Templeton, CA

New Table
New Table

These photos are a flashback to work in Oregon for a special family. This six person group wanted a bigger dining room table. Burt can’t make fine furniture with the tools we carry so he suggested Craig’s List or eBay. Burt even found a few second hand tables for sale in the area and the family insisted they wanted a table by Burt no matter how primitive. So Burt built a picnic table and it is large. There’s plenty of room for six people and their school work, crafts, meals, etc. The new table even allows the eldest boy to lock his personal chair to the table for safe keeping. You’ll have to ask him why. I didn’t dare stir up family drama and inquire as to who might be a chair thief.

Today we are parked at a friend’s/client’s place in Templeton, California. We are in wine and olive country. The ocean is nearby. Bridge, too. Barry and Laura are people we met in Portal. They’re engaged and we’ll be playing music for their wedding next month back in Portal. You’ll be hearing more as we get to work. First impression is good. There are a lot of turkeys and Barry offered me $5 for each gopher I kill.

Committee supervises
Committee supervises
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Post-eclipse withdrawl

Olinve, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.
Olive, Bowman, and Elvis hang out.

Helena friends, Rosemary and Ed, took a day off from their campground hosting duties and Carl Washburn State Park to visit us on the sunny side of the mountains. Ed alternately blames us and credits us for inspiring their semi-nomadic lifestyle. He and Rosemary spend a few months spring and fall back in Helena, Montana and the rest of the time they are volunteering in Death Valley of other parks or they are simply wandering the world. They visited Baja this past winter and are joining us in the Galapagos soon. Take it from them, it’s fun to travel with the GCs. Food is plentiful and tasty and the dogs play. Sometimes there’s songs to sing. If you’re really lucky Rosemary will dance. Our visit was a good treatment for the eclipse hangover I’m suffering.

Everybody has vacated our current site and we are (or Burt is) back at work.  It’s very quiet around here. We played some Bridge and some music and have done on-line shopping to prepare for our next season of wandering. Both of us need new footwear for the Galapagos.  Yesterday another wandering duo, Rolf and Bonnie of Portal, AZ, stopped by. Rolf and Bonnie had just visited the Galapagos so they had useful ideas on what to think about as we try to get ready. They even offered us the use of a rolling duffle bag that can be carried backpack style. Our trip to Europe showed us we have left duffle bag days behind and yet the gNash has no room for real luggage. We hardly ever have to pack and this year we are taking three international trips. One person in our party, and I know you’re thinking it was me but it wasn’t, over packed and over shopped for Europe. Some items purchased remain unused. But he is ready for a nice night out. I am pleased he has some stylish pants and shoes for the next time somebody invites us someplace stylish. The islands on the equator are not that place.

Still room to join us.

Recycled wood wood shed
Recycled wood wood shed
Rotten subfloor
Rotten subfloor
New floor
New floor
Glue
Glue. You can see the jack and the lifted post here. Lifting the post was important to get the rotten flooring out.
Vinyl patch
Vinyl patch
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
Eclipse art. Perfect cure for the eclipse hangover.
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Last Day

Pantheon. Different time of day, different place.
Pantheon. Different time of day, different place.

The morning of our last day with the family we decided to head out and do the same thing again. I had googled “things to do in Rome’ and nothing compelling or new came up where we could walk. So we sold the previous evening’s tour to Dad, Chris, and Matt and we headed out again to see the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Roman Ghetto. Nothing to add here but the Pantheon did not disappoint. The light was different so the interior was different.

Dad was sentimental at the Trevi Fountain. He recalled visiting with mom in the mid-90s. Back in the ghetto Chris headed off on his own. The rest of us ate lunch. Another great meal and off we went our separate ways. Dad and Matt to our apartment and Burt and I to shop.

The Gypsy Carpenters crossed the Tiber River and went into Trasteverde to find some things to take home. I bought a new wallet and two new scarves for less than 50 Euros. My shopping itch scratched was easily scratched so we had more time to burn before the family dinner. My theory of family peace was working great. Stay out of the house unless it’s dinner time.

