Sunday, 17 February 2013

SABINA TRAVELOGUE 24 - April 14 - Farewell Friends

Casperia's Porta Santa Maria Gate, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi

Last night was our farewell dinner to Il Sogno, our wonderful house in Casperia which we rented from Chris and Meg Phillips. We lit a big fire and I made a big dinner using all the things we still had in the fridge. I made a fusilli pasta with cherry tomatoes bought from Ecofattorie Sabine following the directions Marco gave me the first time we visited there. We used up the last of the grilled eggplant, the olives, and the sundried tomatoes from the alimentari, as well as some bass fillets that were in the freezer. 

Because it is a sin to waste wine, we did our best to finish the last of the five litre bottle of white wine that our friends from Roma had given to us. We even had dessert... some great locally made gelato and icecream that we had bought earlier at Friends Caffe. We spent some time cleaning up and packing, but most of the time we spent reminiscing about the incredible holiday we have had here in the Sabina.

View from our window
This morning we got up early. I made a frittata using the wild asparagus that Stefano had found for us during our hike to and from the grotta in Monteleone. I also cooked the last of the sausages we had bought at the Ecofattorie Sabine. It was hard to leave our wonderful home away from home. We have spent an incredible month at Il Sogno. (Thanks Chris and Meg Phillips. It was such a great privilege to be able to stay in your beautiful house.)

We transferred all of our bags about 100 meters down the hill to La Torreta , a beautifully restored palazzo. I am sitting in the main hall... the common room, I suppose, though there is nothing common about it. There are amazing frescos around the top of the walls. It is very beautifully appointed. 

Courtesy of La Torretta

It was a strange feeling to move and then go out into Casperia again. In some way it felt like the beginning of a new holiday in Casperia, but it is the end and I am feeling sad. It is cold and rainy outside. More water for the Grotta Grande with its bats in Monteleone.

Richard and I went out for a walk to buy water and some supplies. We saw Stefano, Nicoleta and Andrea at Friends. Nicoleta looked at our pensive expressions and responded with a "Don't worry, be happy". We promised to see them later for dinner.

We went out for a coffee at the Petrocchi Bar across from the alimentari. "Dimi cari" (tell me what you want, dears) said the woman behind the bar. We ordered a cornetto and a cappuccino each and sat outside in the drizzle and contemplated the bustle of human and mechanical traffic in the intersection. Everyone sees everyone come and go from here. It is a small town. Everyone knows each other and I am sure most people know our story... We have been here for the month... Those crazy Canadians! 

We went over to the alimentari and bought some water and some of our favourite blood orange juice by Santal and took some pictures for old time's sake

Arance Rosse by Santal, third from the left,... Best tasting juice in the world!
While Richard was in the post office, I patted the white and black cat who has been our regular greeter near the town gates. 

I always thought it was a girl, but when I asked a lady who was coming out of a shop what the cat’s name was, she said. It was Mio and it was a boy. She apparently had got it neutered and got him his shots and tried to adopt him, but Mio prefers to live outside on his own and be everyone's cat. We struck up a conversation with the lady, Lucia, who recognized us from her Facebook connection with the Phillips, and we ended up being invited in for a glass of wine. Small world, Lucia is a friend with a woman Richard went to school with as a kid. Piccolo mondo indeed.

Friends Caffe on a rainy day courtesy of Stefqano Aperio Bella
It is pouring out. We talked about going to Friends to get lunch, but it is 2:37 as I write this and we will be seeing them for drinks and dinner later. It will be especially hard to say goodbye to Stefano and Nicoleta... two people who quite literally had our lives in their hands when we went to the cave and did rock climbing. 

Sempre nel mio cuore
It will be hard to say goodbye to the people at the alimentari: Irene, Massimo, Luga, Letitia who introduced us to prosciutto on toast... Maria who almost had to beat Richard twice for touching the fruit. I know we will be back in a year, but that is a long time away and it doesn't seem to make saying farewell any easier.... When you stay a month in one place, your holiday becomes just as much about the people you meet and establish relationships with as with the places you see and visit. 

