Monday, 24 November 2014

A walk in the local monastery grounds

Our local Casamari Abbey is one that attracts visitors from far and wide so we're fortunate to be able to spend time within the grounds as a matter of course since it's a working community that serves the local area.  The pharmacy, the shop that sells monastic items, the parish office and social rooms, the farm shop, the college high school and the retreat houses are run by the monks and also provide employment as well as a local service. The post office is within the outer walls of the monastery complex and the sports ground is now managed by the parish. The olive groves on the moors behind the abbey are also rented out and cultivated by the locals. However, the landscape remains unspoilt because the land is in a conservation area and building regulations are very strict.

One morning we took a walk around the area that's mainly cultivated for the needs of the monastery and college, which is a boarding school as well as a day school. We then walked through the college gardens and back into the monastery inner courtyard gardens.

Old columns have stood there for centuries.The lift on the left has been installed recently which must benefit the elderly members of the community.

Wine can be bought from the monastery cantina.

My husband knows the monastery well as a playground and later as a teenage trainee lay novice. Regular readers will remember he was sent to live in the monastery some years after his mother was widowed and his time as a monk didn't last long when he realised that home life in the village, no matter how tough, was more to his liking!  Of course his mother was pleased to have him home. Being the youngest boy with two younger sisters (an older brother and sister married and another older sister living away) he helped to build them a new house in the old village.

The above building was the kitchen and dining room for the people working on the land and in the monastery.

We met one of the present day gardeners and had a chat about horticulture.  He had lived and studied in England and America and spoke excellent English.  He gave me a kiwi to try.

These buildings used to be the stables, but now they're being used as workshops.

                                                                                                  old mill stones

                                                                                           orchards and vineyards

                                                                               the path leading to retreat houses

                                                                                         the college

Next time I will continue with our walk around the college gardens and then back to the monastery
courtyards and cloister.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Italy: the hill town of Veroli

Hello to all who read my blog and a warm welcome to new followers. I hope you're all keeping well wherever you are. I know many of you are experiencing very cold weather in your corner of the world so I hope that you're managing to keep warm.
It's been very foggy where we live and my days this week have been spent mostly at home doing the usual routine housework, reading and so on. The two grandchildren have gone down with coughs and colds, although the grand daughter struggled into school yesterday as she had a science exam to take and it's an important year of public exams. Tomorrow I hope to meet up with some university students from overseas that we've befriended. They're both doing their Masters.  I might manage to start my Christmas shopping when I'm in town!

I've still got a lot to write about regarding our time away in Italy in September and October as I'm trying to keep a chronological record of our year. I know I'm 'swimming against the flow' compared with many of you who are writing about Christmas preparations, but I'm going to continue to share about our Italian life with perhaps a post or two about what we're doing here in Yorkshire if something of interest comes up.

The view above (and in the header) can be seen from one of the terraces in Veroli, which is our local comune town, where we go from time-to-time. The weather, even in early Spring and Autumn can be sunny and you can see for miles across our province of Frosinone in south Lazio.
However, it's not the highest area of the town and the day we took a walk it was one of the few when the weather was not so good.  It was a different walk because I wanted to explore somewhere we don't usually need to visit as we often park at the bottom of the town and walk up to the middle streets and that can be quite enough of a challenge.
Fortunately we could drive up, park and walk to the highest quarter of the upper town. There were tantalising glimpses of what the residents were growing in their town gardens on the other side of the ancient walls. The megalithic walls that surround and protect Veroli in a polygon form are called cycloptic walls because they were built with enormous stones that are wedged in place and can be seen best in the St. Leucio quarter, which is the oldest part of the upper town.
The lane led up to an ancient tower called 'The Rock' (9th century AD).  Many important people found shelter or were kept prisoner within the walls. Turning left passed 'The Rock' the narrow road had no barrier on the side where there was a steep drop into the valley road below. There was a dead end with a small cobbled courtyard where there was a shop, a little church and a narrow pathway back down to the lower streets. It felt as if this area was mainly used by the locals. The small church was very old, had been untouched by modern hands and yet was obviously a much-loved and intimate neighbourhood place of worship. We spoke to the elderly man sitting on the bench outside and went in.
The main lane to the right continued as a single-track road across the Ernici mountains. It's called 'The Way of the Benedictines' as St. Benedict and his little band of followers in 529 AD journeyed from Subiaco, stopped in Veroli, founded the monastery of St. Erasmus, before going on south to start a new monastic community in Monte Cassino.  Of course, these mountain tracks would have been known routes to all travellers as well as marauding peoples.

The remains of the tower called 'The Rock'

The enclosed courtyard in front of the church and the path leading back down to the lower part of the town.
Th church of St. Leucio
the cemetery

 a wall painting - I have no information about what is depicted

The Ernici settled in the area around the 12th century B.C. and founded  the settlement as it was in a strategic position being more than 700 feet above sea level and between two major valley routes. It eventually fell to the Romans and because of its alliance with Rome became a free municipality. There was a period of unrest during the Norman period, but by the Middle ages Veroli was established as flourishing centre of art and culture and in the Renaissance was well known for its places of learning and the libraries attached to them.
Although the weather wasn't good and the light was poor for photography, especially as we approached 'The Rock' tower, it was an interesting walk which gave me an insight into another aspect of Veroli.