Burt and I followed the banks of the Tiber upstream to the mole of Rome. We had spotted Castel Sant’Angelo the morning we walked to the Vatican. The Castel is a round brick fortress that kind of deserves to be called a mole. That first morning we had no idea what it was. Then we heard it was Catstel San’Angelo and we still had no idea what it was. Then we heard it was once the Pope’s secret apartments and still had no idea. Then I heard it was Hadrian’s Tomb and we had to go.

Hadrian’s Mausoleum was renamed Castel San’Angelo by a pope trying to distract a plague ridden populace from their back sliding towards Roman theism. Rumors had reached Pope Gregory I that the people were secretly worshiping statues of Roman gods so the Pope had his own vision. First the pagan statue exploded. Next, Archangel Michael came down and landed on the tomb of Hadrian and blasted the plague out of Rome. The threat to Christianity resulted in the destruction of more Roman sites. They weren’t ruins until they were ruined. All this time, despite being told otherwise, I thought weather and use had destroyed these sites. After seeing the Vatican and these cathedrals and the ruins it is well planted in my head that one culture destroyed the other.

The tomb was renamed for the holy vision and Hadrian became an afterthought. Weirdly, I don’t know why I know about Hadrian’s Tomb. I remember his wall in England but somebody somewhere used to joke about Hadrian’s Tomb. A relative? A teacher? Regardless, Hadrian had quite the mausoleum. His remains are currently misplaced but you can visit where they once were. The fortress like monument became a fortress and hid several popes in times of trouble. The place is still hard to enter. Just the night before our visit Burt and I found ourselves stranded in the moat with rats all around. We were just trying to walk home and wound up in the grounds with no easy way out. I used GPS. The rats were very intimidating. I imagine five could take down an adult human.

The Castel San’Angelo is worth the entry fee. It is a real castle with lots of fun lookouts, a moat, a drawbridge, jails, cannons and all the other things a castle needs. The museum has weapons and suits of armor. The pope’s apartments are suitably extravagant. The wind off the ramparts stole my hat from my head. There is a shining statue of the archangel at the top. He’s surrounded by fantastic Roman views. We both enjoyed the laid back afternoon wandering the castle. I even got my hat back. It was one of 4 that had landed down below that afternoon.

When in Rome here’s what I recommend:

1. Coliseum and surrounding ruins.

2. Pantheon

3. Roman Ghetto

4. Castel San’Angelo

5. Vatican

The Vatican can be skipped. It’s too crowded and too much stuff to appreciate. You can do Saint Peters or the Sistine Chapel separately.

The Pantheon Oculus
The Pantheon Oculus. They say the math to make those coffers line up as the dome curved was pretty hard.
Synagogue
Synagogue
Trastaverde side street.
Trasteverde side street.
A closed instrument shop.
A closed instrument shop. Hard to touch when you can’t get in.
Exterior of Hadrian's Mausoleum.
Exterior of Hadrian’s Mausoleum.
Tiber River
Tiber River
Hadrian's Mausoleum
Hadrian’s Mausoleum
Cannons at the Tomb
Cannons at the Tomb
The bee pope.
The bee pope.
Boobs out
Boobs out
Heads will roll
Heads will roll
My hat blew off. Not here but still.
My hat blew off. Not here but still.
Entrance to the mausoleum.
Entrance to the mausoleum.
The fortress.
The fortress.
Dead things for sale.
Dead things for sale.
My legs hurt.
My legs hurt.
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Rome’s Jewish Quarter

Jewish Quarter wall
Jewish Quarter wall

Just a short walk and across the river from the Vatican is the oldest Jewish community in Europe. The Jews were in Rome before there were Christians. Think on that for a moment. When Rome became christian things did not go well for the Jewish community. The Jewish Ghetto was formed in 1550. A pope made discriminatory rules on what Jews could and could not do and forced them to live behind walls. The people were locked in at night. The ghetto lies on low land next to the Tiber River and was known for floods and malaria. The list of humiliations wrought by the papacy can be found HERE. In 1888 the walls came down but the community stayed and became and integral part of Roman life. For a short time things were better. Then the Nazis came.

