Walking is an integral part of daily life in Cervinara. There are frequent short jaunts around the neighborhood; to the bakery for the occasional loaf of bread baked in the wood-burning oven, to the bar for a shot of espresso or to pick up the various grocery items kept on hand for the unprepared housewife (me!), or to the local pastry shop where they have free wifi (and some of the best sfogliatelle outside of Naples).
There is also the post-prandial promenade. When the food stupor of the noon meal has started to wear off, the streets and piazzas fill up with folks out for a stroll, oftentimes down to the Villa Comunale where at 4 pm Miccione Gelateria refills its coolers with freshly made gelato. The van pulls up to the sidewalk stand, they unload 8 or 10 tubs of deliciousness, and the line forms immediately. Their gelato is always so good, made with fresh ingredients and scooped generously into cup or cone. Of course the gelato eaters enjoy their treats while strolling through the lovely park that is the Villa Comunale. It’s never enough to burn off those calories because there are benches awaiting and we often just sit and watch the passers-by as we savor every lick of our gelati.
Mike and I often go out in the evening for a quiet stroll down to Piazza Elena. This piazza is without a doubt the loveliest in Cervinara and we head down the hill, past a couple of orchards and the field where the goats go to graze, until we find ourselves in this beautiful cobble-stoned square. The fountain is a welcome source of refreshment and the spectacle of the kids kicking their soccer ball around or of the toddlers learning to ride their bikes for the first time is always entertaining. We sit and relax for 10 or 15 minutes before heading back up the hill towards home. If our timing is right, we get treated to some spectacular play of sunlight off the local hills; first there is Mount Taburno to the left, standing majestically against the sky changing from blue to pink to the deep purples of sunset, then directly in front of us, Mount Pizzone, whose granite crags become golden as the setting sun splashes against the rocks and sparse trees. We always pause to soak in these views because there is always something new in the way the sunlight plays against these hills and it makes us appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.
But sometimes a “passeggiata” is not enough and we hunger for a good hike in the hills. I am never happier than when I am traipsing through some mountain trail, stopping to look at rocks and vegetation and marveling at the panoramas from high up on the hills. Today we drove up to the family property, crossed over the dike that was built to prevent flooding and mudslides and hiked way up into the woods. The steep climb was brisk and invigorating and the views were well worth the effort. Mike didn’t come all the way up; he’s not as “excited” about getting out into nature as I am. But even he enjoyed checking out the chestnut trees and marveling at the terraces that have been painstakingly built into the side of the hills.
It was a beautiful hike, but it was also a bit distressing. All summer we have been hearing how the chestnut harvest is not going to be good this year. There is a parasite that has attacked many of the trees and added to that is the odd weather we had this summer…much too chilly and rainy for a good harvest. The “ricci” that we found on the ground were empty rather than filled with two or three chestnuts. Most were still closed tight, indicating that they had dropped prematurely. Some were partially cracked open, but still the fruit inside was small or wormy. It’s clear that chestnuts are going to be sparser and more expensive this year.
But be that as it may, this knowledge didn’t detract from the wonderful passeggiata we enjoyed today. As long as we keep coming back to Cervinara I know that we will take advantage of the opportunities for walking (and eating) that this lovely little town provides.