Week 185 October 14, 2017

Buon Giorno! Good Day! in Italian. This week, we learned that the only way to reach Acqui Terme – our next destination from our location of Alba, was by train back to Torino, another to Asti, then one more to Acqui Terme. There was no direct bus service either, so we resolved ourselves to the train schedule. What fortune we then had in meeting an American couple from New Hampshire. We enjoyed a delightful time waiting for the train, then in riding to Torino together. The wife, like Loren, is half Italian on her mother’s side. More special people who we will hope to see sometime again!

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In Acqui Terme we were amused to find that the gas station across the street from our albergo – hotel, included not only an attached cafe but a full restaurant/pizzeria, which also featured live music on Saturday night. We were the earliest diners as the performers warmed up before the larger crowd arrived. The two young men provided lovely harmony. One even sang a few American pop numbers, the other rendered Quando, Quando, Quando, beautifully. As we left, they both offered Buona Sera – Good Evening, to us from their microphones.

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The next day, in an uncanny stroke of luck, we discovered that we could attend a concert inside il Castello – the Castle, in Morsasco, a tiny hilltop village where Loren’s nonna e biz-nonna – grandmother and great-grandmother, were both born. The castle is now owned privately. As we had only ever seen it from outside the castle walls, we made our way to Morsasco for the event. Unfortunately our cousins in town were down with the flu, so could not join us.

Before the concert began, a few of us were exploring the grounds where we met an Italian man from Milan. However during the course of a conversation I instead detected a native American English speaker. It turned out that he had been an exchange student to Italy some 30 years ago and has never returned to live in the US. Like Loren once was, he is very active with Toastmasters’ International, and we hope we might attend a meeting with him before we leave Italy. You can see a photo of his thriving club if you copy and paste this link into your browser: https://m.facebook.com/themillinerstoastmasters/photos/a.894564497337351.1073741827.890422457751555/1286766374783826/?type=3&source=44

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Then, I was surprised during a pre-concert social time inside the Castle, to hear more English being spoken. I befriended three more Americans, and before the evening was over, Loren and I had a date to see one of them again, as she now lives in Morsasco. What was more astonishing is that we then ascertained that the friends who were visiting her and I have a friend in common in the state of Washington. The world keeps becoming smaller…

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Before Loren and I left Acqui Terme which means “thermal water,” we did “take the baths.” At Lago Delle Sorgenti, the waters are combined with sound treatment, which they have named “Holistic Path in 12 Steps of 3-4 hours.” It was heavenly, especially during our second time in the “Gong Lounge,” having it entirely to ourselves with just the “Tibetan Bells and Planet Gong” therapist leading our experience. 

We then took a taxi ride with our same driver who had transported us to and from the concert at the Castle. We were welcomed once again to Morsasco, this time at Podere La Rossa” – the farm of the red grapes, by un ragazzo – a young man, who works there. We wanted to stay at La Rossa because it is remodeled from the original stone farmhouse where Loren’s great-grandmother was born. Thanks to our young host who has a college degree in Tourism and who started working at La Rossa as an intern, I now understand how the Spanish and Italian languages are so similar. It is since the Roman Empire fell, the German Visogoths settled in Spain while the closely related Ostrogoths came to Italy. Online I found that Visigoth means western Goth and Ostrogoth – what else? – eastern Goth.

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We have enjoyed the silence and serenity at La Rossa. Similar to Planet Gong, we have been completely by ourselves, with the exception of the owners and staff who live offsite and have come to make our breakfasts or prepare special weekend lunch or dinner events, as we are visiting during the off season. It turns out that we are also staying where Julia Roberts once visited when she was in Morsasco for the wedding of a friend. We have been entertained too by the gazza – magpies, flitting about. I saw this bird for the first time ever in Canada on our Journey, then again in southeast Africa where they are named “pied crow.”

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Most important is that our cousins have recovered from their cases of the flu enough that we have had a couple of wonderful visits already. They had us for lunch one day, and took us on un giro – a tour, by car to see several of the surrounding hilltop towns each with their individual castles. Coincidentally La Rossa is owned by in-law relatives of our cousins. As mentioned above, it was named for the red grapes in the vineyard, and we learned that their creative wine label includes an image of our cousin’s grandparents honeymoon photo!

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We also had a lovely evening visiting our new friend who we met at the concert and enjoyed spending time with her, her partner and her mother. They have a gorgeous home. Our cousins called it the best house in town, and we can attest to that! It is beautiful, fully remodeled on a large tract, with a fabulous view from the back yard. We wish them all the best in settling into their new community, where they have already felt welcomed and appreciated.

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Loren and I have also enjoyed walks to the nearby hilltop village of Tresobbio, about an hour each way,

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then through Cremolino to the larger town of Ovada – about 2 and a half hours one way. What fun to note how each town and village have their own Via Roma, also the name of the street where Loren’s grandmother’s birth house is located in Morsasco, reminding me how at one time in history, “All roads lead to Rome.”

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In Ovada, we enjoyed a very fresh pranzo – lunch, of pasta con funghi – with mushrooms, Porcini to be exact. Outstanding! We will have a ride back to La Rossa with our ragazzo shortly. What a fun week of seeing special family members and for making new friends. We have also been grateful to have had several beautiful fall days in a row – of mostly sunny, sweater-weather days, where butterflies flit in joyful play… Just lovely!

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