Mozzarella in the Blue Grotto

on Thursday, May 14, 2009

On our last Sunday in Sapri we decided to split the day up…the beach in the morning and the mountain in the afternoon. A busy day….the hike to the beach started with a walk down to the water where we met Sebastiano and Baikal (the dog). Sebastiano loves his dog more than his mother and talks to him like a child…but other wise he is such a man…with his raspy cigarette voice and colorful jumpers. When he goes driving, he wears a brilliant straw cap, with a short brim and a solid color border at the base. But only on the weekends. His 1940’s enormous yellow rain slicker is always prepared for rainy days…he looks a the boat captain…minus the beard and the cigar.

We stopped at a market for some bread, cheese and tomatoes and started our ‘walk’ to the beach. This walk, turned into a treacherous, cliff-jumping, tree-swinging, holding hands with death hike. The cliffs of the mountain have clearly marked trails, but the property that Sebastiano owns, the area where we need to be, is not only filled with brush, but it has fallen victim to countless landslides that start at the very top of the mountain. When we look up from a huge boulder, we can see the enormous chunk of mountain missing from the land and the line of trees that it took down with it. The path is covered in rosemary and wild orchids and with each deep breath of salty air, the day changes. It’s fresh soil and sunshine when we approach a lookout point and then inside the groves of the cliff under the thick trees, it’s damp with the smell of limestone and charcoal trees that they harvest. It’s cold enough to see your breathe, and followed brief openings of blinding sunshine that bring on the sweat.

We reach an area of ruins deep in the woods where Sebastiano would like to restore the olive mill that was once supplying the region with its oil. We each find a shady spot and have some water before we descend the mountain to enjoy lunch. At this point, we are all exhausted from working all week on the farm and walking all morning to Sapri…but the day has yet to begin. Turns out, the mountain is completely vertical. We must swing, like monkeys, from tree to tree in order to get down. If you miss a limb, you slide on your heine (sp?) until you reach a strong enough root of rosemary to save you…but don’t grab the prickers and bramble! It seemed crazy but there was absolutely no apprehension, no one even looked at each other, we just wiped the sweat off our foreheads and headed for the waves we could hear crashing below…last one to the bottom gets less mozzarella with their tomatoes. We threw ourselves down the side of the cliff and as the smell of salt grew stronger, the faster we all went. The trees finally disappeared and we stumbled out onto thousands of huge rocks along the coast of the Meditteranean. Somehow, I managed to draw the most blood on the way down but a quick bath in the salty sea cleared it right up. We laid out the food and picked at it together watching the waves come in closer and closer on the burnt orange rocks where we sat. A few came to close and we would scream like babies at the cold. We basked in the sun … laid out on the rocks licking our salty lips over and over again. Laying with my eyes closed, I can hear some chit chat every so often, some laughter, the crashing waves on the hollow grottos…everything combined sounds like an earthquake…sometimes Baical approaches and pants heavily near my face…not sure if he’s drooling on me or the waves are sprinkling the shoreline. There is no sand. At first, the rocks are tough, uncomfortable and nearly impossible to walk on…but some sense of strength…dirty, farmer strength…helps me look past all that and I’m a little kid again. Covered in dirt, blood…and salty water. Ricks in his white undies…drenched…and we sit and wait for the biggest wave to wash us off.

Climbing the mountain is just as tough..keeping your feet and pulling yourself up the trees…but we make it back and Sevarrio meets us at the top to pick us up (on his day off). We drive off and he blasts (all treble) his Italian accordian music..thank God he knows all the lyrics. When we pass tourists starting the hike, he makes it louder and yells at them in Italian…saluting them…smiling….laughing. The windows are wide open and there are five of us in his 3 seater Panda. He wants, so badly, for us to go to the bar….he asks four or five times…but we tell him tomorrow will be better…we must climb the mountain.

And we do. Exhausted, we get back to the farm, change our socks and head to the mountain. It is straight up…the tallest mountain in the region…we grab sticks in case we meet any sheep dogs and begin. It’s a slow start…I repeatedly trip on my feet because I can’t pick them up over the rubble. We get to a portion of stairs built into the cliff…I’m convinced Shelob is at the top…“Up up, up the stairs” we go. There are goats everywhere, staring down at us, wondering why the hell we decided to meet them. They run away and their loud bells clank back and forth. They baaaaaaaa….and it is so quiet, you can even hear them chew. The temperature drops and the sun starts to set. I seriously contemplate giving up halfway up the mountain. “This view is perfect, I’ll wait here…really, this is great. You go ahead to the top’’ The support group kicks in and assures me the hike through the rock garden ahead is worth it….and, of course, it is. You can see the entire bottom of the boot of Italy. The WHOLE thing. From the shin to the tip of the toe and all the water that surrounds it. We could see it on the beach, but this….this spot…you can see it all. It’s freezing at the top and my knees start to give, but none of that matters. We did it!

We get home and Pasta Fagioli with oversized Peroni’s and vino await. The perfect day…again.

Sevarrio invited us to his house for dinner and music. He played the accordian all nite and we danced around his tiny house together. He had a bagpipe hung on the wall and the skin was shaped exactly like a goat…a blue goat. They use the entire body as the bag, the pipes come out where the head would be. He takes if off the wall, tunes each of the pipes…and we all stare with our mouths open at the sound of the bag pipes and the thunder and lightning outside. I have never….ever…in my life…seen anyone play an instrument and sing with such passion. It was almost as if we shouldn’t have been watching…like he was making love…it was a private moment…but when he had his eyes closed we were staring and smiling…and when he sang….we danced We danced and clapped…and sang our own words. Baical came too…but he passed out under the table after dinner, I guess he’s all too familiar with Sevarrio’s music.


Robert said...

Each of your posts, I can not only see what you see, but I taste, smell, touch and feel it all! Thanks for sharing your days in paradise. We miss you!

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