Thursday 21 February 2013

SABINA TRAVELOGUE PART 25 - April 17 & 18 - Heading Home...

April 17, 2012 - Munich

Now I love Germany. I have been here a number of times, visiting Frankfurt, Köln (Cologne), Charlemagne's venerable imperial capital Aachen, and this will be my third time in Munich, a city I love.  

I have been impressed with the beauty of its countryside, the cleanliness and efficiency of its cities. I also have to say I love German food. Germany, however, is in no way like Italy... We have definitely landed on another world... 

First of all, compared to Italians, Germans seem so very serious, silent, sometimes verging on sullen, even here in beautiful beer-loving Bavaria... Perhaps we are bumping into people who feel the crushing weight of a debt-ridden Europe on their hard working shoulders. Who knows? So far, the only people who have been really friendly are the hotel staff, and part of their job is to be outgoing and smile... Mamma mia, mi manca l'Italia!

This morning we all took the train into the historic centre of Munich and got off at Marienplatz, this beautiful gothic square in front of the Rathuis, or City Hall. There is an amazing glockenspiel in the Rathuis tower that is a huge tourist attraction. 

We went to look for the restaurant where we had a great Bavarian breakfast three years ago...

Happy and bountiful Bavarian breakfast April 2009
In 2009 we ate out under the umbrellas in the square and enjoyed the view, both the amazing glockenspiel, and the milling throngs of locals and tourists...

We couldn't recall the name of the restaurant but we remembered the location. This time we ate inside... The food was okay... but, perhaps it was the fact that we were eating inside and getting weird vibes from one of the waiters, a young man from India... There was just something so very weird or off about his energy...

...and it certainly affected our experience... Long story short, we think Richard got food poisoning from something he ate there. About an hour after breakfast he almost blacked out and was extremely sick. We had to rush him to a cafe to get to a washroom. It was really scary... Richard even said he felt like he had been poisoned... Who knows? The waiter might have slipped something into his food. It may also have been an unfortunate menu choice and coincidence. Luckily he got better, but while it was happening we were all very frightened for him... 

We finally got Richard sorted out and resumed our walk through the city when twice, I was almost hit by a car... People say that Italians are crazy drivers, but at least while I was in Italy, I always knew what to expect and nothing ever happened to us. Here in Munich, we ended up having three close calls in one day! Basta! Smetila! : (

Anyway, we finally made it safely to our destination, the Jewish Museum which is an amazing institution here in Munich. As you can imagine, what we saw left us feeling emotionally drained... So much horror happened here in the decades before we were born... And what is important to remember is that many nations on both sides of the conflict were complicit in the holocaust. Canada and other countries turned away Jewish refugee ships, some which were forced to go back to Germany where their human cargo—men, women and children—was interned and ultimately cruelly exterminated...

We wandered through the streets visiting a number of shops, admiring the fruit and vegetable stands.

White asparagus is in season, and these were displayed in heaps along with boxes of glistening brown dates and Italian strawberries that we're so red I had to take a picture.

We found the Spatenhuis, the amazing restaurant where we had our last dinner in Munich together three years ago. Like then, they have a special white asparagus menu I plan to take full advantage of tomorrow during our last dinner in Europe. White asparagus soup! yum!

To tell you the truth, though I was excited to have Bavarian weisswurst and other local delicacies, after having it twice I have mostly been going to a Turkish fast food donair place called Oliva in Terminal 2 at the Munich airport. Three times I have had an amazing vegetarian donair with beautiful fresh greens and vegetables, cous cous and tomatoes and feta cheese and tzatsiki and this amazingly delicious high fibre meal only cost me 3.9 €. That's what I had for dinner tonight and may have for lunch tomorrow, so that may be four times in three days...

Courtesy Richard Rooney
Our hotel room at the Airport Kempinski Hotel (thank god, Candace gets a special rate) is wonderful. 

Their TV has about nine different language services, so, YES we have been watching Italian TV when we have it on... And I have been walking up the stairs to our room (so hard to let go of Italy and Casperia!!!)

The only frustrating thing about the hotel is that although we have a plan that allows us free Internet access, because this is a business hotel, wireless Internet use is very high and there have been many times we have not been able to access the Internet for email or Facebook. There were many times that I was in the middle of a post and then the Internet failed. 

It is great though, when we can get on, to read posts and see photos from friends in Italy. 

