Friday, June 11, 2010

Bagnoli or Bust!

Yesterday, after arriving in Naples just after eight in the morning, we rented a car for our day trip to a tiny Italian town called Bagnoli del Trigno.

Although he has lived in the U.S. for most of his life, Jonathan’s grandfather (Vito) actually grew up in Bagnoli del Trigno. He left Italy at the age of 16, moving to Ohio with his family and starting a new life in America. The house he grew up in is still standing, and there is actually family that lives in it for part of the year. Of all the stops on our trip, Jonathan was most excited about this one!

The car we rented in Naples wasn’t the nicest vehicle we’ve ever been in (to put it nicely), including a broken air condition, no radio, missing hub caps, and a fourth gear that didn’t quite work. On the bright side though, it thankfully made the two-hour drive back and forth safely. Unfortunately, due to the broken air condition, all the chocolate we bought in Switzerland melted inside Heather’s backpack!

Bagnoli del Trigno is located in central Italy, and the drive was really beautiful. This section of the country is filled with trees and mountains, and doesn’t look at all like the Mediterranean Italy we’ve both visited on previous trips. Below is a picture of Bagnoli del Trigno from a distance on our way in.

Since neither of us speaks any Italian, and we were pretty sure that practically no one in the town would speak English, we prepared our visit with a “cheat sheet” containing some phrases that would hopefully help us to find the house Jonathan’s grandfather grew up in. After stopping a number of residents in the town to ask for directions (none of which spoke English), we finally arrived at the house (see picture below). Unfortunately, the relative that lives there for a couple months in the summer was still in Rome, so we were not able to go inside.

The great news, though, was that a couple of the town residents pointed out that more of Jonathan’s relatives lived in another house just down the road and were actually home at the time. A really nice old man (who kept mumbling in Italian the entire time) led us to the relative's house, where we were warmly greeted! Salvina (Jonathan's grandfather's cousin) and her husband Rafella even invited us in for coffee, biscotti, pie, and a personal tour of their house (see picture below). Neither of them spoke any English, but we were still able to communicate with each other a little – mainly about family members and where they live.

After about an hour of visiting with Salvina and Rafella, we made our way back to the center of town to do some more exploring before driving back to Naples in the late afternoon.

For Jonathan, the trip definitely lived up to his expectations and is something he will always remember. We took tons of pictures (and video) to share with Jonathan’s grandfather (who celebrates his 80th birthday in August) when we get home.

Of course you can’t visit Naples without trying their pizza, so last night we went to one of the most famous pizza places in Naples, Pizzeria Starita. The pizza definitely lived up to all the hype. It was amazing and probably ruined American pizza for us!

We spent last night in a really cool guest house in the center of Naples that was actually a palace for a Duke at one point. This morning, we are heading to Sorrento for a couple days of relaxing and enjoying the Italian coast. Fortunately, our sunscreen didn’t melt in the car so we should be able to avoid becoming lobsters!

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