Sorry about not having a blog post yesterday, but we don’t have Wi-Fi at the house in Ripabottoni and we just didn’t have time to head down to the bar.  By the way, bar here means cappuccino or alcoholic drinks all-day long.  We have been able to stick to cappuccino in the morning, so far.

Rome to Ripabottoni

After getting the bags all packed and set by the door, we headed out. Because we needed another 7,000 steps before leaving Rome!

We got our usual breakfast and found it pretty quiet on the streets other than university students.

We saw these two cuties on our way back to the apartment … we’re guessing that’s the nanny, not mom
Trastevere architecture
Architecture and vegetation in Trastevere

Traffic was heavy though and we maneuvered through clogged intersections on our way to the Vatican. There were several large tour groups, many couples, a few nuns, and a cardinal in the Plaza. We walked around and took some pictures.

Walking up to St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square with the surrounding colonades, and the Obelisk of St. Peter’s Square
St. Peter’s Square colonades and statues of saints and marytrs on top
St. Peter’s Basilica
Saints and martyrs surrounding St. Peter’s Square

Leaving the apartment, we took a taxi across town to the train station. We met up with Jim & Anne then sat and had a sandwich before getting the rental car. Getting the rental car at Sicily by Car was, in and of itself, quite an experience.  We had four other groups ahead of us that seemed to be unable to grasp what they needed to do.  When it was our turn, it still took us about 20-25 minutes, but the process went fairly smoothly.  With Dave’s nervousness of driving a new vehicle (manual transmission, again), we think it took ten minutes to get out of the parking garage (in fairness, we were on the sixth floor … lol).

We left Rome around 14:00 and only thought we were going to die once (and we weren’t even out of Rome, yet). We enjoyed the three-hour ride to Ripabottoni. The landscape changed from flat to rolling with lots of wooded areas and picturesque hilltop towns. It is most amazing to think about what construction must have been like here so long ago – it’s almost like they chose tops of hills for security because there are a lot of them scattered across the landscape. We knew when we arrived that we couldn’t drive right to the house. We passed locals but figuring they didn’t speak English; we lugged our bags across the cobblestones and up stairs until we found the place on the north edge of town. It is a beautiful area of old renovated buildings that must have been gutted because they look new. Claude’s place is the most contemporary place we’ve stayed so far — ‘wood’ tile floors, big kitchen including full-sized dishwasher and table/chairs in center of room, a half bath with washing machine, dining room, and living room with fireplace, 3 bedrooms upstairs with one hall bath. Claude has furnished his home with antiques and it is just charming.

View from house in Ripabottoni
Old door on one of the homes in the area we are staying in in Ripabottoni

You may wonder why we are here. Dave and Jim’s great-grandmother, Concetta Paradiso, grew up here in this small town (current population 650) and we are hoping to find some family information at the church.

After settling into the house, we walked a short distance to the local bar mainly to ‘show ourselves’ to these small-town Italians who must surely wonder why we are here! The bar tab for our 4 drinks (one beer and 3 wines) was $7.50. There were so many questions we wanted to ask about this town but if someone spoke English, they didn’t speak up. Our dinner reservation was at 19:00, so we walked down the bumpy street to the restaurant, where they were waiting for us. It was a house where we walked into the main kitchen then back to the dining room that was like a white cave (rounded stone ceiling). The main cook/hostess was just what you’d expect: a roundish woman in an apron! Her two helpers were her daughter with her fiancé. The daughter spoke the most English but even then, we didn’t always understand. The food was amazing and their hospitality was outstanding. The aperitivo consisted of focaccia, tomato/cheese buns, a plate of two cheeses (pecorino and goat?) and two sausages (a red salami and an almost purple blood (?) sausage, a twice-baked potato found filled with fresh spices and a bit of cheese, and bruschetta.  We had still and sparkling water, red wine, and Prosecco. The first course was two types of homemade pasta (which were sitting in large wood trays at the ends of our dining table when we arrived) – a linguine with mushrooms in a truffle sauce and a ravioli stuffed with gorgonzola and radicchio in a thin white sauce topped with small strips of pancetta and pieces of hazelnut. It was so good; we couldn’t stop eating it. Then they brought out a second course of roasted pork and rabbit rolls with a pumpkin squash cassolette and more focaccia. We barely put a dent in this course because we were so full after the first course. Then, because we are in Italy, we had tiramisu for dessert, which we all managed to polish off, it was so light and delicious. This dinner was a typical almost 3-hour affair, but their timing was spot-on and we had lots of time to relax, eat, and chat. We paid the bill and thanked them, clearly feeling that the experience was more a family style event than one you would find in a restaurant. We slowly walked back to the house, up the hill the entire way (like walking up our driveway at home eight times!).