Nicoleta, courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
Nicoleta, that photo of you with the rainbow landing in your hand was brilliant and brought a smile to our faces on what had been an otherwise difficult day Grazie cara. Grazie di cuore! 

Anyway, we change hotels tomorrow to the Palace Hotel and leave here for Toronto around noon on the 19th. Right now I am very much looking forward to getting back to Canada to see our house and reunite with our cat Smokey...

I can't wait to go through our pictures and to post them on Facebook along with the photos our friends here in Italy took.  

Anyway, I hope tomorrow is a much less exciting day than today was... I am looking forward to our white asparagus meal at the Spatenhaus, and then getting ready for the road home. Buona notte a tutti.


April 18, 2012

This morning I had apple strudel for breakfast. "Pippistrelloman" is out doing some last minute shopping at the airport. I don't know where Candace is... Packing, packing, packing, moving to another hotel in the centre. This is our last night in Germany—our last night in Europe… 

We checked into the Palace Hotel here in Munich. OMG! What a wonderful treat on our last night here! 

The view of the inner courtyard from our room
We had a great lunch (with perhaps a few too many carbs, but who cares!) at a fabulous little bakery around the corner at Ismaninger Straße 2, called Solhofener Klosterbrot.  

Ismaninger Straße 2, Munich - Best Bread in town!
They sold this fabulous cross between a croissant and a pretzel called a Brezenhörnchen which I must say has to be one of the most delicious breads I have ever eaten... totally out of this world. The inside was exactly like a croissant, as was its shape but it was dark coloured like a pretzel and had the rich dark salt tast on the outside, like a pretzel. Brilliant! And to top it off, the ladies working at the counter were very personable and friendly!

Candace was tired and wanted to rest a bit at the hotel so Richard and I went out for a walk and did a bit of shopping. The highlight of the afternoon was speaking Italian with a cashier working in one of the clothes stores we visited. Somehow while Richard and I were talking as Richard was paying for his new jeans some Italian slipped out. The young man serving us (it turned out he was from Milan) asked us if we were Italian! That made our day! We laughed, of course, but what ensued was a rather wonderful conversation, after a couple of days not being able to have any meaningful conversation with the locals, it was great to chat with this young guy who had just moved here from italy. We asked him what he thought... He smiled, "La città è bella, ma..." and we all burst out laughing... It seemed we all had the same observations. It was funny… He seemed to be just as happy to be speaking Italian as we were...

Later this afternoon I walked for about two hours in the beautifully kept parklands along the River Isar. It was quite beautiful and very peaceful... and there was lots of amazing public art along the way. 


This looks familiar... I gemelli, dove sono?
Tonight we went to the Spatenhaus for dinner. We went there three years ago. The food is great. Right now white asparagus are in season so we all had white asparagus soup. 

I had salmon and white asparagus. Richard had veal meat balls with pepper and cognac sauce, and Candace had roast pork... Good food, but way too much to eat. How can Germans eat like this after drinking so much beer? They probably walk a lot and have their own stairs…

We are happy. We are tired. We have had a wonderful experience here in Europe. We are sad to leave Italy... It feels like we have left a part of our heart somewhere out there in the Sabine hills. It could be in any number of places: at Il Sogno in Casperia or at Friends Caffe. It could be in the old town in Poggio Mirteto guarded by a friendly grey cat, or at the base of the pentagonal tower in Catino among the mentuccia. It could be hidden under a bench among the olive groves of Farfa, or among the tangled roots of Canneto's ancient Ulivone, or on a wind-swept cobbled street in lonely Fianello... Or it could be laying in an icey pool in the dark stalactite-studded and bat-guarded depths of La Grotta Grande in Monteleone Sabino. Perhaps a small piece of our heart has been left behind in all of those places...  

"Come back", they call to us, "Vi aspettiamo!", even as we are heading home to Vancouver.