The Nazis promised they would spare the Jews if they paid a ransom in gold. The community paid up and, surprise, the Nazis betrayed them. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people were taken to camps. The number of abducted is not certain what is known is only 16 survived. And yet, the community survived and now thrives.

Today the ghetto is home to some of Rome’s best restaurants and most expensive real estate. Burt and I visited twice for food. The restaurants are split into those that sell dairy and those that sell meat. The two food groups cannot be served in the same restaurant here because they require separate serving dishes and implements to remain kosher. So one day we ate dairy and the next day we ate meat. Vegetables can go with either. This neighborhood has a homey feeling. The streets and benches were filled with residents speaking Hebrew and Italian. It felt like we were in a community bistro not the tourist-tired cafes of Rome.

If you’re going to Rome I insist you visit this neighborhood. Next up Hadrian’s Mausoleum.

Kosher Restaurants
Kosher Restaurants
Everybody likes friend food.
Everybody likes fried food.
People watching
People watching
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Pantheon

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Exterior detail Pantheon

Flashing back again to art history in Holmdel High I remember Ms. Johnston going on an on about the pantheon. She had terrible slides that I believe she had taken herself. I was not impressed by the photos or what she said but she was practically moved to tears trying to convey the thing of the pantheon.  Was it her passion for architecture or her frustration with bored teenagers? I liked Ms. Johnston a lot. She was our language arts teacher, too, and she was always nice to me. She once assigned us a heated topic for a persuasive essay and my Catholic girlfriend and I were writing about birth control and other things teenagers need to know about and know nothing about. We asked her what withdrawal meant as a contraceptive technique. I’m still embarrassed. I remember the drama of teh pantheon lecture so when I saw a sign for the pantheon I thought, “Might as well stop by.” Might as well almost miss a wonder of the world.

Michelangelo said it appeared to have been built by angels and I have to agree. There are so many delightful things to know. Firstly, the engineering: almost 2,000 years after it was built the Pantheon sports the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. No rebar here. Ancient Roman concrete has endured and it predates the discovery of Portland cement. There are books about Roman concrete. It lead to developments in architecture called the Concrete Revolution. How did I not know this? I majored in concrete. I guess I majored in Portland Cement Concrete. At the Pantheon they used lighter aggregate as the dome grew higher and thinner. This is a technique we still use today. Coffers in the ceiling and hidden hollow panels lightened the load. The oculus, the circular opening at the top of the dome provides light and eased stress.

Now the more esoteric marvels. Pantheon means temple of all the Gods. This place survived nearly intact for 2,000 years because it was in continuous use as a place of worship. This building is the third version of the temple. The previous buildings are believed to have burned. In the 600s the Roman government gave it to the pope and the pope rededicated it to Mary of the Martyrs. Everybody still called it the Pantheon. Pity the priests trying to change its name through history. It defies ownership by one religion. The dome is a 43.3 meter hemisphere. It sits on a cylinder with walls the height of the radius of the dome. A perfect sphere with a diameter of 43.3 meters could fit inside. The oculus and the front doors are the only source of light. The shape of the building is so pleasing to the eye it has been copied all over the world.

The interior has been modified from a place full of Roman gods to a place full of Catholic images. The bronze portico ceiling was removed and melted down by a greedy pope. Despite the changes the grandeur remains. A shaft of light blasts through the oculus and moves around the interior as the world spins. It’s a powerful and fun effect. Flat earthers have some explaining to do.

I could go on and on. I think I learned this from my experience in high school and the accidental visit. You really have to see it to believe it. The crowds are easily forgotten inside this wonder.

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Pantheon
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Portico of Pantheon
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Interior of Pantheon
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Dome of the Pantheon. Those squares lighten the load.
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Rome Redux

The Roman crowds were spectacular
The Roman crowds were spectacular.

We arrived in Rome in the early afternoon. Burt and I threw down our bags and said see ya later to the family and headed out. We managed an 8 mile triangle that captured the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Jewish Quarter. The Gypsy Carpenters and 150,000 fellow travelers were out that afternoon walking the superheated street of Rome.

