Crossing the Sibbilini Mountains

The GranSasso

Sonneteering is something akin to stargazing. As the Gallilean telescope discovered the moons of Jupiter, so does the sonneteer discover new forms of sonnete. My latest invention came about from a couple of hours studing the works of Guicarmo Leopardi in the library at his home town of Recanati. I wrote in a mixture of Italian & English (mescalto=mixed) & used the ebb, flow & rhyming scheme of some of Leopradis work.

Citta del molto chiase, tali richezza!
La mia notte solinga il color della speranza,

My microcosmic mind

Is pierced by a fresh romantic dynamism

For some Magnus Apollo of Byronism

My wanderings here find

Siamo amiche, Guiacarmo Leopardi

Vedo la sua mura, gli archi e le colonne

& belvedering bliss

Where, desiring infinity in an astro mirabil

Il pensier del presente do race & reel

As amorose kiss!

& as nations create their native poesy forms

Into my mind new predeliction storms

Thus armed with my new sonnet fom I decided to head to the Monti Sibbilini mountain range. A bus ride, a train & another bus ride later (all free) we had entered a world akin to the English Lake District, climbing 700 metres to the university town of Camerino. It was a fine, spacious city, with commanding views & an air of high intelligentsia. About a hundred meters below the city Victor found us an old farm house, where we pitched tent, lit a fire, drank booze & chatted once more into the night, the soft sillouhettes of the mountainscape rising across the valley before us. The next morning we were off again, & what a day. We followed a steep narrow, tree shaggy valley ever & ever upwards to Castelsanteangelo sul Nera. It is a lovely spot, with crystal clear river water & the fresh air of altidude. The wee town nestles at the foot of a triangular defensive wall system which pyramids up the slopes. After stocking up on spam & bread we set off on our hike up hill, & were lucky to be picked up by a middle aged couple from London!

Where am I?

They were quite surprised to find out we were from Burnley, but were lovely sorts & we were connected by the town of Thiruvanamali, where thir daughter had set up a school & I had translated Thirukkural. They dropped us off at the town of Castelluccia, an amazing wee town at the center of this extremely flat plateaux. Above it, covered by clouds, towers Monte Vettore, which at 2476 meters is almost twice the height of Ben Nevis. Bidding our countrymen adeiu, Me & Victor continued our hike, crossing the mountain circled plateaux then climbing a not to steep road. As we went, tho, the rains came, & believe me there was no shelter at all. We finally hit the ridge, however, where a rifugio (hostel), tho closed, gave us a little shelter to eat our lunch out of the mountain winds. Not far beyond that the road finally began to drop & we were rewarded with vviews of the valleys below us, stunning in autumnal glory, & thro a break in the clouds, the Gransasso itself, a mountainous 3000 metres. In WW2, after a coup ha deposed him, Mussolini was imprisoned in a hotel near the Gransasso, but was famously rescued by Germans in gliders.

Dora's Bar

The walk into the valley was beautiful, the rains had stopped & the road was lined with berreis & apple trees. Then the rains came back again & we finally reached this wee village soggy as fuck! For shelter we entered this wee 1930s style barran by the elderly, but adorable Dora. She made us feel very welcome, as did her wee squat customers, four oldish guys who just sat & played cards & didnt even buy a drink. From there we made a futile search for a B&B, & were forced to camp in the dark a few k downhill – a very uncomfortable night on hard ground & nippy with dampness. Waking up cold in the middle of the night I was suddenly inspired to pen a sonnet to help soothe the situation…

Where are you now with your beautiful lives
& your beautiful wives, & your horses
Where are you now with your beautiful knives
As you dine on your beautiful courses.

Leap up & reach for the world open road
Where the antlers of stags are still living
Face up to liberty, free up your load
For the chill of the night unforgiving

On waking & feeling the splendour of morn
We aspire to the days new adventure
Our feet are stll soggy, your clothes are more torn
With a vision of God in each vista

With beautiful music in curses youve sworn
As you pace off your beautiful blister

Despite the amzingness of the previous day, the next morning we called off our further mountain adventures & resolved to get back to the coast. While waiting for a bus at Arqua del Tronto, I got chatting to this 87 year old man -Tony – who had an amazing tale. During world war two he & his family had hid a certain Jack Macshiel from Glasgow, who had found himself on the wrong side of the Gustav Line. For seven months he avoided the Germans & the story as astirring start to the day.

The bus we then caught provided us with the first sting of the tour – our tickets were 2.70 euros each. Still, its not bad considering weve been on the road ten days! The bus took us to Ascoli Piceno, an industrial type city at the foot of the mountains. While waiting for the train out of there we met 26 year old Danilo Battistelli, a handsome architecture student who I had my best Italian conversation with Ive ever had, by the end of which he was offering to put me & Victor up for a couple of nights. We told him we would return after we picked up Paul from Pescara airport (Wednesday). Talking of which, we are now only 20 k from there, a little premature, but happy to be in a town called Pineto. We camped on the beach last night, cooking hot food for the first time with some pans we found back at the farmhouse in Camerino. It was mackeral, eggs & what turned out ot be yoghurt, creating a new dish Ive coined Fishyogegio. The yoghurt was supposed to be milk (Victors bad italian at the supermarcato), whose true identity I discovered this morning when, after stoking up the embers of last nights fire & looking forward to a good cup of tea, oon pouring the milk into the pan, it all congealed! Still, I guess yoghurts a good way to start the day. It continued with us trying to find an apartment or hotel for a night or two to clean up, but everywhere is closed for the season. The place is lovely, but I gues touristy, & depsite there being several hundred empty rooms all around us, all are closed. Instead weve camped in the paltial grounds of a nearby hunting lodge, complete with an overgrown tennis court & just ripened orange trees. Close by is a bar where I am writing this blog, recharging the laptop & having a jolly good rest from the mountains.



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