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Farm 3 - Fruit trees near Spoleto

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After the farms - a trip to Rome

We walked west past the Giardini del Quirinale, which seemed to have an ancient wall as part of its design, beneath old shady trees. Turning right at the Quirinale, we had a beautiful view from the Piazza del Quirinale of the Basilica S Pietro in the Vatican City. We followed the beautiful old steps down to the road, and turned right into an alley to avoid the glare of the sun and constant traffic. I have to get out of Italy, or I'll get hit soon. I nearly got hit today because I didn't even know the taxi was behind me, and suddenly it was trying to squeeze in beside me- my legs hit its wheels. Jeeeeesus!

And from quiet little alleys painted gold and orange, we were suddenly in the presence of the stunning Fontana di Trevi, a facade of dramatic stone carvings and glistening turquoise. The were sooo many people there. Disgusting really, that people make these popular spots such a hangout- they really lose their charm when you get your hand planted in fresh chewing gum on the marble handrails.

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No.42 Via d. Panetteria was reportedly a famous gelato shop where all the ingredients are of highest quality. It was 2.30E for the smallest size; 6E for a proper amount of gelati. We got the smallest size. Mum got plum, and I got something that was a mixture of whipped egg and a liquor- sensational. It made me feel safe and cosy at home in the kitchen.

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Walking southwards, we reached the Mercati Traianei, the first of a spectacular series of roman ruins open to the air and modern city sky... but no longer free for visitors. Sun glaring down, and city dust being thrown against our faces, we stumbled down old roman roads, where the scars of carts remain, 2 milennia later. Beginning at the Colonna Triana, we headed past Victor Emannuel's most notable monument, the infamous 'Typewriter', and into the main archaelogical area, the Roman Forum. Too many incredible things to note. After 45 mintutes or so, we arrived at the Colloseo, where the evening sun created a stunning contrast between light and shade, all in a peachy glow. Endless tourists stood to get their picture taken in front of the huge theatre, none of them seeming to either realise or care that the building was bright orange and they were little dark blue dots in the evening shade.

We followed a couple in a cycle-powered car, who ended up pushing it across the massive old cobblestones, cackling like crazy, to the metro station. Italian Metro platforms smell like fumes and airlessness. Happpyyyy.

Back at the Roma Terminali, we looked for a non-existant supermarket, before heading down good old Via Marghera in search of some place selling juice! We found one- and came out with 6L of yummy liquids! Most of it's gone already.

Mum was getting pretty tired but I persuaded her to at least eat something before going to bed. We ate literally across the road from our room. Which is lucky because we both got so drunk. Not.
I'm sitting here, mum's alseep, and wishing that the internet would just fecking well work. Cable. Wireless. ANYTHING. But computers don't work on willpower so to bed I go.


Having learned that the internet did indeed work in the Yellow Bar across the road, I took the computer over there at breakfast time. I sent a few photos of Il Piano to dad, and we booked train tickets from London Paddington to Pewsey. Mum caught a train to a market before we would head to the train station at about 12:30. I packed my bag, and had organised to meet mum to go shopping once I had checked the bags out at 11, but as I nearly reached the train station, where we had agreed to meet, I got a call from dad: the plane left an hour earlier than we had all thought.

I ran back to the hotel and nervously waited for mum, with the bags sitting out in the hotel foyer. After 10 minutes, she arrived, and we tried to run with 17 and 22.5kg packs on our backs. HARD.

Mum very efficiently bought tickets at the auto machine, and we ran towards platform 25- the first platform that was not on the main immediate line of platform- a KILOMETER AWAY! could hardly believe it was happening, as I tried too keep up with speedy mum as she darted through the calm holiday types strolling along to THEIR trains.

We got on board with a couple of minutes to spare, covered in sweat, and hardly believing all that had just happened. Dad called, mum said that things were NOT cool. The holiday-making Italian couple opposite us got me to take their picture.

At the airport, I had to take a picture of the typical Italian ads displayed everywhere. Eg. Solar panels, where naked girls were clearly an essential element of their sales strategy. Disgusting.

WWOOF day off- trip to Spoleto

Halley, Lucia and the two of us went to Spoleto for our day off. Having missed our bus from Piedapaterno, (apparently Italian bus times go on word of mouth, not timetables) we decided to hitch a ride into town, and within about 45 seconds, a man pulled over with 4 spare seats in his car, threw the newspapers off the back seat and let us in. There was a bit of confusion about where we wanted to go, because we didn't say SpoLEto, so it sounded like Spello to him. Spello is 20 minutes further away, and we only worked out that he didn't understand when we were halfway there.