Rome was not a planned part of our trip. We had thought we’d be in Amalfi until our departure date but the reservation error put us back in the capitol with two days to wander. Burt and I decided to walk to the major attractions. Actually, the Pantheon, our favorite, was an accident. We found it on our way to the Trevi Fountain. That was kind of fun, accidentally running into one of the wonders of the world while looking for an over rated and ugly marble fountain.

The Spanish Steps are famous because they are famous. Think reality TV. The steps were built in the early 18th century as a kind of urban renewal. The governing forces wanted a nice connector between two landmarks on different elevations. There is a church at the top and there was the Spanish Embassy at the bottom. Not sure if the embassy is still there. There was a competition and these steps were the winner. Frankly, these steps bore me and I am not interested in learning more. I prefer the feel of the steps at the Lincoln Memorial.

Moving on to Trevi Fountain I am slightly more amused. Again, the fountain has a degree of famous for being famous. The name Trevi comes from Tre Vie or three roads. This site was the intersection of three roads and also the terminus of an aqueduct of clean water for the city. In 19 BC a supposed virgin supposedly found the water source that was then routed to the city. I only bring this up because the scene of discovery is part of the extensive marble sculpture that makes up today’s fountain. I didn’t notice the virgin. The marble facade was the result of another arts competition.  In 1730 Pope Clement XII had a contest. One Alessandro Galilei from Florence was deemed the winner but the Romans would not hear of it and insisted that the winner be homeboy Nicola Salvi. No word on what Galilei planned. I really want to know. Galilei was a renowned engineer and architect. I tried researching this topic but my Italian isn’t up to the task.

Today water in the fountain is recycled. Toss into the germy recylcled water 3,000 Euros in good luck coins and that is not water you want to drink. People try to bathe in it for superstitious reasons but the Italian gendarme toot on whistles continuously to discourage bathers. They are probably saving scores of people from some dread skin disease. Burt scampered down to the clean water spigot that still delivers the original Virgin’s water and filled our water bottle. I took in the global horde. It was all whistles and selfie sticks and over the shoulder coin tossing and souvenir hawking with thousands of bodies in a stifling heat. I’m guessing it was only a little bit different on market day in Rome when the fountain first debuted some 30 years after it construction began. The marble used here was mined from the, wait for it, coliseum. I have an eye for the cleaner lines of ancient Rome. This Baroque stuff is not for me.

It was late in the day and Burt and I had put some serious mileage on our bodies over the last two weeks. We were not easily amused by the garish public art of the 18th century. We decided to head to the Jewish quarter and have some food. On the way a tiny sign caught my eye. Pantheon with an arrow pointing down an alley. Hungry and tired, Pantheon here we come.

The Spanish Steps
The Spanish Steps. Obelisk from Egypt.
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The Trevi fountain. The ambiance is completed by the police constantly tooting whistles to keep people out of the water.
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It’s all too much for me.
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Burt filling our water bottle from the fountain spigot.
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Hordes, I tell you, hordes.
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Amber display in a jewelry shop. I bought a globule with a spider.
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Atrani

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The way through Atrani.Don’t make a wrong turn when the creek is rising.

Two garden tours and I still had a mission. We had missed the actual Ziro Tower the day before and I had an idea that we could walk to it from Ravello and then back down to Amalfi for another bus back home to Scala. Burt humored me. Our only obligation was to get home for a group dinner at 6:00.

We plunged down the stairs off into the abyss towards the tower. Guides on the internet said the Torre dello Ziro was easily reached from Ravello. I had my eyes peeled for a route that contoured around and wouldn’t require a steep descent to the sea and another 1,200′ climb up. There was no such route. After 40 minutes of stairs and switchbacks Burt and I reached Atrani, the smallest land mass of any town in Italy and home to less than 900 people. On our way we passed a tire repair shop wedged into a cliff and were nearly run over by a bus. The tower was at least seven stories, maybe twelve, above our heads. I was done going up. I’d finally had some heart palpitations after averaging more than 8 miles a day for 10 days. It was time to stop.

