eight that night. So I had time to see a little of L’Aquila before getting the next bus to Sulmona, then another to Anversa.
The bus station in L’Aquila, the Collemaggio, is at the bottom of a hill. The walk to the center of town is up the hill. At times I felt I was going nowhere. Then I found a park and then buildings. Buildings were fenced off and strapped with metal or encased in wire mesh to contain the earthquake damage. But no one was working on reconstruction. Three military personnel in camouflage hung out and chatted near their vehicle. The post office mentioned in my old guide book was cordoned off as was the church, a major tourist site. There was one man walking around taking pictures, but very little activity. I tried to use the bancomats on the side streets. One after another refused to give me cash and cited my need to contact my bank at home. My bank, however, knew I was in Italy and I had money in my account. As I started to enter another bank, an older man with a cane who was visiting with the armed guard started to talk to me. I told him that I was in Abruzzo because my grandparents were born in Calascio. He told me his daughter lived in Miami. I told him as best I could about my problem. “La macchina della banca mi dice, ‘No’.” I didn’t know the term bancomat, so I said the bank machine tells me, “No.” Perhaps I said non functiona per me. Anyway, he understood and wanted to help, but didn’t know how to help at first. I heard “non lo so” again. After I tried once more at another machine, he offered to take me to another bank. So I made a leap of faith and put my luggage in his car and he drove me to a bank away from the center. We talked about Calascio and about my upcoming trip to walk with sheep. Familiar with Porta dei Parchi, he was impressed and told me about another Abruzzo farm where they raise donkeys. Away from the center, life appeared suburban and normal. The bank machine here gave me money! I returned to the car proclaiming “Va bene! Va bene! Grazie mille!” My first experience with the Abruzzese proved what I had heard and read. The Abruzzese are strong and gentle. My fatherly friend drove me to the bus station and I thanked him profusely again.
The next bus took me through the mountains to Sulmona. I followed the route on a map. I knew that I traveled close to Calascio, but could not quite see it from the road. I asked the bus driver where I should get off for the bus to Anversa degli Abruzzi. He motioned for me to stay on the bus as he drove through the town center. At the outskirts of town, he told me to buy a ticket at the small kiosk and wait across the street for the bus. But the kiosk was closed and there was no other place to buy a ticket. A driver waited with a small bus, the size of a van, and I asked him where to buy a ticket. “Non, lo so.” Where to get the bus to Anversa. “Non lo so.” I tried to ask others, but there was no one to ask. I was near a hospital and a parking lot. It was mid day, hot and sunny, and most people relax during the mid day break. Another bus finally arrived and I asked the same questions. “Non lo so.” Finally this bus driver took me back to the center of town without a ticket and dropped me off at a park. He told me to buy a ticket at the Tabacchi and wait for the bus on the other side of the park.
As I pulled my luggage across the park, gravel walkways clogged my luggage wheels and had to lift the luggage. Finally I made it to the other side and walked towards the shops. The tabaccaio or tobacconist told me the time for the bus and that I should wait on the opposite side of the park. I had enough time for a gelato from a shop near the park. For one euro, less than half the price in Rome, the sales clerk piled the gelato into a cup for me. As I crossed the park, I remembered Elizabeth Gilbert’s favorite Italian word in Eat,Pray, Love: “attraversiamo”, “let’s cross over”. I was not thrilled to attraverso again. I stood waiting for the bus and although early, was determined not to move until the bus arrived.
After fifteen minutes of waiting, more people arrived. I told a young man where I was going. He told me to wait on the other side of the park. My bus going toward Scanno left from the other side. I had no choice but attraversare il parco di nuovo and fast. I cursed the tabaccaio under my breath and cursed myself for not listening to the bus driver. A young man in this line confirmed that I was indeed in the right line. He was returning to Scanno from college. With a dreamy look in his eyes, he insisted that I should go to Scanno where I would find the most beautiful mountains. Although I tried to tell him that I would get to Scanno while walking with the sheep, he seemed disappointed that I would get off the bus before seeing Scanno. The bus drove through Sulmona and into the beautiful mountains. Lo so. Lo so.
June 27, 2011
After treating my dehydrated body to a coke, I walked to the castle. I was alone at the castle for a while. First it felt scary to walk alone along the massive walls. As I relaxed it became magical. Then other tourists arrived to break the spell. Most were Italian, but some were English, Scottish or German. Later I tried to beg a ride down to the town of Calascio from Paolo, the hotel owner. He gave me the phone numbers of the three Americans in Calascio. Paolo said I should buy a house here and learn Italian with the other Americani. He had his children direct me to the path. The path is much quicker than the road. It crosses the road 3 or 4 times.