The Stairs of Casperia, courtesy of Lorenzo Capanna

Wednesday 20 February 2013


Monte Soratte, courtesy of Lorenzo Ballanti
Mamma mia! Mi manca l'Italia e tutti i miei amici Italiani! Grazie a voi per una vacanza indimenticabile. Never in a thousand years could I have imagined what an amazing month this would end up being. I knew we were going to have a great time, but thanks to your great generosity, your many kindnesses, and time spent sharing the many hidden gems of Italy, especially the beautiful mountain towns of Sabina, not to forget the many wonderful friends we have met this time around. You have all truly enriched our lives in a way that I could not have imagined one month ago.
During our stay here I heard many Italians complain about the state of affairs in Italy and some even disparage Italy in general. I know the entire world is in a crisis now, and it is hard for many people all over the word, even in Canada. Some politicians and some of the rich people who pull the strings may be corrupt bastards, but this is not unique to Italy and maybe this will never change... What I do know about Italy and Italians is that it is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world and that the Italians that I have been blessed to meet during our stay here are wonderful, passionate, generous and hospitable people with a spirit, energy, culture, and a love of family and the home that I truly admire.
This magical journey began when I posted a picture I took of Vicolo Serpenti in Casperia on an Italian photo website. 
A wonderful lady who grew up in a house on that street commented on the photo... This was the first exchange among many that would eventually turn into a wonderful web of connections with people on Facebook who lived in or had a love for the Sabina. 

What can you truly tell about someone by reading a comment they have posted on Facebook? Whether a post is banal or profound does not tell you that a person is basically good or decent or trustworthy... that they are a loving parent or partner, an honest person or even someone who for whatever reason you would want to get to know. A post on Facebook does not reveal all about a person's deep convictions, their values, what makes them laugh, what makes them cry, or even tells you about what personal struggles or devastating challenges they are facing or have faced in their life... But they can be a hint... Something that makes you pay attention, remember a person's name, and begin to pay attention so that you begin to read more about these people and slowly, slowly... if you take the time, begin to be able to piece together a picture that inspires you to want to connect...
Alessandra Finiti meditating on the Sabina under the Great Olive Tree of Canneto Sabino - Courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read the things I posted, and ultimately to 'friend' me on Facebook. Thank you for your photos and comments on the photos and for beginning a dialogue with a stranger who lived 1000s of kilometres away... (And THANKYOU Facebook. : )
Fiorenzo Franciolli, Proloco di Montebuono at Fianello, courtesy Richard Rooney

Senza di voi, non avevo mai visto tanti belli ed interessante posti da visitare. Grazie infinite a Alessandra Finiti e a Giorgio Clementi e a tante altre persone chi hanno caricato le loro foto e percio hanno cambiato le cose che volevo vedere e i posti che volevo visitare e quindi hanno cambiato la nostra vacanza e la nostra vita. 
The Pentagonal Tower at Catino, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Grazie infinite a Arianna Ceraola chi ci ha portato dallo Stazione di Poggio Mirteto Scalo a Casperia la notte della nostra arrivata. 
Grazie a Alessandra Finiti for a splendid lunch at I Mille Sapori and for guiding us around the old town of Poggio Mirteto and for the first photos of our trip posted on Facebook. Also, grazie tanto  al Dottore Luigi Finiti who so wonderfully explained to Richard that learning Italian was a process: Piano, piano... passo dopo passo. You have no idea how much those words meant at the time.

The welcome committee at Poggio Mirteto, courtesy of Alessandra Finiti
Thank you Giorgio Clementi and Paolo Lelli for an amazing afternoon at Catino and Poggio Catino and for the next set of amazing photos. Giorgio, I hope your work on your apartment ends soon so you can enjoy your free time there.  
Richard and Giorgio on the cliffs at Catino
Grazie di cuore al signore Fiorenzo Francioli, il Proloco di Montebuono, per un meraviglioso pommerigio a Fianello ed alle chiese, ed in particolare per il nostro primo asparago selvatico. Credimi, tu hai salvato la vita di qualche furbe nonne Sabine che Richard ha notato con sacchi pieni di asparagi!
Our first wild asparagas!
A special thank you also to the most gracious museum staff person I have ever met, Ms. Teresa Esposito, who showed us around the archeological museum in Fara in Sabina.  
Grazie a Paolo at the Ford outlet in Casperia who helped us with our rentacar problems. Grazie a Maurizio at the gas station in Casperia who kindly gave us a lift to Poggio Mirteto when we were stranded. 
Grazie a tutti i ragazzi e ragazze alla alimentari in Casperia: Luga, Irene, Massimo (thank you for arranging to get us the Sabina DOP extra virgin olive oil... We loved it and all our Friends that we gave it to really appreciated it), thank you Letitia for teaching us how to put prosciutto on hot toast, and Maria for your smiles and the laughs quando Richard ha toccato le frutte! ; ) We are very sorry we did not say a proper goodbye on Saturday. We completely forgot that the alimentari was closed Sundays. We had fully intended to come by and thank you for everything.
Thanks to our friends from Rome, Norm and Aldo, and their friends Anne, Alice and her husband Paolo for a lovely afternoon at Rocca Sinabalda and a nice visit to Valleverde. 
Thank you also our other friends Steve, Ken and Trish for an unforgettable evening and night in Rome.
Photo courtesy of Franco Angelelli
Thank you Paola and Franco for two amazing meals at Gusto al Borgo, e anche grazie a tutte le scale di Casperia. Mi avete salvato di ingrassare. Quando non ci sarano scale a salire ogni giorno, cosa fare? Mamma mia!
Thank you again Clelia Angelelli for first friending me on Facebook and for introducing to me the Casperia of your childhood, and for bringing Daniele, Paola and Massimo to Casperia to celebrate our birthdays together at Friends Caffe. I can still remember how my face hurt from laughing and smiling so much that day. 
Photo courtesy of Daniele Nicastrini
Thank you Paola, Massimo, Niccolò and Diandra Fidale for your incredible generosity, your wonderful hospitality, and for some very amazing memories. Alla famiglia!

