One of those re-grouping and sleeping-in days. Woke up late and lounged about in jim-jams till about 3pm, when we decided sloth should end and activity re-commence with a walk around the Borgo. Quite a mild afternoon for a walk – about 6C – so we started with a bracing coffee and headed up the stairs from the Piazza (rather than under the arco where our normal route takes us. The Borgo was home to about 5000 people until the quake, now only 500 live in the lower part (and a decent number of them are apparently American, British and German). The rest live in the re-built part of the town down the hill.
Up the hill is the ruined part of the Borgo, wrecked during the 1980 earthquake, but still home to a couple of old steadfasts who eke out lives in the ruins. The castle is up there to, but only open for visits on weekends. Pip spied a small hand written sign on the wall that said “Mostre D’Arte” – Art Exhibitiony/Demonstrationy thingy – and shot up a set of red metal stairs to an open door at the top. Me being the more reserved of the two of us (read: chicken) waited for the all clear. It came and I not so much shot up as carefully climbed up to what ended up being a wood carver’s lair. A lovely man beckoned us in and his daughter helped to translate. He had a lovely workshop with a fire in the hearth and a little office behind, where there were works on all the surfaces and hanging on the wall. Pip was keen to buy one, but me (reserved one, remember) could only think of customs at home – they love wood don’t they? I guess we’ll declare it and see what happens, it’s nut wood after all. The deal was sweetened with a lovely piece of graphic art from the same artist, who packed it and wrapped it himself. So we posed for photos; he posed for photos; we shook hands and left with a 40cm wooden carved piece that we may or may return home with. He was a lovely guy.
We headed back down into the part of the Borgo where we’re staying, and were met by two guys lugging firewood from their Smartfor2 tiny car in the tiny square at the top of the tiny path near where we live. They soon disappeared into a cave house down the path from our place and Pip and I, who were out to explore headed in the same direction past their place and a little further along before doubling back. Pip stopped at the door of the cave the two wood luggers disappeared into and, because it was particularly beautiful, stopped to take a pic. The guys, who looked a little on the rough side, called us in to have a look – they were very proud. Turns out it was like a club house for them and their friends (degli amici) who meet there for, as they described, Agnello Arrosto e Patate al forno (roast lamb and potatoes) which is very big in these parts. I also believe that, judging by the bottles of wine that lined every available wall space and the large barrel at the end of the cave, they enjoy an occasional tipple whilst enjoying their lamb. More lovely guys – they cracked the plug in the top of the barrel and insisted we sniffed, which we did, and they gave us a bottle of the wine from the barrel. It was unlabelled, but they told us it was an Aglianico – 4 years old – which is also known as the Barolo of the south, which is also the main wine of the region, so we have no need to doubt them. They showed us all the cave rooms and proudly showed off the bathroom, before we left and headed back home. More hand-shaking and grazie-ing, and no, grazie you-ing.
It was pitch black by then, so our thoughts turned to dinner and to the fact that we needed to wait till at least 8pm before heading out, lest we be the laughing stock of the village. We chose Osteria Tre Rose – an unassuming little local place on the north side of town that we can only assume is a regular haunt for its patrons (of whom there were many for a Tuesday night). Their food was largely typical of the area – I had a local gnocchi-like dish called Cingul, which I ate far too much of for an entree followed by a cotolette milanese, while Pip was far more reserved with her spaghetti carbonara entree and involtini main. We shared a local dessert, pear and ricotta tart which was of the type of tart you find hard to stop eating. It’s an amazing culture here which never ceases to surprise me – here in a tiny rural town on a 3C Tuesday night, there’s a full restaurant with about 70 customers ranging from small kids to oldies that most people don’t arrive at till around 9pm. It’s so full of life and food and wine and noise.