I walked through the town and found churches, buildings that were empty, buildings with large cracks, a building with workers, and many buildings with flowers in front and lace in the windows. One of the first streets I found was Via di Mezzo la Terra or middle Earth Street. I felt suddenly transported to a Tolkien novel.
At 4 pm I found a computer in Vittoria’s Bar on the lowest or main street where I had a gelato. The girl behind the counter said I could use the computer “quando vuole”. Vuole, “you want,” is a word I studied very much, but it took me a minute to register that she was actually offering me free access to a computer.
After writing home, I headed back up the hill to return to my room. On the top street, I began to look for the start of the path. I knew I was close. I watched a woman walk over a stepped metal bridge that connected the door to her house to the road and then I asked her where the path was using my best Italian. She didn’t understand me, so she shouted down the hill to a man. When she said I was Americani, he quickly found several other people. Suddenly there were people asking me where I was from in English. “Wisconsin”. “Where in Wisconsin?” “Eau Claire.” “NO! We’re from Ettrick!” Thus I met Marissa and Fred who have a house in Calascio and a farm about one hour from my house in Eau Claire. In no time I was sitting at their dining room table discussing our ancestors and Windber, Pennsylvania. I heard their story: how Fred came to Calascio to find his roots and met Marissa. They have been married for 42 years. Marissa said, “We are all Calascini, we are all cousins.”
It felt like I was back in Windber in a relative’s kitchen. Everyone knows about Windber. When Calascini emmigrated in the late 1800’s, either they went to Windber, Pennsylvania or to Riverton or Toluca, Illinois. Everyone was racking their brains for my family connections.
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.
While at the Shanti Centre, I found a trove of books on Abruzzo travel and some history books. I started to read Abruzzo Along the Shepherds’ Tracks and took some notes. Stephanie graciously offered the book to me since it was my history. I am especially grateful now that I cannot find it new, only used. A search online this morning turned up this abbreviated version online: http://www.abruzzomoliseheritagesociety.org/TRATTURIeTRANSUMANZA.pdf
The publisher of the book does have ABRUZZO. Guida Storico-Artista and advertises it as the guide selected by George Clooney for the film “The American”. I found an English version: Abruzzo. History and Art Guide.
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|
Excerpts from emails to my husband:
I am at the yoga center. Now I am with a whole new group of people and it takes a while to become a group. Everyone is British as I expected. My ear was just getting used to Italian and now I am hearing a variety of British accents. I can’t understand half of the conversations.
I was sorry to leave the mountains. I did not leave very early. I did more laundry as a preventative against poison ivy or-whatever is making my hands and feet bubble and itch again. Then I had to wait for a ride to Sulmona from someone from the farm. After my clothes dried, I had to wait for the afternoon lunch and rest time to end. Marcello who works there told me 3 o’clock. Manuella told me that he went back to Anversa to eat with his mother. Then I saw Manuella eating with her son Giacomo in an outdoor area at the side of the restaurant. Later, I saw Nunzio eating in the restaurant with his wife, Electra. Eventually Giacomo took me to Sulmona with Bourbonne, his Abruzzo sheep dog/golden retriever mix puppy. The puppy needed shots at the vet in Sulmona. I told him he should call the dog Jack Daniels. I explained cheese heads to Giacomo. He said he had seen the foam hats in American movies.
So here I am at the Shanti Centre until the 26th. I arrived in the dark and was surprised this morning by the landscapes in the hazy sunlight. Each scene seems to be lifted right out of an oil painting.
* * *
I am finally getting into relaxing. It is very hot – 29 or so and it is 10:30. We do yoga at 8 am then breakfast, time to read, swim, sun, or relax. We will have lunch and more free time. On my first day I had a massage. Stephanie’s massage hands found hiking kinks I didn’t know I had. We do another yoga class on the big deck at 5:30, then dinner. There is a sauna and solar hut tub. The other day, I slowly walked to Casoli, a 90 minute walk. They were ready to send out a search party after me. I was fine. We went to Atri yesterday and it was lovely. An old village with beautiful churches. We went out to eat last night. Our day to do yoga at the beach is tomorrow.
* * *
I think I am about ready to leave here and go home. But I have not seen Calascio yet. I have 3 nights to work out. We are having a lazy day today. Yoga this evening and a barbeque. The yoga has been wonderful. Stephanie is a great teacher. I still cannot understand the Brits half the time.
Spent a wonderful day on the beach. Making reservations. Bye for now.
* * *
I will leave this little slice of heaven about 7:30 tonight after a dinner. Rupert is a great cook. You have competition. It is all vegetarian and he serves wonderful food with a variety and balance. I do feel quite healthy. I hope there is internet at tonight’s hotel in Pescara.
This gallery contains 10 photos.
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