Arpino day four
05.09.2017 - 05.09.2017
Our wedding anniversary - 36 years and counting!
We exchanged cards on getting up and then headed to our by-now accustomed breakfast spot of the Bar Sport where we took our time over our coffees and croissants.
Not your usual anniversary photo!
[Arpino has lots of these mirrors,
to help drivers navigate the hidden corners on its narrow medieval streets]
There was one quarter of the town we had yet to explore, Arco, so that was the natural choice for our morning's walk. We left the piazza by via Giuseppe Cesari in the north west corner, next to the Tulliano. This passes the small Piazzale San Francesco X. M. Bianchi where we had eaten dinner on our second evening in town, so we stopped to get some photos of the statue of the saint who was born in Arpino in 1743 and went on to work with the poor of Naples, earning him the epithet, the ‘Apostle of Naples’.
San Francesco X. M. Bianchi
'The Apostle of Naples
Home of Giuseppe Cesari
Next we passed the house where another famous Arpino resident once lived, Giuseppe Cesari, known as the Cavalier d’Arpino. The 17th century palace was partly pulled down when this entrance to the town was developed and widened, but much of it still stands and bears a stone inscription to the artist. I believe the doorway below this (bottom left in my photo) is the former entrance to the city which passed beneath the palace prior to the widening of the road here.
Beyond Cesari’s former home the road widens further. This part of the town is known as Fuoriporta – ‘outside the gate’. The left-hand side of the road, now called viale Belvedere, overlooks the valley and the surrounding Lepini and Ernici mountains. We had already taken a lot of photos here, both on this visit and back in 1987, so we didn’t stop long today.
A flight of stone steps to the right of the Belvedere leads to the church of Madonna della Grazie (which like San Andrea yesterday was disappointingly closed). Like many of Arpino’s churches it was restored in the Baroque style in the time of the town’s greatest prosperity in the 18th century. My photo below left was in fact taken on one of the previous evenings, as the church façade is in shadow in the mornings.
Madonna della Grazie, and the path up to Arco
Climbing further we arrived near a large 18th convent complex, dedicated to St Vincent de Paul – indeed, one of the nuns was collecting the daily newspaper from a mailbox near the top of the lane. The views up here were in some ways even better than those from the Belvedere as we had the church and other buildings below us to add foreground interest to the shots.
Views from above the church
We passed through the Porta dell'Arco, also known as the Porta Romana, as it faces north towards that city. This is a 1900 replacement of what was the most ancient of the town’s gates and the painting above it, of the Madonna and Child with the Cross, is a 2016 copy of a work from the late 18th century, the gift of a local family.
At the Porta dell'Arco
'Madonna and Child with the Cross'
Beyond the gate we were in the labyrinth of narrow lanes and passageways that make up the quarter. These still follow the medieval layout which developed from the ancient routes that linked this part of town to Civitavecchia above. Houses are perched wherever there is space, and the steps that lead to them often hewn out of the stone of the hillside.
Typical houses of Arco
We followed the main lane (you couldn't really call it a street), via Marco Agrippa, branching off here and there to explore little corners. I found this the most charming and photogenic of the different parts of Arpino that we explored over these few days. It is particularly rich in the sort of building details I take delight in photographing.
Plus, we met a friendly little cat - always a bonus!
Cat on a balcony
[But he soon came down to make friends!]
The road brought us out eventually at the top of the wide flight of steps, the Salita dell’Arco, that descends past San Michele Arcangelo to the piazza, which we had taken yesterday after exploring Colle. Rather than take these again though, we carried on to the piazza Sant’Andrea in the hope that today we might find the church open. We didn't, but another friendly cat, this time black and white, made the extra walk more than worthwhile.
Eventually though we did head back to the main piazza where for the first time in several days we found the small tourist information office open. This gave us the chance to enquire about options to get to Santopadre, the much smaller town eight kilometres away which is where Chris's grandmother was born (though she lived in Arpino before emigrating to England with her parents as a young girl). We had thought that by now it might not be possible to go there on this trip, as our time in Arpino was already coming to an end, but the girl in the office told us there was a bus that afternoon at 14.20, returning at 15.15 - the last one of the day. That would only give us thirty minutes or so in Santopadre, but it's a small place and we would at least be able to revisit the church where Francesca was (according to Chris's mother on our first visit thirty years ago) baptised.
So we had some cold drinks and a snack back at the Bar Sport and then walked to the bus stop at the Belvedere a short distance away from the piazza. We had to wait a while as the bus was running late (or the girl in the office had mistaken the time) but at about 14.30 it appeared. We boarded, only to be told by the driver that we needed to have bought our tickets in advance at the bar next to the stop! Luckily he was willing to wait, and there were no other passengers to be made impatient by the delay, so Chris rushed off to buy them and we were on our way.
The bus climbed steadily through the olive groves, with some wonderful views of the mountains and back towards Arpino. The journey took about fifteen minutes, and because of the later running of the bus and further delay while we bought tickets, we had less than twenty minutes in Santopadre before it would leave again on the return trip.
By the bus stop in Santopadre
We hurried to check out the church but like those in Arpino that morning it was closed.
Chris tries the church door - in vain
At least though we had time to look again at the war memorial with the Quaglieri names, and to take a quick look at the picturesque lanes in the oldest part of the village.
The war memorial
Around the old village
Back at the bus stop we took a few photos of the rather spectacular view, and the waiting driver kindly offered to take our photo there.
Views, and us, near the bus stop
Then it was back on board for the drive back to Arpino.
View towards Arpino from the bus
Back in Arpino
Arriving back we decided to see if we could walk down from the Belvedere to the Roman tomb in the olive grove below. It proved rather a hot walk as there wasn't much shade, so halfway down I abandoned the attempt and stopped to take a few photos of my surroundings while Chris continued alone.
View of the Chiesetta della Madonna of Loreto from below
In the olive groves
Popular tradition has it that Arpino was first founded by the god Saturn and that this is his tomb. You may not be surprised to learn that historians disagree! But it is Roman. Chris has kindly let me have a couple of the photos he took of the tomb to share with you all here, as I didn't make it down there to take any:
Chris's photos of the tomb
After that little detour we decided to head back to the apartment to cool off and rest before our anniversary evening out.
We started that evening in our favourite Bar Sport in the piazza with aperitivi - Aperol Spritz (naturally) for me and a beer for Chris. Accompanying these this evening were some juicy olives as well as the usual peanuts and crisps.
Locals in the piazza
For dinner we went to the smartest restaurant that central Arpino offers, the rather classy L'ottavo Vizio on the via Aquila Romana.
On the way to the restaurant
This restaurant is in a lovely cellar room with modern furnishings and has a great menu - a lot of seafood but also classic pasta and meat dishes. We shared a platter of local ham and pecorino cheese to start with, as well as complementary bruschette. Chris chose the spaghetti carbonara for his main course while I had one of my favourite Italian dishes, tagliata. It was very nicely cooked, as were the rosemary potatoes I had with it. The house red was an excellent accompaniment to all of these dishes. I was tempted by a dessert of lemon sorbet but decided I was too full to enjoy it, and Chris also passed on dessert. Our bill was a very reasonable €37 which also included a bottle of sparkling water. A great evening to finish off our stay in Arpino.