Wednesday 21 November 2012

Facebook, Photography, and Making New Friends in The Sabina

Sunset over Monte Soratte by Alessandra Finite
As soon as we came home from our first visit to Casperia in the Sabina, we began thinking of our next trip there. I don't know what it was exactly. I know there are lots of places in the world to see, and that there are thousands of fabulous places to visit and things to experience in other parts of Italy, but more than anything, I wanted to return there and spend more time there if we could... After years of working in Japanese tourism where the standard pattern is to cram as many destinations and experiences in one itinerary, all I wanted to do was reject that pattern. I didn't want to expand my Italian experience so much as concentrate itto become rooted in one place. I wanted to go deeper.

My partner Richard lived in Olginate near Lecco in Lombardia for about a year some decades back and during that time he learned to speak basic Italian. I had been working on my rudimentary Italian since we came back from our first trip, downloading Italian music from Napster (remember Napster) and looking up the lyrics of the songs I liked on the internet. I have a background in languages... I speak, read and write Japanese pretty fluently, but what helped my study of Italian is that I had studied both French and Spanish in High School and University. My basic understanding of the grammar and vocabulary of these two Romance languages allowed me to extrapolate from them and build a basic Italian vocabulary even during my first trip to Italy. 

As we worked to slowly improve our Italian, I looked for more information on the area surrounding Casperia. I was beginning to use Facebook more then, and found to my surprise that Facebook is just as popular in Italy as it is in Canada... and therefore, I could change the language I used from English to Italian... which I did.

From there I started to do searches on Facebook looking for pages relating to Italy and travel in Italy, especially anything to do with the Sabina. I found quite a few pages of interest including ones called "Go Sabina" "Hello Sabina" "La Bassa Sabina" "Bassa Sabina In Vetrina" and one called "Il Lazio Dei Misteri." There was even a page for Casperia.

Many of these pages had some wonderful photographs of places in the Sabina that I did not know about, but after seeing them, I knew I would want to go and visit. And there were many pictures of our beloved Casperia and other places that we had visited during our trip to the Sabina in 2009. 

Casperia, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Rocchette, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Two people in particular, a man named Giorgio Clementi and a woman named Alessandra Finiti, were posting a lot of amazing shots of hilltop towns I had never heard of before. There was one particular photograph, a haunting image of a mist shrouded stone tower looming above a little town called Catino that caught my eye and my imagination. Here it is...

Catino in the fog, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
 Catino... I had never heard of it. I did a Google Map Search and was blown away to find that it was very close to Casperia, just a few kilometres south of Roccantica, a beautiful town just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Casperia we had visited in 2009. I thought... okay... that's not far. We can go there on our next trip. This process happened a number of times... next with a photograph of Cottanello, a town just northeast of Montàsola.

Cottanello, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
 ...and next with a photograph of Poggio Mirteto, which I found out was the next town south of Catino.

Poggio Mirteto, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
In this fashion, bit by bit, a lot of our future itinerary in the Sabina was determined by these photographs being posted on Facebook.
There were other pages showcasing people's "best photographs" of Italy and, on a whim, I posted this photograph on one of them.

Vicolo Serpenti in Casperia, April 2009
This is a gorgeous little house on Vicolo Serpenti, or "Snake Alley" in Casperia. I am not sure about the name. I don't think that it has anything to do with snakes living in the vicolo, rather it may have to do with the Stemma, or Comunal Coat of Arms of Casperia, which has a snake on it.   

Either way, some time after I posted this picture I saw on Facebook that someone had "Liked" it and had written a comment. This someone was a delightful lady named Clelia Angelelli. Clelia wrote that she had been born in Casperia and had lived in a house on Vicolo Serpenti. I can't remember the exact sequence of what happened after that, but soon after one of us "Friended" the other and that was how I made my first Facebook contact with someone who had deep roots in the Sabina. 

After we friended one another, of course Clelia had access to all my photos from our 2009 trip to Casperia, and she set about "Liking" quite a few on them and making comments on them, writing about her childhood memories in Casperia. Clelia speaks little English and I understood very little Italian then, but through our short and simple interactions on Facebook, I not only made a faraway Italian friend, but I also learned a lot more about the history of Casperia, and slowly increased my Italian vocabulary in the process. The fact that we both had a love of cats made things easy...

Emboldened by this pleasant experience, I started to "Like" and make comments on some of the photographs I saw on Facebook, clicking on numerous photos posted by Giorgio Clementi and Alessandra Finiti and others... telling them their photo was "bellissima" or "mi piace". These overtures resulted in a few "grazie" and : )s, then before I knew it I had become Facebook Friends with Alessandra and Giorgio. In the meantime I found I had a Friend request from a friend of Clelia's, a woman named Paola. This was right out of the blue from someone I had never had contact with before, but I thought what the heck and I "Friended" her too. A short while after Clelia invited me to join her private Facebook Group called Locanda di Cle'. I thought... this is neat, I am in!   

Time passed, and earlier than we expected it, Richard and I had an opportunity to make real plans to travel to Italy again with our friend Candace... This time we chose to stay in Casperia a full month instead of a week. We contacted Chris and Meg Phillips and reserved Il Sogno. I told Clelia, Alessandra, and Giorgio of our intentions and started to ask them their opinions on what we should see, what places we should visit, which restaurants to try, things like that.

Casperia from the air
As days passed and our departure approached, Clelia, who lived in Vetralla in the Province of Viterbo about an hour north of Rome, suggested we get together in Casperia toward the end of March. She wanted to celebrate her birthday in Casperia. She would come from Vetralla with her husband... and so would Paola with her husband from Fiumicino. As it happens, my birthday was a few days after... Clelia and I would celebrate our birthdays in Casperia together.

A visit from four strangers... Well three anyway... Suddenly our vacation to the Sabina began to feel very interesting... But that is another post.

Celebrating at Friends Caffe' in Casperia, March 31, 2012, courtesy of Massimo Fidale

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