Happily, Atrani was worth the visit. Coming into town from the uphill side feels like sneaking in the backdoor. We passed gardens and the walls of secluded homes grew up around us. There were no people. Soon we were following small arrows that pointed down. I noticed green arrows pointing up. Those were showing the escape route in case of flood. Atrani is wedged so deeply in a narrow slot canyon you have to know how to reach high ground. Water can some in from above and below. There have been recent rain fueled floods and a tsunami.

The town plaza is a story above sea level. Burt and I found our way to the bus stop at the seaside road and were told we had to go back up to the plaza to buy tickets. I sent Burt. He came back to tell me we had to walk to Amalfi because it was a holiday and the bus wouldn’t stop in Atrani. Amalfi is 3 km away by road or up and over a cliff that would nearly require walking to our villa. People must have gotten tired of this a long time ago because there is a tunnel of only 1 km that pedestrian and emergency vehicles can follow. The tunnel cuts right through the cliff the Torre dello Ziro sits upon. Somebody should put in an elevator.

It was another 10 mile day. The only joints that didn’t hurt from the waist down were my ankles. Knees, hips, toes: ow. If I had an opportunity to return here I would stay in Atrani. Nestled between the two famous towns of Amalfi and Ravello it remains hidden and Italian. All the sights are easily accessible in Atrani and, unlike our bird’s eye perch, it has stores and restaurants and the ocean. Instead of busing back home every afternoon a traveler could bus up in the morning and walk home.

Street art in Atrani
Street shrine in Atrani
Atrani
Atrani kids with ice cream sandwiches.
Street Art in Atrani
Street Art in Atrani
Atrani from the sea. Ravello is up on that cliff.
Atrani from the sea. Ravello is up on that cliff.
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Ravello Gardens: Villa Cimbrone

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Cimbrone Gardens

Our last day in the Amalfi area was spent touring the gardens of Ravello. Burt and I walked over again via the Mugger’s Way path through shrubs and litter from Scala to Ravello. The looks on the local’s faces when we would pop out of the underbrush was worth the anxiety of being rolled.

First up was the garden we would see from Villa Minuta. Towards the sea from Ravello is a shockingly large expanse of flat land that is uninhabited. From our vantage we could discern that it was not wild land but somewhat manicured. The large trees appeared too symmetric to be nature grown. It turned out we were looking at the Gardens of Villa Cimbrone. The villa was built in the 12th Century. A cimbronium in Roman times was land where timber for ships was produced. This pieces of real estate was so valuable for timber, grazing, and farming that it was never built upon. The Amalfi nobles knew it was more valuable in production than as a residence. Besides, it was safer living inside walled towns. This spot was very desirable for much of the areas history but by the end of the 19th century Italy had been replaced as a manufacturing giant (See history of the U.S.) and the land was neglected.

This land was abandoned until it was noticed by Ernest William Beckett, Lord Grimthorpe, a grieving widower following the way of the Grand Tour. Naples, with Pompeii and Vesuvius was frequently the final stop in the Grand Tour. Here is how the New York Times in 2008 described the Grand Tour:

Three hundred years ago, wealthy young Englishmen began taking a post-Oxbridge trek through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of  Western Civilization. With nearly unlimited funds, aristocratic connections and months (or years) to roam, they commissioned paintings, perfected their language skills and mingled with the upper crust of the Continent.

