PetritoliJanuary 24, 2017 in Italy
Driving towards Petritoli we rose up to nearly 300m above sea level and began to encounter the damage caused by the heavy snow that still lay at the sides of the road. The most common sign was the mass of broken tree branches, lying on the ground or hanging on by not much more than a splinter. The weight of the snow followed by high winds had wreaked havok with the olive groves, whose trees retained their leaves throughout the year. Firs too had taken a battering, but there were also a lot of smaller branches snapped from deciduous trees. Out of those that hadn't broken, many hung low over the road and we had to be careful not to drive into them. The authorities had obviously done a lot of work, cutting back and clearing to make safe, but it was a consequence of the weather that we hadn't often heard reported and it testified to the severity of the conditions. Aside from the trees, the rooves of a barn and an abandoned factory looked as if they had recently collapsed.
The route we followed took us along a ridge and it felt very freeing to be up high and away from the smog and crammed development of the coast. The countryside undulated all around us and characterful rustic towns, each with a church and spire, featured frequently, silhouetted on the hilltop horizons.
Petritoli stopover was on the gravel car park used by a primary school, sports centre and local houses. It had trees all around but didn't feel crowded. As soon as we arrived we set about cleaning the water tank and pipes and replacing the water pump. Just over an hour later we had a fully operational system that turned off when it should! What a relief!
Up a steep hill from the van was the walled old town. Its cobbled streets linked near derelict terraced houses with flaking plaster, to recently renovated bright and clean communal buildings like the town theatre.
Every shop was shut for lunch but a few small cafes were open. We chose one that looked as if it catered for locals and took our drinks and pastries into the back room where about 9 white haired men were gathered around a corner table, partaking animatedly in a game of cards. They raised their voices and slammed their cards down on the table. Although we couldn't understand their impassioned expressions we could tell that nothing was said with malice. Once the game was over a few strode out but others turned to us to apologise. There was no need; we'd loved looking in this window on local life! There was a pack of cards out on our table too, but we spent our time examining them instead of playing. They were European cards with only 10 in each suit and quite different to the ones we're used to.
The person behind the bar was brilliant, she told Vicky what the cakes we ordered were called and helped her improve her pronunciation. It turned out she had been mispronouncing the word for 'pay' and it sounded as if she was asking people if we could 'kiss' instead!Read more