Twenty-two more hours and a dozen or so minutes left. <sigh>
Monte Soratte courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Today has been a cold day in Casperia... It rained heavily for a bit, then let up. The clouds were quite low... Perhaps it was fog... There is nothing more beautiful than an Italian medieval hill town in the fog... except perhaps one in the brilliant Sabine sunshine. : )

The place we are staying at, La Torreta, is just a few steps down the hill from the house we were renting... La Torreta is a renaissance palazzo though. The owners, Roberto and Maureen Scheda have done a marvelous job restoring the old building and converting it into a truly welcoming, beautifully appointed B&B.

Courtesy of La Torretta

Tonight we share La Torreta with an Australian couple, Michael and Dale. They are very nice. This is their second night here and they are a bit jet lagged, but today they had a marvelous time enjoying a private cooking lesson with Paola at Gusto al Borgo. We shared some of our happy reminicenses of Gusto al Borgo with them. 

We are tired too. I think the fact that our time in Sabina is drawing to a close has an emotional as well as a physical toll. These last hours here are precious. Candace seems to have come down with a bit of a tummy upset, so she retired early. Richard napped most of the afternoon while I spent most of my time reading and talking to Michael and Dale beside the fire in the beautiful camino in the common room at La Torreta. 

Courtesy La Torretta website
As I mentioned earlier, Richard and I missed our chance to go to have lunch... We ate some yoghurt, but by mid-afternoon I was really hungry, but it was too early to go to dinner. Candace and I went to the alimentari to buy some panini. Letitia made us three panini. When she asked what we wanted inside I remembered the delicious panini we ate with Stefano and Nicoleta outside la Grotta Grande in Monteleone... I asked for them to be made using rosette. Letitia asked what I wanted inside. I asked for prosciutto cotto and cheese, but instead of mozzarella like we had on the mountain, I asked for the young pecorino called Campagnolo which we love so much. €8 gave us three humongous sandwiches. We took them back to La Torretta and took them upstairs to the kitchen to eat. 

La Torretta kitchen shot courtesy of La Torretta Website
Maureen, the owner, was there and we asked her about the history of the house, how long she had lived in Casperia and how she and her husband Roberto had planned and restored the house. She told us an interesting story about how during WWII three wounded allied airmen were smuggled into Casperia (then called Aspra in Sabina) and hidden in the house for three months until their wounds were healed and they were smuggled out again.

Apparently there is a village nearby whose entire population was shot by the Nazis to punish them for harbouring these airmen. There was a memorial recently which Maureen attended. She said it was very moving. She told me that the families of the airmen sent Christmas cards to the family in the house for many decades after in appreciation... 

It is a sobering thought to know that the piazza where Richard and I so happily ate pasta, sausages and beans and finally those delicious Fritelli at the Sagra del Fritello some weeks back was the site of another bloody reprisal by the Germans against the citizens of Roccantica for harbouring these airmen. A number of men were lined up along the wall near where we were eating and shot by firing squad...  

Being a house historian in the Sabina would sure be an amazing job... 

Candace was still not feeling very well so she went to bed early. But Richard and I had one important thing to do before we could go to sleep and that was to go down for one last dinner with our friends Nicoleta and Stefano at Friends Caffe. 

The walk down was bitter sweet... This would be our last time to go down these basalt cobble steps in the evening for a long long time...

When we rounded the corner and Friends came into view there were a couple of the local regulars outside enjoying a drink and talking to Nicoleta and Stefano. When Stefano saw us, the first thing he said was that Nicoleta had been worried that we would not come... (Don't worry, be happy!)

It was cold out so we agreed to eat inside, we had the entire inside section to ourselves. Nicoleta brought us our farewell Negronis...

(Buonissimi!) and our meals, which we ate slowly, savouring each last bite of bruschette with Sabina DOP Extra virgin olive oil, salt, garlic and tomatoes... So simple, so honest, so delicious... 

And what else could I eat on my last night in Casperia other than stringozzi al ragù (buoni!). 

We ate and talked and laughed with Nicoleta (Cara mia, you looked especially beautiful tonight!) and with Stefano. 

We looked over Stefano's picture wall marvelling at all the amazing places he and Nicoleta have explored. Maybe one day, there will be pictures of us up on the wall. 

We also dreamed and planned. So many great memories we will take back to Canada of our time spent in this very special place... But again it is the people who have truly made our time in the Sabina so very special.

Tonight we ended our final full day in the Sabina exactly how and where we wanted... eating and drinking at Friends with two very special people, our "friends" Nicoleta Stoichescu and Stefano Aperio Bella. Perfetto... Sono contento. : )

Photo courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella

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