Hello, everyone! I hope you're well. As for me I had a lovely birthday weekend. Thank you for your kind wishes. Yesterday I had an afternoon out in York. It was special because I met up with a blog friend from the US who is over here on vacation. More about that on my next post.
I'm still writing about our time spent in Italy during April. As I've mentioned, we were not well and unable to go far. Once we got some treatment from the doctor we did feel slightly better and having been confined to the house and garden I was ready to drive up into the higher mountains and take a walk in the woods. It's a favourite place to go especially in the Spring and Summer. It's cooler in the woods and a popular place for walking, camping and picnicking in a protected nature reserve. There are trails following the old tracks that lead to even higher secluded spots where the rarer alpine flowers can be found. It's probably best to go in a group with a guide whose interested in botanical plants although there are leaflets giving details of the different trails. It's a wild mountainous region where the weather can be unpredictable. The Monti Ernici mountains are part of the sub-Apennines of Lazio and are a natural border between the Ciociaria where we live and the Abruzzo. Here hermits used to live in the caves or build shelters in the natural formation of the rocks and later on these abandoned places were the hideouts of brigands. As for us we were content to stay on the road leading up to the small town of Collepardo (Leopard Hill) so called because wild cats lived in the woods. We stopped in the environs of the Charterhouse of Trisulti. I've written about the Charterhouse here, here and here and I will write again about this recent visit as we went into the church (not photographed in detail before). This may be the last opportunity to visit this hidden treasure rich in history and artistic decoration as there are rumours that the monastery will soon close. Once it was the retreat house for the Cistercians who took over the monastery from the Carthusian monks after the second world war where young men were sent in order to test their vocation to the religious life as it's located in a very isolated spot. At one time it had a substantial number of men in the community, but now there are only three monks who are in their eighties. At the moment they're supported by volunteers who help maintain the grounds and the small shop that is famous for selling herbal liqueurs as well as devotional items.
If you look at the map above you'll see that the road passes a small settlement of houses and then winds around the contour of the mountains traversing a bridge over the river at the bottom of a deep gorge called the Bridge of the Saints referring to the holy men led by St. Dominic of Foligno, a Benedictine, who came to the spot and settled there in the first dwelling, the ruins of which can still be seen. My husband remembers the present tarmaced road just being an unmade track when he was a boy. Even today the road is narrow with a sheer drop on one side into the gorge and no barriers in some places.
As an armchair viewer will you come on the drive starting on the road that turns off from the road that leads to the local hill town?
Firstly, let's stop to admire this wisteria. In April it was in full flower.
After driving through a valley with wooded hills and olive groves where the modern houses would once have been no more than the dwellings of shepherds, the road winds up onto another level of the same valley.
We can look back at the way we have come. Where we live is somewhere in those distant hills in the middle ground.
Along this stretch of the road is a place where water from the mountain streams continually runs from a tap. Locals come and queue up to fill their bottles and jars with this mineral water.
We had started out mid morning as the Charterhouse closes at noon until the late afternoon. We passed the school bus on the way back home as the school day finishes about 1 p.m. Sheep are kept on the hillside pastures and in the meadows in this wide valley. Crops are cultivated on the flatter land.
Climbing higher we can see The Charterhouse of Trisulti on the other side of the ravine.
Another view of the Ernici Mountains across the gorge. The highest one in this photo is Monte Rotonaria. We are now 800+ metres above sea level. (Our own Italian village is 300+ metres above sea level).
There's a cave on the opposite cliff face and a little building inside it (marked by a cross on the above photo) This was once one of the hermitages that would have been accessed by a path which can still be taken.
Now we have to go down into the gorge before driving back up to Trisulti. It's here at the bottom of the ravine where the road crosses the river that the waterfalls and streams have become a popular picnic area in the Summer. We haven't been with our own family since 2011 so the few photos I've included are from that time.
To be continued.... when we'll take a walk in the woods although we won't go as far as St. Dominic of Foligno's hermitage in the rocks as it's quite a trek up the mountain path.
Wishing you a good day,