Avellino to Rieti (sleeping in a belly button)
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
72Trip End Jul 10, 2011
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We stopped for lunch in the village of Popoli, a market town that had stalls set up down the sides of streets. The town was scenic to the extreme with a small rivelet bisecting the hamlet and with mountain views around every corner. As we walked through the market place we were seranaded by The Beatles 'I Want to Hold Your Hand', a rather strange song for middle Italy we thought but nice just the same. We decided it was right up there on the list of pretty spots. We had a panini (half each) together with a coffee and then wandered around the town before mountng the P-D and heading north again. We passed through the large, regional centre of L'Aquila that suffered major earth quake damage last year.
Some of the road structure was still out of commission and so we were shuffled off the side to a succession of minor (and we definitely mean that in the truest sense of the word!) roads before returning to the main thoroughfare north.
The whole day's journey was under a bright, if less than warm, sun. It was cold enough that we resorted to our wet weather gear for extra warmth because it offers excellent wind protection. We were cold, no doubt, because at various stages we were at or over 1800 metres, with snow covered mountains surrounding us on both sides.
We take our hates off to the Italians for construction. Their road system is fantastic; they have the Austostrada which is limited to two lane each way with a 130 kph limit (that is always ignored) yet the traffic is never hindered or slowed with heavy vehicles always staying right and because cars are not hounded by speed cameras etc there is never freeway congestion because they are not forced to travel in "convoy" (ie always at 110 kph as in Qld on our freeways).
We have a lot to learn about traffic management. The Italians also build superb tunnels frequently around 1 to 2 kay in length, fully lit and ventilated.
Their bridges are also 'big' by our standards.
We arrived a Rieto just as the skies turned dark and droplets started falling. We checked into the President Hotel, and bonus, the P-D had its own lock up garage (for a small donation of 10 Euro).
We changed and set off to explore on foot. We discovered that the town also has another claim to fame - it is the geographical centre of Italy, or Centro Italia. The locals call it "Umblico Italia", or the Italina Umblical cord. There is a large, circular monument that is found in a piazza that celebrates this key fact of 'Centro Italia.' Greg decided to pearch himself on the round ediface while Kerrie took the necessary photographic record. Kerrie then commented to Greg, "Well, you can now say you have slept in a belly button and you have the picture to prove it!"
We decided on an early dinner, but then remembered we were in Italy where restaurants routinely don't open for business until 7.30 pm. This was the case, so we strolled back to the hotel, read our emails and then wandered back to town to seek out sustenance. We came across a small shop with a male model displaying men's undies - we had to chuckle - the bulge in the front was SO obvious. Clearly they were designed to be worn by members of the Italian mens rowing team!
What do you think?
We found this small restaurant up an alley way that looked the goods. We went upstairs, walking past the kitchen in the process. This should have given the game away there and then but we weren't quick enough on the uptake - no tantilising smells wafting from that direction. Anyway, we sat down after having been greeted by a totally non English speaking, but very friendly intentioned female host. There were no other guests in the restaurant and all the lights were turned off. We still didn't get the message! We selected a table, sat down and all agreed that 'aqua' was water and so she promptly produced a bottle of the tasty local spring fed brew. Menus were produced, in Italian of course. As we couldn't decipher the script, and she couldn't speak Strine (or even the Queen's best), we were at an impasse.
She then disappeared for about 5 minutes leaving us to drink the tasty local acqua. It was then the penny dropped and Greg reasoned that the lack of tantalising smells from the kitchen, no other guests present and lights off on our arrival could mean only one thing - there was no food being prepared because the place was bloody closed! This could only mean that if and when we placed an order, heavens knows how long it would take to prepare it. We decided to beat a hasty retreat, leaving 2 Euros on the table for the partially consumed acqua. Just as we were gathering up our jackets in walked a distinguished looking gentleman - obviously the owner who had apparently been summoned by the female host to take the order of these Inglese speaking visitors. He was clearly unimpressed that he had been called to arms only to have his treasured (and paying) guests flee the scene. Anyway, off to the Pizzeria!