Friday, 6 May 2011

Wed 4 May - Rioting Nuns & A Clap of Thunder

Before we could get our day under way, we just had the little matter of closure with Geometra Fabio.  We still had to pay him for the work he'd done, cash, of course, he wanted and was chasing for it.  We desperately wanted to dispute it, but decided it's not worth it.  Just pay it and be done.  Close it, end it, move on. 

So we popped into the office handed the money over, closed the account, collected our keys and came away feeling just a little pleased that our final requirements for him to complete his side of the bargain had knocked him off his perch a little.  We're not normally bitter people, pretty easy going in the normal course of events, but this affair had left a rather nasty taste.  Hey ho, all done.  Lesson learnt.  Life's too short. 

Santuario di Volto Santo
Our plan for today was to visit the Holy Veil in Manoppelo (  The Santuario di Volto Santo, which we've seen from a distance amongst the hills and trees, looks just stunning and, of course, the Holy Veil that attracts thousands of pilgrims each year, absolutely fascinating.  But it was closed.  Of course.  Opens at 3.30pm.  You'd think we'd be used to this "nothing works in the afternoon" culture by now.  But no, clearly not.  I guess even Jesus Christ needs a siesta too.  Who'd've thought? 

Plan B was to drive on to Roccamorice, bore Phil and Sharon silly by showing them our beloved (but much neglected of late) climbing area before going up the lane to the Eremo di Santo Spirito, a hermitage in the Maiella dating back to 1000AD. 

Eremo di Santo Spirito
Now this was a Wow!  One big huge Wow!  We had absolutely no idea that just beyond the Roccamorice crag was such a stunning, sacred place.  It was made all the more ethereal by being way up in the clouds with the freezing, damp mist floating in, out and around the rocks, trees and chapel.  A celestial moment.

But, alas and predictable, his Holyness was siest'ing here too.  Chapel closed.  Opening at 3.30pm.  One for another day.  

The second half of Plan B was to lunch in the rather nice tucked away little restaurant that we'd passed many times on the way to climbing.  The owner must be an OK chap as he's got two lower offs (climbing jargon, for the uninitiated) at the top of his house.  Brilliant.  Every house should have them.  And he clearly was a thoroughly nice chap as he opened the restaurant just for us.  

Our timing was all up the creek today.  Trying to eat after 2pm and go visiting before 4pm.  How silly of us.  But what a lunch.  The food was excellent.  A shared anti-pasti had some very good prosciutto and salamis, but the cheese with honey and a very delicate apple chutney was just divine.  The main courses of entrecote veal (Phil & KP), ravioli (me) and gnocchi (Sharon) didn't disappoint either, and nor did the final bill.  Definitely one to return to.

By now the Volto Santo would be well open so we wound our way back down the mountain and into the, I'd like to say sunshine, but it was wasn't.  Still raining.   We arrived at the same time a very over-excited coach load of nuns was just spilling out.  They were all there, in front of the church, pushing and jostling and taking more photos than the Japanese.  

Our attempts at stifling our chuckles were completely thwarted by the clap of thunder as Sharon entered the church.  Tears rolling, belly hurting, shoulders quaking, the giggles were contained.  Just. 
The Holy Veil

The church itself was quite beautiful.  Surprisingly simple by Catholic standards, but rather lovely as a result.  We worried about joining the queue for the Holy Veil.  Could we (not being particularly holy ourselves), should we?  Should we cover our heads?  Do we have to have been confirmed?    But we needn't have worried.  

The pushing, jostling nuns (who also queue jumped, by the way) proved that you don't have to have taken vows or have been confirmed to be a good person worthy of visiting the Shroud.  And they were all taking photos too!  Stunned.  So I did as well.  Just one, just a little one. 

Our browsing in the gift shop afterwards was cut short by being elbowed in the ribs once too often by the nuns, so we made our way home, battered and bruised.  To the Scrabble board.

The boys won, but we won't dwell in that.  It was the tiles you see, dealt one rotten lot after another.  But we fought bravely on against our endless handful of vowels and the boys' endless supplies of Z's, QU's and X's.  We even refused to give in when their Z hit a triple word score.  But we couldn't quite do it.  

A rematch is definitely needed.

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