We found out that he was a sculptor from Milano, and had an exhibition in a few weeks. He dropped us off in the piazza where buses leave from, and we walked up to the top of the hill, stopping along the way to look at little old churches and parks and alleys, until we reached the Duomo. The floor was a magnificent mixture of byzantine mosaic and geometric, yet naturalistic, circles swirls. All in earthy stone colours. We spent quite a while in there- Lucia, mum and I sat scattered in the central seats, just taking it all in, while Hallie wandered around into the less obvious corners, blending in. There was a stunning little room off the right hand side chapel, decked out in a garish altar of gold and stone statues of angels landing on the intricate arches, with glass stars glistening on the walls. The centre-piece was a Byzantine-looking portrait of 'madonna e bambino', very dark and simple figures, but with the typical golden background.

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As it was moving into late morning, all the Italian tourists began pouring in, and the church atmosphere altered from tranquil to crowded within literally seconds. We fled, and wandered up to the old town fortress on the hilltop, with old tree roots and plants growing through the stones laid hundreds of years ago. Around the back, the hill dropped steeply into a rocky valley, with a small pebble creek one hundred metres or more below us. After chatting to a black cat with gleaming green eyes sitting on a rooftop, we reached the 14th century bridge that stretched across the valley. Old olive trees battled the odds on the rocky, bare slopes, and a house hung onto a ledge in the distance, halfway down a cliff-face.

Back in town, we went to the information centre, found a slightly dodgy-looking internet place, and everyone had 5 minutes to check emails. Deciding that we needed some supplies for the next few days at Il Piano, we each bought some little biscuits of all kinds in a bakery. As Hallie said, once most of them had 'disappeared' before we even got home, 'Like they were ever going to survive 4 days'. We may have bought some lovely gelato, because they were wonderfully cheap and even more interesting and delicious. After a bit of window-licking, we headed back to the bus stop and carried on home, the girls both sleeping on the way. At Piedapaterno, we stopped at the river Nera again, and stole some perfectly ripe figs from the huge tree standing beside the river.

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It took us about an hour to get up to our WWOOFer quarters, because SOME people are ridiculously lazy. We said hello to Jujube the skewbald, her chestnut friend, the 3 donkeys and goat, along the way.
We worked in the afternoon, but halfway through work (picking berries, or making drains), it started bucketing with rain, so we bolted home.

1-7 September 2009: Farm 3 – Lots of Fruit Trees
Our Last Farm (for now)

When Hilary went wandering to find out where the bus to Meggiano left (at the Spoleto stazione, she came back saying, “How amazing, I just met two girls from California, who are going to a farm, WWOOFing, and they didn't know each other before!” I suggested that maybe we were ALL going to the same farm. A few minutes later, we were all on the little bus, and sure enough, all of us were going to Il Piano, the Rosati's place, near Paterno. It was great to meet Halley, who had been travelling in Spain and Italy, and Lucia, who had finished school (like Hils) and was spending the year sorting out what to do next (also like Hils). We chatted about our past WWOOF experiences, and wondered how this one would be...

The bus driver looked at our packs and asked if we were going to Adolpho's. We headed up into the very beautiful, wooded, steep-sided Valnerina, and turned uphill, winding our way high up the slopes through patches of old farmland, with little stone villages dotted around. The driver dropped us at the side of the road, with the suggestion to keep to the main track and we heaved our packs on to our backs, and headed downhill. We had detailed directions for how to find our way to their house, which involved a longish walk down a steep and gravelly track. We passed groves of olives, woods, peaches, apricots, apple trees and figs, with lovely views across the valley to the high mountains on the other side.

Adolpho, Darcy and 15 month old Ben arrived home a while after we reached their very lovely stone house. We heard about how they are finishing it off themselves, while working on their visionary plan for a collection of heritage varieties of fruit trees. Adolpho also works in Spoleto. Darcy showed us to our WWOOFer space in the bottom of the house, and we had a short rest before starting work.

The farm is set high above the valley, just below the hilltop village of Paterno (population 11, 10 of whom are related to Adolpho). Together they are growing 1000 fruit trees, all of which are heritage varieties. They have 350 different varieties of apples.

There are amazing, wild mountains all around. There are views across the valley to Mt Sybillini.

