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.

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