— Gross, Matt., “Lessons From the Frugal Grand Tour.” New York Times 5 September 2008.
Friends had encouraged the Lord Grimthorpe to visit Ravello and he fell in love with the place. In 1904 the Lord bought the Villa Cimbrone with the intention of bringing the land back to life and making it the most beautiful place in the world. Nicola Mansi, native of Ravello, helped make the dream come true. What remains today is a jumbled mix of architectural styles from different eras and regions of the world. Greek and Roman gods and goddesses reign side by side in English rose gardens and Persian tea houses. Eve is relegated to a bare cliff side cave. As the official brochure describes it is a ‘reinterpretation of a “roman villa”.’ The place is lovely and fun. I can almost here then restoration team saying, “And over here we’ll put David, no not that David, the other David.” The brochure and map is the best piece of tourism literature we found in all of Italy, and Spain for that matter. Each sculpture and garden is well marked and had a blurb.
Just below the Terrace of Infinity is a coffee shop. Burt and I sat in the shade at a wrought iron table. He had a coffee and I had a thick Italian-style hot chocolate. We enjoyed the view and the quiet. I imagined a noble woman living here in times gone by. Women of high birth were essentially prisoners of their status. They couldn’t go anywhere alone. See previous post. They would spend days wandering their gardens. It was a very pretty prison but I would still want to escape.
Presently the land and villa are privately held. The villa is used as a hotel. The expansive gardens are open to the public for a reasonable fee.
Statue of Ceres
Statue of Ceres with the Terrace of Infinity.
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Mercury. The sandal looks decorative at best. I’m leaning towards S&M.
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Bacchus and a satyr. Bacchus is the kid.
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Eve’s Grotto. The glass is to protect her. We can’t get any closer than this due to a fence. You can see the bars in the reflection.
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David and Goliath. Imitation of Verrocchio.
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Detail of Goliath.
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I was peeking.
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Rose garden
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Not in the guide. Or maybe, Flora, goddess of flowers and spring.
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David, again, copy of Donatello.
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The crypt view towards the Mediterranean.
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The crypt makes a good scene for a duel or wedding. Both? For a period of time the villa was a monastery.
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View from the Terrace of Infinity. This spot is considered by some to be the best place in all the world.
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Torre dello Ziro

View of Amalfi from Torre dello Ziro.
View of Amalfi from Torre dello Ziro. Look at all those boats racing around.

Time is running out in Amalfi. Team Zazzali on;y had two more days to explore the area. I think the pool side was starting to bore some people. Dad and Matt decided to join us for a hike to the Ziro Tower and down to Amalfi. Originally everyone but Parker was going to hike with us but people woke up uninterested and so, after some miscommunications, we headed out at 11:00 AM to see the haunted Torre dello Ziro.

I have not been able to find a reference to where the tower came by its name. Also lost in the haze of the past is when the tower was built. It is thought to have been built sometime around the 15th century. From our lodgings at Villa Minuta you can follow the red-dotted stairs down to Pontone, another fraction of Scala. In Pontone there are signs and arrow leading to the Torre dello Ziro. My brother Christian had visited a few days earlier during a solo evening ramble. He suggested it was a do not miss site. Dad is not a fan of walking. After the 20 minute descent to Pontone he decided to rest at the bottom of the hill to the tower saving his energy for the remainder of the walk to Amalfi. Matt and Burt and I continued onward. Matt proved himself to be stoic on this trip. My brother Matt is a tech in a hospital. All his exercise is done running from wing to wing and floor to floor repairing and resetting machines that keep us alive. Matt, you can see in the photo, has not been outside in years. Despite his grievous sun burn and blistered feet Matt walked on uncomplaining. He even seemed to be enjoying himself but it was hard to tell.

The park surrounding the tower was similar to the path Burt and I took to Ravello the day before. There were signs of civic improvements from the late 20th century but there were also signs that the improvements were never used. Our path crossed by a large concrete structure of no discernible use. I though it might have been a cistern. Now it looked like a place to shoot heroin. It vaguely felt like some Soviet inspired public works I had seen in Cuba.  An industrial form of poured concrete juxtaposed against the windy, rocky point with a stone watch tower from the 1400s. Thanks for nothing municipal committee of 1967. We continued on through the tall pines.

The merry threesome popped out of the woods and onto a viewing platform above the tower. From here we could see Atrani to our left, Amalfi to our right, and the Torre dello Ziro right below. Now normally Burt and I would have headed straight to the tower for a closer look but Dad was sitting on a park bench. Bored Dad is not a good thing. We’d already been gone twenty minutes and we told him we’d only be gone twenty minutes. Having sympathy for the old man we took in the tower from above and headed back to find him before he wandered off.