See google maps: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=paterno+umbria&sll=37.567289,14.901029&sspn=0.184505,0.345383&ie=UTF8&ll=42.777007,12.862244&spn=0.170856,0.345383&z=12

Over the next week, we worked on a number of tasks, 3 hours each morning and another 3 in the evening. We began by digging gutters across the driveway, which had been damaged by recent rains. We collected horse poo, used pickaxes to remove blackberry plants and “Tree of Heaven” (Ailanthus altissima – familiar from Colo days) from the very steep and rocky slopes of the fruit orchards. We broke up fire wood and stacked it in the boiler room and we joined 50 metre hoses together to hand water the 3 year old fruit trees.

In fact our favourite job was picking rocks out of the recently ripped two acre “field”, beside the house. We laughed when Darcy said the job was to collect the rocks from it, because it was all rock, ranging from football-sized to gravel, with most of it the sort of stuff that stops a spade when you try to dig by hand. We walked behind the tractor, pulling the biggest rocks we could find and heaving them into the trailer. We would then go and unload them into piles ready for use as facing materials for the concrete walls of the house. It was hard to get much satisfaction, as we couldn't really see any evidence of our efforts. After several session of “doing rocks”, we agreed that it would great to see our job finished, in a lovely rock-free garden soil, but that it would require many WWOOFer-hours!

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We made our own breakfasts and lunches in our WWOOFer kitchen, and in the afternoons we slept like logs. With Lucia and Halley, we spent many, many hours talking about all sorts of things, especially lots of comparisons of California and Australia. After the evening work, we had lovely meals made by Darcy. It was all absolutely delicious, healthy fare, and we enjoyed the chance to chat and hear about their ideas and plans. Then we would fall into bed and sleep very soundly.

One day we took a walk suggested by previous WWOOFers in the log book, down to the valley, through the pretty village of Piedapaterno, along the river, and then up to Vallo di Nera on the other side.
It was a classic well maintained stone village, with tiny laneways, arches, staircases and homes clinging together around the sides of a little hill-top, with a tiny church and courtyard at the top. The whole region is UNESCO listed, and the views of olive groves and other villages on the slopes amongst the forest were certainly very beautiful.

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On the full moon, we took a night walk to “il Torre”, the old tower on the ridge above the farm. It was warm and clear, and the moonlight was gorgeous on the fields and trees. Lucia came out with one of her typically funny, positive statements when she observed that “I think it's mostly downhill, once we get to the top.”

Our day off was used for a visit to Spoleto. We set off early down to Piedapaterno, to catch the bus. We were early, but it the bus never came, so we decided to hitch. We soon got a lift with a very nice sculptor from Norcia, but didn't make ourselves clear enough, and he drove us most of the way to Spello (near Assisi, about 40 kilometres north) before we all worked out what was going on. Ooops. “No problem,” he said kindly, and turned around and drove us to Spoleto. Turns out he is very keen to move to Australia, but was worried that his English is not good enough. We gave him our contact details and reassured him that Australians are very used to dealing with people who don't speak perfect English. He gave us a poster for his upcoming exhibition at Campello sul Clitunno - he works in stone and wood. A pity we won't be here.

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Spoleto was fantastic to explore. We wandered for hours, taking in the sights, window shopping and sampling gelato. It has many churches, piazzas and very ancient buildings, built around Estruscan walls, all climbing uphill towards the Duomo and Rocca (fort). The cathedral was absolutely gorgeous, with a massive bell tower made of huge blocks of Roman stone. Inside, the floor was an amazing mixture of mosaics, and very worn slabs, tiles and tombs, all colours and textures. The apse had lots of bright colourful Fillipo Lippi frescoes, and there was another one by Lynda's favourite – Pintoricchio- in one of the chapels. Halley loved the very gaudy marble and gold extravaganza of a chapel beside the altar.

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We walked on the 230 metre long, 80 metre high bridge, built in the 14th century on a Roman aqueduct. We bought a really nice table cloth for al fresco meals at home.

The absolute highlight of the day was magic. We were strolling uphill in a little lane, when we heard piano music. Through an archway, we came into a tiny courtyard, and traced the music to a third storey, open window. It was incredibly moving, modern but perhaps with folk references? Lots of soft, then loud, a long and fading ending. The four of us were stunned and we loved it. With another lady with a little girl, who had walked downhill and listened, too, we all applauded. After a moment, the shutters were thrown wide by the pianist, a beaming, wild haired, topless and very tanned man who reminded me a lot of the Italian actor/director (Roberto Bernini?) who bowed and looked so happy, he made our day!

At the end of our time at Il Piano, we were really sad to leave Halley and Lucia, after sharing the week and work with them. Hopefully they'll come and WWOOF at our place! It would also be fantastic to see how Il Piano evolves – with the vision of Adolpho and Darcy, and lots more hard work, it should be incredible.

Posted by hazelnutty 07:33 Archived in Italy

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