Parked in Chieti the morning after the procession, we spent a long time trying to find a place to spend a few days, cheap with electricity and in an area with 3G. This turned out to be a bit tricky and frustrating (especially as our electrical power dwindled away — looks like our 118 amp hour leisure battery is dying already!), but we got there in the end, and found an agriturismo in the nearby town of Penne.
The drive there was delightful — kinda like driving through a painting, along roads lined with bright green grass, new flowers and trees, amongst rolling emerald hills, beautiful little hill towns perched on the slopes. It felt very spring-like and warm.
When we arrived at the agriturismo, we were very pleased: It was beautiful, and we were perched right amongst that beautiful scenery. The owners were quite friendly (although our meagre Italian had only the basics of communication covered), and we had 3G. Perfect.
We were originally planning to stay for four days. That turned into five, then into a week, and then about ten days. I worked heaps on Cartographer, my upcoming iPhone app which is coming along very nicely. Katherine started an online drawing course. Oh, and she cut my hair, an exercise that ended up taking all afternoon (we were both a bit sunburnt by the end, by sitting outside!). It’s a big improvement, although there’s a bit more to do — hopefully it’ll get faster! So, another creative skill acquired!
We’ve both been interested in HDR photography, and made the plunge, buying a $100 piece of software for HDR processing called Photomatix. I spent a day or two playing, coming up with some very fun results (some of which were included in the last entry on Chieti). I was reminded of the “bevel” effect of old, applying it to everything until it became extremely tacky. The “painterly”, surrealistic look of the resulting photos appeal greatly to both our aesthetics, but I suspect it probably will go out of fashion sooner or later. Until then though, we’ll enjoy the grunge look, and afterwards will benefit from the more realistic processing that is pure HDR (without the “detail enhancement” that gives it that cool look).
Katherine totally impressed me by drawing up some sketches for Cartographer’s icon which are absolutely brilliant. I don’t get much enjoyment from that process, given that I’m hopeless at drawing and graphic design in general, and just find myself getting frustrated. What Katherine came up with was easily as good or better than a result I would’ve expected from hiring a pro designer, so I was thrilled. What a team!
Our ventures outside Nettle were made interesting by the rambunctious presence of two enormous German shepherds who weren’t aware they were no longer puppies. It really is a little intimidating hearing the galloping of two monsters closing rapidly behind you, then teeth closing ‘playfully’ around your hand!
The night before our planned departure, we dined at the restaurant, where they served home-cooked meals made of entirely organic local produce. We went at the same time as a friendly Swiss-German couple who had arrived for the night in their motorhome. Dinner was delicious, lots of little successive courses — antipasti to start (I even tried the salami — it’s a bit of a big thing around here), then a simple tomato pasta. Our host demonstrated the pasta making process, bringing out a device that looked a bit like one of those many-stringed Indian instruments, that the pasta dough is pressed through with a rolling pin. Then, tasty little pastry-covered tart things with mushroom, followed by stuffed zucchini, I think, with lots of cheese; salad on the side of little slices of beef, then finally a very tasty ice-cream desert with little bits of meringue.
We were all set to go after about ten days — to do the Cascate Della Volpara walk from Umito, then a driving tour around Monti Sibillini — until on the day of our departure, on a whim we checked the weather report and discovered a rather bleak outlook with rain and snow on its way. Oh, dear!
A little agonising later, and we decided to wait it out here. A little sheepishly, I explained to our hosts that we’d be staying a bit longer.
On the morning of our next departure, I happened to stumble across a webcam in a town near where we were headed for the walk, and found it in snow! I was expecting the snow level to be higher, but as it was, we couldn’t risk driving on a slippery road in Nettle! More agonising, and we decided there was nothing for it but to abort our plans and head onwards. The only thing was, we hadn’t done the necessary travel research, so — another night in Penne. I felt quite silly explaining again why we weren’t leaving, but they were very understanding and laughed along with me as I explained in memorised Italian spewed out of Google Translator.
Katherine near killed herself fighting against oddly slow internet and a sluggish laptop, researching our next moves, while I alternated with reading through our Lonely Planet guide and working on Cartographer. So, finally, we finished it all off today and finally made it up the driveway and onwards!
Our drive took us along winding roads through spectacularly beautiful landscapes: More emerald hills dotted with villas and olive trees, along roads lined with birch trees (or were they beech? ash?), some of which seemed to think it was autumn and were a lovely golden colour (we hoped it’d catch on).
As evening crept towards us, we started looking out for a place to park for the night, and after not finding anything along our route, turned down a side road, and drove down it for ten or fifteen minutes — we found a few lousy options, but decided to press on in the hopes of finding something better. After another twenty minutes or so, Katherine spotted a sign pointing to a lake — always promising — and we followed it and found a spot by the road overlooking a rather impressive dam wall. We hung around on the couch for a while, resting after the long drive, then Katherine set about cooking dinner while I caught up on some blogging.
It’s good to be on the move again!