This scrap of wild land on the Amalfi Coast is very close to Pontone, Amalfi, and Atrani. Guidebooks and the internet say locals shun the area because of its very dark past. The abandoned modern infrastructure and scattered visitors, all foreign, seem to verify this.  Even the skeleton of a church up the hill in Pontona had a snack stand and a guide waiting for a passerby. Here, on a prominent hill with a great ruin there was nobody looking to make a buck. Here’s the story as we know it today:

In 1490 twelve year old, Giovanna D’Aragona, was married to the Duke of Amalfi, Alfonso Piccolomini. Well, he wasn’t duke yet, but he would be in three years. He was ten years her senior. Picolomini was awarded the dukedom in services to the King of Naples when he was seven. He assumed control at 25. It begs the question of what services a seven year old could provide. I’m going to assume it was the service of an older relative. Giovanna was the niece of the King of Naples. I’m guessing this was not a marriage for love but politics and consolidation of power. In 1498 the duchess became pregnant and her husband was killed while trying to assert control over lands in Abruzzi.  The Count and the Duke got into a heated argument. The Duke struck the Count. The Count of Celano stabbed the Duke. He wasn’t dead so the Count ordered his guard to finish the Duke. I thought Game of Thrones was fiction. It turns out it’s Italy.

So at 20 the Duchess of Amalfi has a son and finds herself acting as his regent and controlling Amalfi. Her husband was just killed doing this job.  Like all good bosses, the Duchess hired someone to help her. Giovanna employed Antonio Beccadelli as her household steward. The steward was a very powerful person. He wasn’t merely a butler. He managed all their holdings. Here the story takes an even more dramatic turn. We do not know if these two were in love before her husbands death but we do now they were in love after the son was born. Giovanna and Antonio became intimately involved and married in secret. Even though Antonio was from a distinguished family he was not high enough status to marry Giovanna. You know this is not going to end well. Imagine the stress of the next twelve years. The pair successfully hid two pregnancies and farmed the kids out to somebody else to raise. The children, Frederick and Giovanna, were brought up separated from their mother.

Meanwhile the Duchess had a very powerful brother who was a Cardinal in Rome. I have to presume the Duchess and her husband were doing an adequate job managing Amalfi. There is no mention of political motivations for what happens next. Her son by the Duke is eleven or twelve years old. The Duchess is thirty-one or thirty-two and pregnant for the third time by her secret husband. I’d say this was a happy marriage. This time the pair believes they can’t keep the pregnancy secret.  This story raises so many questions for me. How did she hide the first two? A change is clothing styles perhaps? Is it because the oldest son is now old enough to put the pieces together? Is the Cardinal visiting?

Fearing discovery the family hatched a plan to escape. The Duchess headed one way towards safety and the husband headed another. They are supposedly just out and about doing what people do. They are not obviously fleeing.  The duchess left Amalfi with a large retinue in November 1510, claiming to be going on a pilgrimage to Loreto. She had all of her children with her. Loreto was on the road to Ancona, where her husband was waiting for her. After stopping at the shrine in Loreto Giovanna headed to Acona which was beyond the authority of the King of Naples. Once safe in Acona she she explained the situation to her retinue. Most of her staff decided to return to Amalfi. I wonder what happened to them. In Ancona Giovanna gave birth to the couple’s third child.

Back in Rome her brother Cardinal Luigi d’Aragona used his influence to force the family to be expelled from Ancona. The couple then went to Sienna planning to go to Venice. En route the group was intercepted by agents sent by Giovanna’s brother.  Antonio managed to escape to Milan but our post-partum mother and her children were returned to Amalfi. As legend has it the Duchess, her maid, and her children were never seen again. It is said they were taken to the Torre dello Ziro and either starved to death or strangled. The husband was finally found and assassinated three years later. I like to think he was still trying to find his wife and children.

Five hundred years later people are still avoiding the Tower and Giovanna and Antonio have been memorialized in many literary works.

Torre dello Ziro
Torre dello Ziro. Atrani, the smallest town in area in Italy to the left. Less than 900 residents, too.
Intrepid walkers.
Intrepid walkers. The tower is below and to the right.
Father and son. Resting for the big descent.
Father and son. Resting for the big descent. Matt doesn’t get outside much.
The view from Villa Minuta at night.
The view from Villa Minuta at night.