Setting for Tuesday’s dinner in Ripabottoni (the woman in the picture on the right is Nonna Maria)
Tonight’s fresh ravioli waiting to be cooked at Nonna Maria’s
Some of tonight’s appetizers
Some of tonight’s appetizers
Jim, Anne, and Linda at our dining table
Anne, Linda, Nonna Maria, and Dave at dinner
Linguine with mushrooms and tartufa (truffles)
Primo Piatto – Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and radicchio served with pancetta and nocciola (hazelnuts)
A plate of ravioli and linquini
Secondo Piatto – Rabbit and pork
Secondo Piatto – Pumpkin, lakfkladklsklad
Dessert – Tiramisu
Simple table decoration of tea candle on top of wine corks glued together

We were all exhausted and overfed from dinner, so it was time to head to bed.

Street near where we are staying
Street/alley where we are staying

Ripabottoni – Sant’Elia – Campobasso

On Wednesday we woke this morning to beautiful views of the area surrounding Ripabottoni. We then headed to Bar Centrale to get our morning cappuccinos.

Morning view from living room windows
View through bedroom windows
Rising sun from bedroom window
View from bedroom window
Morning view from ‘piazza’ outside our house
Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta – Ripabottoni
Neighborhood area
Old door on one of the homes in the area we are staying in in Ripabottoni
Cappuccinos and latte at Bar Centrale

We started off on our adventure to see the town where Dave and Jim’s great-grandmother was baptized.  That is the town of Sant’Elia a Pianisi.  We stopped at the church where she was baptized; Jim spoke with the friar responsible for the church about the baptism records.  The friar took Jim’s e-mail address and said he would send the information to him.

View along road to Sant’Elia di Pianisi
View on road to Sant’Elia a Pianisi
Fixer upper on way to Sant’Elia a Pianisi
Chapel along road to Sant’Elia di Pianisi
Street and architecture in Sant’Elia di Pianisi
Architecture in Sant’Elia di Pianisi
Trees and architecture in Sant’Elia di Pianisi
Wind toys in Sant’Elia di Pianisi
Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Chapel in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Altar area of Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Chapel in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Chapel in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Jim with friar at Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Pianisi
Pipe organ pipes in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi
Mary and Jesus statue in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Pianisi
Window and painting above altar in Chiesa di Sant’Elia a Painisi

From there we headed to Campobasso, the birthplace of Dave and Jim’s grandfather. It is significantly larger than city than anyplace else we have encountered here.  Its population is a little over 40,000.  While there, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant Linda found called Monticelli.  Jim and Dave were prepared for the worst, but it turned out everyone had phenomenal meals.

View on road to Campobasso
Ruins on the road to Campobasso
Dining room at Monticello (Compobasso)
Cavatelli with peas, bacon, and cod in oil, ginger, confit tomato, and lemon zest
Spaghetti with mushroom and truffle
Spaghetti with black garlic, manteca, anchovies, dried tomatoes, mullet bottarga, roasted pepper, toasted bread crumbs, and caper flower
Stuffed guinea fowl

We returned to Ripabottoni traveling through the countryside, which means stuck behind a truck.

Once back home, we headed back to the Bar Centrale.  Jim and Anne came down a little before us and they met a woman from Toronto who purchased her family home here in Ripabottoni.  She will gut the home and renovate.  It seems that there is federal financing available to fix properties that were “damaged by the earthquake” in 2002.

After a nice time at Bar Centrale, it made sense to have some “real” nourishment, so we drove to Morrone del Sannio, about 15 minutes away, to have dinner at Chalet Casalpiano.  This turned out to be another excellent food choice.  While we don’t have the names and descriptions completely for the meals (it was an oral menu), you can trust us when we say everything was great.

Pasta with red sauce and turkey meatballs with basil
Spaghetti with mushrooms
Rocket salad with tomatoes

We then headed back to the house and began packing up to be ready to leave early in the morning to return to Rome.