We drove a few hours from Venice to the mountain village of Roviano. The drive was beautiful with mountains in the distance. I was again in the crowded back seat with the kids again, not my favorite form of travel. We did have some fun moments, though, rocking out to music from Cleverly’s device!
We spent a wonderful night and morning in Roviano. This little community has a mideival castle and a population of under 1,500. In the car, we climbed a hill on switchbacks until we saw the cluster of stone buildings and a little town square. It was festival time here and there were signs up for St. Anna. There were cobblestone streets and houses that road from them, also of stone. From a distance the village looked like something from a fairytale, nestled in the green mountains and promising serenity, or maybe adventure.
We found our rental apartment, a darling renovated place in one of the stone buildings off a cobblestone path. We were flabbergasted at the fancy bathroom, master bedroom with balcony, and the outdoor terraces. The pantry was full and we were invited to eat whatever we liked. We had dinner at a pub a few doors down. Pasta and tiramisu, unfortunately not very good. I mean, it was fine but it’s Italy and my expectations were high. Anyway a cool comfortable night far from the humidity and crowds of Venice. We explored a bit the next morning and went to the castle a few blocks uphill from the apartment. We kept hearing what we thought were cannon shots for the festival. Then it became the definite sound of fireworks even though it was around 11am. Below: fireworks in clear blue sky, church and banner, man with festival scarf, parade entering church:
We went down to the square and watched a parade led by a priest and a man with a fringed fabric banner. The followers, many wearing sky blue capes, had cloth bags of plants and fruit, sometimes branches, and they sang a haunting, ancient song. I cried for the beauty and simplicity of this parade that looked to have very old roots. There were the fireworks, too, that morning in the bright sunlight. Church bells rang and played a song as well. Later as we left down the mountain we saw another banner and we think the paraders may have started there and gone up the road singing their song. There were no tourists here, nothing in English. Clearly this was just a local religious celebration and I am grateful to have been in the audience. Some more pics of beautiful Roviano:
We headed out of town and made a quick stop at a forested area near a Benedictine monastery. We hiked a little but kept crossing roads. After several attempts to hike away from roads, we decided to avoid the heat and cars and simply drive. We found some religious statues, the monastery complex, a site with spring water, and some Roman ruins such as roads and Nero’s villa. Italy has more history just lying around than some entire museums! Kids in path, view of monastery from above:
We continued to the Naples area to a town called Vico Equense, next to and more affordable than its better-known neighbor Serrento. We were on the cliffs that line the Mediterranean Sea on the Amalfi Coast. The view of the cliffs and water from our place was incredibly beautiful- every time I looked at it, I thought I was looking at a painting. The sky was deep blue with only picturesque clouds. The green hills, decorated in white buildings with terracotta roofs and an occasional church steeple, sloped downwards, then dropped off dramatically in a series of rocky cliffs into bright blue water. We would be here three days.
We went swimming one day at a city beach. The water was beautiful, clear and sea blue. Large rocks were at the bottom, similar to those used to pave Roman roads. The tiny beach was full of locals, shoulder to shoulder, laughing and discussing who knows what in Italian. Across the water was majestic Mt. Vesuvius with its flattened top. Helicopters passed in the distance, gathering water from sea in red containers, maybe to douse a fire in the mountains, we imagined. Little girls played on the beach and in the water without bikini tops, I wish I could have done that as a kid! I remember what a big fuss people made if the top rolled up when we’d jump in, or if it fell while diving. Raising four daughters I have considered this often- why the bikini tops for young children? I like to cover the kids to avoid sunburn but I loved seeing the babies naked outside sometimes, and I didn’t like the early emphasis on (nonexistent) breasts. Aside from that, women of all ages and body types looked relaxed in bikinis, and many boys and men in little speedos instead of baggy swim shorts. Coming from the uptight American perspective on beaches and bodies, I enjoyed the vibe. The twins made friends digging in the sand near the water edge. The view of the cliffs from the water was epic.
We took a drive towards Serrento to see more of the stunning coastline. We stopped at a viewpoint and looked back to our cliff and to the beach where we had gone swimming. View from the beach, towards Serrento from the road
We also walked around the square, had very good gelato, and ate dinner at an outdoor restaurant in Vico Equense. We tried the pizza, which was good but also failed to impress me. Great bread and salad, though. From here we visited Pompeii, check next post!