Courtesy Fiandra Fidale
A special thank you to the very kind couple from Montasola who so very gallantly saved our pasquetta by driving us from Casperia to Poggio Mirteto Scalo on Easter Monday. We do not know your name, but if we see you in Casperia, we will recognize you and thank you properly. 
Thank you Johnny Madge, Louisa, and Carlo for a great evening singing Beatle tunes, drinking wine, and thinking about how the Sabina and olive oil can change someone's life.
Thank you also Maureen and Roberto Scheda at La Torretta for the opportunity to stay an extra night in Casperia in your amazing B&B.
Thank you to the very kind, patient and understanding staff at the Hotel Maitani in Orvieto. You were exceedingly helpful and gracious when our friend was in desperate need. While I am on the topic of Orvieto, thank you Anna Spallachia for your amazing ceramic art and for sharing your studio space with Luigi Pierini whose rustic works I cherish and am very carefully taking home to Canada.
Luigi Pierini's ceramics as they are used in Vancouver, Canada...
A special thanks to Chris and Meg Phillips, the owners of Il Sogno, our Casperia home away from home. All the best to you now that you are retiring and spending more time in our beloved Sabina. We too hope that some of our future visits will overlap so that we can meet and thank you in person for all the amazing times we have had in the Sabina, thanks to you. 
And thank you Rosella Montirolli for your patience and your help during our stay.
Every time I used to drink a Negroni I would think of the first time I ever drank one at Friends Caffe'. For years I had been reading about the iconic Italian drink in the novels of one of my favourite authors, Felice Picano. From my first sip it was true love. The smell is heady, the colour evocative of the tramonto over Monte Soratte seen from Friends Caffe... and its deep dense orangey flavour is out of this world. 
Now though this will forever be my drink to remember Stefano and Nicoleta, two people who shared a very special passion with us, their love of cave exploring and rock rappelling. 
That day in Monteleone, visiting the amphitheatre of Trebula Mutuesca and exploring the Grotta Grande, drinking the "magic water of eternal youth" as it dripped from opalescent stalactites and (almost) kissing bats was something neither of us ever dreamed of being able to do... 
Photo courtesy of Stefano Aperio Bella
Yes, that time in the cave was truly magical... The only problem is Richard's hair now... 
Sorry Richard! Luckily the effect of the magic cave water only lasted for a short time...
Seriously though, thank you both for an unforgettable holiday. Stefano, you have named your café well. Il nome è giusto. Friends, è perfetto! You two have been wonderful hosts and have become amazing friends. We so look forward to coming back in March.
La scale di Casperia, courtesy of Giorgio Clementi
Lastly, we would like to thank our friend, la nostra sorella Candace, for her friendship, enthusiaism, and dogged determination that we all dream big. Senza di te, non avremmo mai potuto fare un viaggio alla Sabina cosi. Ti ringrazio di cuore.
Tonight there will be no Negronis, but there will be stairs. I have promised myself that I will not take the elevator but will climb stairs here wherever possible. E' una cosa strana ma mi manca anche le scale. Mamma mia!
I am sure I have probably missed somebody or something... I have written this all from memory and we are tired from an early morning flight but I wanted to write this while things were still fresh in my mind. Grazie di cuore a tutti. This has been more than a vacation. It has been an amazing journey. Grazie infinite.