Wednesday 28 November 2012

SABINA TRAVELOGUE - Part 2 (March 21 - A Visit to Poggio Mirteto)

What grows in balcony flower pots in Poggio Mirteto
March 21
So it is really quiet out here in the country... This morning we were awakened by a symphony of bird songs, cats yowling and dogs barking far off in between some intermittent crowing of proud Sabine roosters. The cats are very territorial here. I am not sure if they actually fight, but they sure let an interloper know that it is not okay to enter their vicolo. We had a quick breakfast of leftover frittata and toast with prosciutto and coffee. 

Richard is heading out to Roma for an afternoon with friends in Rome. I am off to another hilltop town called Poggio Mirteto to meet Ms. Alessandra Finiti, someone we have met through Facebook, and who is in the forefront of the work to promote the Sabina as a sustainable, Eco-friendly tourist destination

A new friend here remarked yesterday that "A day in the Sabina can have 48 hours". I believe she was referring to the pace of life here... With no judgement... but maybe a little humour. Richard and I got all dressed up to board the bus for Poggio Mirteto ... He planning to forge on to Roma, and me staying for lunch in Poggio Mirteto with our friend Alessandra. 

Petrocchi Bar and Bus Stop with the Church of the Annunciation behind - from Google Maps
We went down to the little bar beside the bus stop expecting to be able to hop on a bus and be off, only to find that the next bus to Poggio Mirteto was at 13:00. : ) 48 hours, indeed! So now we are back at the house all dressed up waiting for another bus, and Richard and I will now both be able to meet Alessandra for the first time. 

Alessandra is a lawyer living and working in Roma, but she was born in Poggio Mirteto where here father works as a real estate agent. She is very active with a group here on Facebook that includes photographer Giorgio Clementi—I think I have mentioned him beforeand Arianna Ceraola, a local tour operator, who are trying their best to promote the Sabina as a sustainable, Eco-friendly, "light footprint" tourism destination.

Pristine Sabine countryside - Photo courtesy of Luca Zarathustra Bellincioni
It is a job that requires tact and a good sense of balance. The Sabina's big charm is that it is rustic and undeveloped in terms of tourism infrastructure, yet full of history, breathtaking scenery, gastronomic pleasures that include the best olive oil in Italy, and some amazing local delicacies. 

Long a part of the Papal States, the area did not have a high profile in the renaissance like Firenze, Pisa, Sienna, Genova, etc. The Sabina's glory days were the middle ages when the great Abbey of Farfa held sway over much of the region. 

Farfa Abbey

If you are interested, they post a lot of great pictures and articles in a number of pages on Facebook including Hello Sabina, and Bassa Sabina in Vetrina. Giorgio Clementi has a great website and has a video channel on YouTube. Search for it under "ClementiGiorgio".

Anyway, we are meeting Alessandra and perhaps Arianna for lunch. The weather is fantastic here. 19°C with clear Sabina skies.

Richard is out sitting on the little terrazzo listening to the birds and the sound of chainsaws in the distance. Alla prossima!


Post Card Collage of images of Poggio Mirteto by Alessandra Finiti

Richard's Facebook Post about Poggio Mirteto

Richard Rooney by Alessandra Finiti

Ok, I will try and keep this short, as I am not a big poster of things and I do have a bit of a love\hate\love relationship with Facebook, but, James asked me to post MY thoughts about our day today, so here goes.

The day started out a bit rough as I probably had no sleep the night before and was in that frustrated state of knowing a lot of Italian words but unable to piece them together except in a way that to me sounded like something a two year old was saying (no offense to two year olds).
Allora! I was supposed to go into Rome for the day to visit friends, that went sideways as our bus never left here for the station until 1pm, making it too late, so in typical Italian mindset I just went into plan B. James asked me to join him in a lunch date with someone a lot of you already have seen on Facebook, Alessandra Finiti, someone we met on Facebook some time ago. James and her especially have common historical interests. After a hilariously careening ride up and down hills through Roccantica, seeing Catino and Poggio (Poggio means hill) Catino which has a 1200 year old Lombard tower, I was literally holding on tight as we turned corners around steep hills, one time scraping the side of a guard rail, just chuckling all the way, my kind of ride.
We met Alessandra 15 minutes late, here not unusual. Not going into any detail, to me, she was, as my cousin Des would say, so beautiful she would make a grown man cry in his soup. We ate at a cosy little restaurant called I Mille Sapori on the main Piazza in Poggio Mirteto a place very close to her heart. Her father lives there, he also joined us during lunch, which was just simply, delicious. I had the butterfly (farfala) pasta in a light cream sauce with bacon and peas, James had a local dish Stringozzi with pepper and cheese , Cacio e pepe.
While James and Alessandra talked history, Alessandra's father, Luigi, yes Luigi, and I talked language and words. Being a true Canadian, I immediately apologized all over for my poor Italian, and he just looked at me and very slowly said "Passo doppo passo" which means one step after the other . He said "Piano piano", which means slowly, take your time , and just by saying those words in his very kind way, he immediately put me at ease. He talked about how difficult it was to pronounce words in English with "th" in it and I talked about words in Italian with double R's. Luigi is about maybe in his late 60's and works in real estate for the entire region including Rome.

Dottor Luigi had to return to work, but for the next hour Alessandra very kindly showed us around her home town. What I love about the people I have met is their hospitality, kindness, and generosity. They have taken the time to make us feel at home whether it be by giving us a little bag of olives on the house, or picking us up or driving us somewhere. It just goes to show, you never know how your day is going to unfold. (I guess I didn't keep that very short) I don't normally post on FB that much, especially on holidays, but I think people should know about people like Alessandra and her Pappa Luigi.

