Friday, July 14, 2006

Day 26: Capranica to Campagnano di Roma +23kms

I was very concious this morning of the fact that today was our 3rd to last day of walking. On the one hand it seems to have flown by so quickly but on the other it seems that walking across the Alps, snow-capped mountains and waterfalls was 100 years ago. When we walked through the 2nd gate of the medieval village of Capranica this morning at 6.45am the shutters were still closed and only a sleepy dog was witness to our passing through. We walked on a beautiful forest road until Sutrie where we stopped at a roadside cafe-bar for coffee. Just outside Sutri is a Roman Amphitheatre carved out of tufa stone and it is a weird feeling to stand in the outer tunnel knowing that many terrified wretches stood right there many hundreds of years ago before going to their deaths. The Etruscan necroplis that is carved out of tufa stone next to the amphitheatre is also a reminder of a civilisation that existed over 2000 years ago.
The next 10kms were also off road but with little shade and as the temperatures rose so did our prickly rashes and sweaty heads. When we reached a village fountain on the outskirts of Monterosi we couldn't resist putting our heads under the water gushing out of the tap - marvelous! Our Cryptic Clues guide from the Assoicazione VF warned against trying to walk the main highway to Campagnano from Monterosi so we had no option but to catch a bus. The hotel we'd booked into was 4km beyond the medieval village and on an old Cassia road to Rome. We had to walk 1/2 km to reach it along an almost deserted road and when we first saw it my thoiught was "Now our luck has run out - we'll be sleeping in a decaying old barn tonight" We rang the bell and it took for ever for the door to open - only a crack mind you - and an old woman peered at us suspicously. "5 pellegrinis dall SudAfrica" I told her. "Humph! Pass-a-porta" she demanded. Once she had confirmed that we were her five pellegrinis from South Africa she allowed us in. Our jaws just dropped! The interior leads directly into a 50m+ diningroom with arched ceilings dripping with wrought iron chandaliers and scrolls. There were two rows of 20 tables all set ready for dinner. The hotel is 400 years old and has had the same owners for the past 30 years. It has the feel of a grand old lady-like-wayside inn where horses and carriages would bring Kings, Lords and their Ladies and other gentry to spend the night before their 30km journey to Rome. The new super highway was built just 500m away and this means that they now have very little passing traffic. When old Senora Ida showed us to our rooms I felt like I was a part of that wonderful od movie clip "Dinner for One".
We started off early today and our hostess packed a picnic breakfast packet for each of us that we could munch along the way. It was easy walking, mostly on dirt roads - could not get over how quickly the kms passed and far too sonn we were at Monterosi where we found an internet point and were able to post the last few days on our blog. We sat on the pavement eating delicous icecream for lunch - it was so hot. I am looking forward to dinner in our gracious old hotel this evening. I'll wear my 'little black number' but unfortnately with my walking sandals. I'm sure everyone realises that we are pilgrims.
Kathy, Rayna and I walked and talked food this morning. We spoke about the food we would buy to cook when we get to our apartment in Rome. We even dreamed of having a braai - we could imagine the smell - mealies and wors - we decided that we would buy one of those 'ready to go' jobbies - we think we have a balcony - and Rayna will crack open a Castle!
Enjoying a meal is more than just the food, it is the whole eating experience. Tonight they could serve shoe leather and I somehow feel it would be the best experience ever - Syl has described the restaurant in this 400 year old hotel which seats over 300 in the central dinigroom. Every table is set and ready for service. I doubt that my photos will do it justice so want to share this experience with Martin - service starts at 8pm - I'm so excited to see what will come out of the kitchen. I managed to sneak a quick tour of the kitchen which has a 5m wide open wood burning stove and hearth.

Well, we've had supper and so I have to report back.....At 8pm sharp we were downstairs, Rayna our photographer was setting her camera up for pictures of the marvelous dining room and has done a great job of capturing the atmosphere. I sneaked another look at the kitchen and this time Mama invited me to take photos of the fireplace. She even posed in front of it, whilst the wood burner was roaring and pieces of Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and olive oil, toasted on top.

It remains family run although Mama's husband is no longer alive and the daughter and husband, son and daughter in law run the show together with extra waiters. The Son is the pastry chef and is clearly very talented. Mama is 79 years of age and still very much in charge. The Waiter, well not quite sure where they found him. The Adam's Family perhaps? He was a cross between Faustus and Manwell from Faulty Towers, most entertaining.

This is the first restaurant that we have seen fresh fish laid out on ice and boxes of field mushrooms on display. Campagnano is famous for Proscuitto ham and the kitchen produced platters of melon and hams, mushrooms and other delicacies. (one must remember that whilst this sounds like a grand restaurant, it is not - its almost humble). Marion and Syl had Linguine with mushrooms, an array of those fresh mushrooms we saw - wow, taste, texture and aroma, say no more....we all have to taste each others for the food report (remember - Kathy - don't mess with my food) so it is hard for some! Rayna had fresh grilled fish, we think it was a Seabass or similar - Manwell was unable to tell us. Kathy had her first steak, it was huge and tender and many of the locals were eating the steak so it was highly recommended. (Bi Stecca E10) I decided this could be my last chance to have Wild Boar cooked in a different way. So I chose the Cinghiale al pepe verde E8 - It doesn't taste like pork, it looks and tastes like the most tender, tasty beef - it was cubed and cooked in a very light cream sauce with peppercorns, very similar to a Steak au poivre (sorry spelling?) (by the way, you must know how mixed up we are, we have had to speak French, now Italian and we are staying in the Chinatown region of Rome so now our entire internet is in Chinese!) - I am sad that this may be the last time I will ever taste this dish. All vegetables are served cold, - not warm, cold straight from the fridge - so we had cold green beans (Fagiolini E3) and cold spinach - not good).

We all raved about our meals and all opted for desert...Fresh Strawberries, Lemon Tart, wow the pastry chef knows what he is doing, and the freshness of the lemon E3, only disappointment was the Tiramsu - but given the quality of the food, perhaps this is how it should was very much a sponge.
Had some fun with the Italian bus companies again today. Thank you to Mary (Run/Walk for Life Pinetown) who told us about having to verify your tickets as we have been very careful about doing this. You can only buy a ticket before you go on a bus - from a Tabacci or a bar or shop - then you get on the bus and validate it in a machine that stamps or punches holes into it. Have yet to see an inspector though. The daily inter-town buses are also more like our long distance buses. Very comfortable with small seats. Only problem if you haven't got a ticket and you are based far from the town - how do you get into town to buy a ticket?? Our return bus ticket cost us E0.70c but going into town without a ticket cost us E5 from the driver.

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