18 May 2009

An Amazing Day

Yesterday was an extraordinary day. I've been going with our friends, Emily and Enzo, on an outing each weekend to surrounding cities or towns to get acquainted with our region of Abruzzo. Yesterday we went to an ancient Romanesque church near Ortona, 1 hour south of us, named San Giovanni in Venere (Venere is Italian for Venus) which got its name because it was built in the 500's over an even older pagan temple dedicated to Venus. I could feel the spiritual energy as I joined the centuries of pilgrims before me. The sandstone carvings by the doors and its triple apse were awe inspiring. Hand painted tiles on the underside of the roof were simple but striking in design. Set among pine trees on undulating hills, the sea can be seen in the distance. The oldest olive tree in Abruzzo is situated on the side of the hill in front of the church in a grove written about by the Romans and is considered a monument.
While we were strolling the grounds we came upon some volunteers putting out lunch for a trekking group who were scheduled to end their hike on an overlook next to the church. They offered us freshly picked fava beans which can be eaten raw and peasant bread drizzled with olive oil. "No, thank you" quickly got turned to "okay, just a little" by their friendly encouragement to try this simple, delicious food and we ended up with cheese and wine along with the bread and beans. We shared introductions and stories about where we were from (with Enzo filling them in our our story) and had good laughs at their amazement that anyone would move from the caribbean or from America to Abruzzo.
There was a small group of traditional singers in costumes playing traditional instruments right next to them to provide the entertainment for the returning hikers. They played for us and danced and explained about their instruments. They spoke slowly when they learned we were Americani so we followed along fairly well. Even though they were confounded by our moving here, the combination of this historic and spiritual place, the beauty of the land, the warm friendliness and hospitality of the people, the genuine desire to share time, food, stories and their history with us made it clearer indeed why I moved here.

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