Friday, June 7, 2013

A Magical Place

"It's easy to understand why the most beautiful
poems about England in the spring were written
by poets living in Italy at the time."
~ Philip Dunne

"Do you have plans this afternoon?" my friend Novelia asked me after she got home from work one afternoon.  "Peppe and I would like to take you to that magical place."

"We're in," I said.  We'd tried to go to the town about which she was talking a few days before, but it was raining. This particular day was sunny and warm, so we headed out around 5:00.   We drove out of Sulmona and headed into the mountains leading toward Anversa degli Abruzzi.

"Where are we going again?" Mike asked.

"Peppe, slow down," Novelia urged her husband before she answered Mike.  "Castrovalva.  It is a beautiful town. Eight people live there."

"Nove," Peppe interrupted, "there are more than eight residents."  They got into a short conversation about this.

"Peppe says there are more people there.  We'll see," Novelia informed us.  "Maybe there are 20."

Once we passed Anversa, we turned onto a two-lane road that was hidden by lush mountain foliage.  We weaved and climbed for a good 10 minutes eventually stopping in a small parking area at the entrance to Castrovalva.  Perched on a rocky ridge above the Peligna Valley, Castrovalva has existed at least since the year 1000.  The old homes were built using stone, and while many homes are seemingly abandoned, people are renovating them and trying to keep the historical architecture alive.

"Many people from Rome come here in the summer to escape the heat," Novelia told us as we walked around.

"That's understandable," I answered.  "It's a lot cooler up here than it was in Sulmona."  The waning sunlight and higher altitude did make it quite a bit cooler.

"This is just beautiful," Mike said at some point.  "Let's buy that house there." He was pointing to the house on the edge of the mountain in the top photo.  "We can bring Castrovalva back to life."

Peppe said something I didn't hear to Novelia.  She laughed and said, "Peppe says you can run for mayor."  Mike did not disagree.

We passed by four or five people sitting in one of the small squares in town, and Novelia talked to them for a few minutes while we walked around.

"They told me that Castrovalva has 56 residents," she informed us.  "In the summer, more people from Rome come to stay, like I told you."

"Where do they shop and eat?" Mike asked.

"Anversa is the closest place," Novelia replied. (See photo below for view of Anversa degli Abruzzi from Castrovalva.)

"They must really love the place to drive all that way for necessities," Mike said.

"When you're mayor, you can help them open more restaurants," I joked.  Again, he didn't disagree.

As we started to walk back to the car, we met a few women who had just come from saying the rosary in a tiny church hidden among the old homes.  "Would you like to see it?" one of the women asked us. "I can let you in."  The tiny church (below) of St. Michael the Archangel honors the patron saint of the town.  I think it accommodates 20 people comfortably.

After we left the church, we met a delightful resident who took time to talk with us.  Tomorrow, I'll introduce you to Enzo and tell you about Castrovalva's influence on both a famous artist and a television show.