 

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Hiking Regime

View from our widow at Villa MInuta
View from our widow at Villa Minuta. The hike to Valle delle Ferierre took us under those cliffs across the way.

Day 4 at Villa Minuta we woke up with no agenda. I figured it was time to see Ravello but it could wait for the evening so we decided to follow the red dots up and out of Scala. The ancient stone paths here have cryptic markings to help tourists find their way. After a few days of walking we’d learned the red dots indicated some kind of sanctioned public path. You could easily wend your way into a blind alley trying to get home. So instead of going down and around towards the Valle delle Ferierre this morning we followed the dots up figuring up is always good.

Up is good. Our path was mostly easy to follow. Stone stairs walled in with stone walls went up for several hundred feet. Here and there a branch would lead off towards a home. At one crossing Burt and I paused and while we were discussing our route a man peeked out from his garden and gave us the greasy eyeball. He was about 100′ away. We kept resting and chatting. We had no intention of taking the side route to the man’s yard but just in case he threw a fire cracker out the doorway. Now Burt says he was just scaring the birds. I say he was sending us a message. He made eye contact and then 30 seconds later he threw a fire cracker out the door. I must say fire cracker is a nicer signal than a shot gun, so no harm, no foul. We kept walking.

I’ve run out of adjectives to describe the views. We all know they get better the higher you go. The strategic value of this location also becomes apparent as you walk up and see the vast ocean in one direction and the mountain range in the other. Like Baja you are on a sliver of land with formidable natural protections. It would be very hard to move an army through this terrain. Unlike Baja, this land is fertile, temperate, and located in a populated seaway. It has been valuable real estate for two thousand years. I wonder if the sense of safety is what make views so desirable to humans?

About an hour above our villa we found a resting spot. We munched and sat quietly under a shade tree. Our trail had petered out at the well used view spot. I know there were links to paths that headed deeper into the mountains but since I was done climbing we didn’t further explore. It was time to contour and find a less direct path down. Burt and I followed a semblance of a trail around and down into a grove of chestnut trees. Goats and walnut harvesting and a higher clearcut had made a mess of the land. Trails crisscrossed everywhere. We just side-hilled and gently descended hoping we’d find our way back to civilization eventually. It was very steep land and hard to believe it was actively in productive use but the evidence was everywhere. The locals were still using this land to make a living. We passed a few rustic homes where people were living in a similar manner to Mexico’s Baja ranchers.

Eventually Burt and I sort of crashed into the end of the road servicing the area. Hundreds of off-road homes were visible from our vantage point. It was impossible to tell how many were gentrified (second homes and guest houses) or still in active agricultural use or abandoned. There were plenty of properties empty and waiting for some back-to-earth hippy types to move in. They did not call to me. I’m guessing firecracker throwing locals would not welcome a pair of Gypsy Carpenters into their community. Maybe in a couple of decades they would have stopped throwing firecrackers and just ignored us. I don’t have that kind of time.

Once on the road we knew we would get back home without trouble but it also emphasized how far off the beaten path our Villa Minuta was. There were no restaurants above us. The hills above were filled with real towns and real people not tourists. Our accommodations were on the edge of “the Amalfi Coast” and people just getting by, making a living, going to church, and playing soccer.

This is a typical scene in Scala. Stairs everywhere.
This is a typical scene in Scala. Stairs everywhere.
Burt on our hike through a walnut grove.
Homes way off the road resemble ranches in Mexico.
Pointing down to Ravello.
Pointing down to Ravello.
Resting in the shade.
Resting in the shade.
IMG_8069
Wefie
Soccer field perched on the steep hillside. Futbol.
Soccer field perched on the steep hillside. Futbol.
Skinny and old church in Scala area.
Skinny and old church in Scala area.
Switchbacks everywhere.
Switchbacks everywhere. We had to get back down there.
A jumping spider enjoys the view.
A jumping spider enjoys the view.
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