Sunday, 22 July 2007

Wild Camping in the Abruzzo Mountains

At last we found a spot where could settle for a few days and rest. 4 days on the side of Lago di Campotosto has been delicious. There’s hardly anyone up these mountains as Italy seems to disappear on mass to the sea for the summer. We’ve shared the space on the side of this hardly used road with Giorgio and Simone, a young couple from Northern Italy and their 2 little dogs Hugo and Pepe. Then for one night with Margo Portrait, a young french dancer from Corsica who’s been working her way round Europe for 15 months. Like us, Margo is looking for some land, somewhere heavenly, on which to build her own home.

The best bit about wild camping is the freeness. Free to wander off the beaten track and find a place with a stunning view for the night. Free then to build our own fires and cook on them. Free to pee in the bushes. Free from the little microculture of campsites with their rules and their people. But best of all free of charges.

The last time we booked into a campsite was a fortnight ago in Alberbello where we stayed for Vonny’s birthday amidst the Trulli of Puglia. Since then we’ve been shown round a couple of abandoned farms to get used to terms of negotiation for when we find the place we know we want to buy. Stopped off to see one of the many sweet towns built around ancient cave dwellings. Nipped up to the Castel del Monte 12th century octagonal masterpiece. Passed through Minervino which had the best vibe. Kipped in a lorry park paying a short fat bloke with a big torch a few euros for our protection. After being impressed by the largest medieval fortress in Europe at Lucerno we headed deep into the Gorganno mountains and baked out first cake in the motorhome for Vonny’s delayed tea party. We’ve also bought sugared almonds from the home of confetti at the original factory in Sulmento (I’m sure Von and Ellie will tell you more about later). We’ve seen the little old ladies dressed in traditional black in Sconno, where we took a walk in the hills and bathed in a fresh mountain stream fountain trough, usually used by flocks of sheep passing to drink.
The evening walks, Passiagiato, in Italy are quite lovely. Everyone comes out to see and be seen walking around the town. The guys come out first at about 5 and sit in the squares in the shade by a bar, drinking coffee and talking together. The girls come out a little later and sit in another part of the square, gathering, chatting. And then the whole city, town or village begins to heave with the mass of people descending for the evening stroll. It’s a wonderful sight, and touching to see how such a regular ritual appears to be a way to connect into the community where you live and a means to make sure everyone is OK. I imagine if you don’t show for Passiagiato for a couple of days, you’d get a call from someone.

Our walk this Sunday evening was in L’Aquilla, another medieval town and some say the capital of Abruzzo. University towns so far have been quite special. They seem to have more of a vibrancy to them and a racial diversity that I’ve found to be a welcome change from some of the mono cultural towns in Italy. The kids played on a bouncy castle in the central piazza, we had ice cream, bought some more English books, and even had time to buy a new outfit for Von from Benetton before finally settling down to yet another delicious pizza this time outside the 14th century church doors of Saint Marco. We stayed the night next to L’Aquilla’s 16th century castle fortress built by the Spanish and met a really lovely dutch couple on tour with a van, Nikko a theologian and Margareed a lecturer in education.

This week in Campotosto has been so relaxing. As each day heats up we take a plunge for a swim and cover our bodies with the silty mud washed down from the various mountainous tributaries that feed this lake, man made in 1939 because it was over farmed of peat. The mineral rich mud instantaneously rejuvenates your skin. I reckon a tub of it would set you back £50 in London. And another £50 for someone to spread it on you. More freeness. Love it. In the afternoons we’ve taken a couple of long bike rides, the first return trip of 23km to the town. A bench mark for the kids. Now they know how far they can ride and just how good your body feels when you finish exercise like that. Evenings are spent gathering vast quantities of wood (and tea smelling grass packed dried cow poop) for the fire on which we cook then watch until it eventually dies out late into the night. Last night we gorged on a huge bbq of meat and salad and the essential toasted marshmallows and realised (thanks to Joshua’s playing with fire experiments) that if you burn the end of your marshmallow stick in acts like a sparkler on Bonfire night and you can make all kinds of patterns in the darkness when you whiz it round fast.
I know gazillions of people have made life changes like us. I know it’s not something new we are doing here. But I do feel incredibly blessed to have the chance to figure out what our life change is going to be without having to do so amidst the pressures of working life in the city. We have all the time we need to muse, to ponder, to wonder at what could be. And from each new experience on this journey we take away a little something that we might just be able to use in our next life.

Next we’re off to Tuscany to see our dearest friends from London Anna and Simon, Anoushka and Hatti currently holidaying in Cortona. Hopefully popping into Assisi and Perugia on the way. It’s a tough life this. And one I’m getting quite attached to already.


Daveyboy said...

Yo you guys! Looks relaxing, sun-filled and fun. The sun has decided to shine here in London - just in time for me to take August off and have lots of fun myself.

sirjoel said...

Ah man, it's both great and gutting to read all of this. I'm sure I paid 150 quid for Zoe to get someone to slap some Italian mud on her! Just had 10 amazing days in North Wales at our barn. No hot water, no adverts, no speed bumps....just peace, campfires, wine and good chats. Then we came back to London....


Phil said...

Hey Team Winter,
Very much enjoying your continuing adventures. So much to read from each of you, its great.
I dont know if you got our text but we're expecting a baby in January! Equally excited and terrified but really very happy.

The Winters said...

Phil, great news. Congratulations. I didnt get your text. You can email us on as this email account no longer works. Ciao