My (James') post, which followed Richard's Post
What a great day! Richard has posted in more detail what we did today. I just wanted to reiterate what an incredible pleasure it was for us to meet and spend time with Alessandra Finiti and her father Dottor Luigi Finiti in Poggio Mirteto today. First of all, the drive there was amazing. We whizzed through the winding roads of the Sabina at breakneck speed, passing through Roccantica and then driving by the equally majestic Catino and Poggio Catino. Every twist of the road brought a new photographic opportunity, at least for a split second. : ) In these first days of spring, the green of the field was almost iridescent. The silver sage of the Sabina olive groves was incredibly beautiful. We had a great lunch at I Mille Sapori on the main square, the Piazza dei Martiri della Liberta'.

Richard had an animated discussion with Dottor Luigi on one end of the table while Alessandra and I talked about the challenges of promoting the Sabina region to the right market on the other. 

In the middle of the lunch Alessandra received a call from photographer Giorgio Clementi on her cell phone. He is in the midst of restoring an old house in Catino, one of the smaller towns we passed by earlier on our bus ride. If you have been following our posts you'll no doubt have seen his amazing photos of the Bassa Sabina. He has tagged us in a number of them. Grazie Giorgio

Catino in the distance seen behind a field of poppies by Giorgio Clementi
 Giorgio's photos posted on Facebook had a huge influence on how we are spending our time here. It sounds like we will be getting together with him some time later in the coming weeks. That will be great.
Photo courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Dottor Luigi had business to attend to so after lunch we said our good-byes and we headed out to explore Poggio Mirteto with Alessandra. Poggio Mirteto is very beautiful. 

Here is a wonderful video by the talented photographer Paolo Pitoni that introduces the various attractions, scenery, heritage and charms of Poggio Mirteto.

It is amazing what a twenty minute bus ride means in terms of building materials. In Poggio Mirteto different stones were used to build the houses, churches, and city walls than those used in Casperia. The colour scheme here is  completely different than that seen in Casperia and Ci sono meno scale li! : ) 

The Porta del Sotto Gate to the Old Town, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
There are actually two Poggio Mirtetos... The modern town which is the largest in this part of the Sabina, and the Old Town or Centro Storico at its core that you have to access via an old stone gate off the main Piazza.

Poggio Mirteto's Centro Storico has limited car access.

Detail from a door
A tower from the walls of Poggio Mirteto's Old Town
Cats seem to be the good-will ambassadors of the Sabina. At one point in our visit we came across an amazing sight, five cats sleeping in separate plant pots on the same balcony. 

Photo courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
I had seen a photo of this very spot by Alessandra before, but I did not know it was taken in Poggio Mirteto. My photo at the top of the blog and this one by Alessandra were taken quite a few weeks apart. It is evident that each cat has its own favourite place to sleep! 

Speaking of cats, we had a very attentive little grey and white cat escort us for a lot of the tour.  

We took a lot of pictures and a video or two. I hope we can figure out how to post these soon. 

This iconic doorway is a favourite of local photographers - Courtesy Alessandra Finiti

Courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

Richard has this photo as the Wallpaper for his computer!

Courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

In this house even the cat is nervous!

Poggio Mirteto and Monte Soratte courtesy of Alessandra Finiti

Alessandra drove us to the bus stop at Poggio Mirteto Scalo. On the way out of Poggio Mirteto we stopped to look at an apartment block Alessandra's partner is building. There are a number of suites, all facing the Tiber Valley with a stunning view of Mount Sorrate, sacred to Dis Pater, the Italic god of the underworld, and also Apollo.


The apartments will be beautiful when they are finished. I believe Alessandra and her partner will move into one which has a large brick pizza oven... Hmmm... Perhaps we can get an invitation to the house-warming party?

Olive groves below Alessandra's apartment

We got home to Il Sogno, had dinner and settled in for the night. 
Richard has music playing on his IPad. We have been listiening to our favourite, Paolo Conte, but just now Tiziano Ferro's "L'ultima Notte al Mondo" has come on... This is, without a doubt, the theme song of our trip here... This is the song that when we listen to it years from now will bring back all the memories of this incredible sojourn here in the Sabina and will remind us of the many people we have met and will meet, old friends and new, in this amazing country. Vi ringrazio di cuore... I will be doing an in depth interview with Alessandra for a future post.

Paolo Conte has come back on with "Max", another of our favourites... Paolo Conte's music will always bring back memories of our first trip here three years ago... I better sign off... I am getting too sentimental... An early night tonight. Tomorrow we head out to Roma to pick up our rent-a-car.


  1. La mia terra!!! È affascinante il modo in cui gli stranieri ci vedono, ci ricordano di quant'è bella l'Italia. Io sono di Rieti, una città non molto lontata dai luoghi che ha visitato. Grazie per aver condiviso la sua esperienza in questo blog e per aver visitato la Sabina con tanto affetto.

  2. Sabrina, Grazie infinite per le tue parole. La Sabina è un territorio incantevole con così tanto da scoprire. Mi auguro che questo blog possa in qualche modo aiutare le persone che non conoscono la Sabina a capire qualcosa di suo fascino. La mia speranza è che questo blog attirerà i visitatori che potranno apprezzare e rispettare questa parte speciale d 'Italia per quello che è ...