Today we started a two day journey north to the ancient Greek archeological site of Paestum.
We were running short of supplies and so before starting our journey we called in at one of the local supermarkets. As has now become our custom the dogs, and in particular Mabel, are left free to create havoc in Basil while we shop. As we emerged from the shop Melek could be seen in the driver’s seat looking for all the world as he was about to make off with Basil. Mabel on the other hand was was running around on the dashboard like a lunatic.
Whenever either one of us leaves Mabel for just 30 seconds our return is greeted by Mabel with furious tail wagging and ecstatic greetings. If this is the result after 30 seconds, imagine the excitement levels when we have been in the shop for 45 minutes! You would think that her fervour could increase no further, you would be wrong.
I hooked Mabel and Melek up to leads and took them for a walk in the supermarket car park, while Sarah packed the shopping. We had gone no further than 10 metres when Mabel went berserk. She had spotted a live chicken in the car park! Spaniels are bred to chase anything that moves: their raison d’etre is to flush birds from cover in a shoot. So on seeing one and then more and more chickens strutting calmly round the car park her instincts went into overdrive and I had my work cut out keeping hold of her.
Shih-tsu’s on the other hand, were bred to warm the feet of Chinese emperors and so anything as common as a chicken is beneath Melek’s dignity and he showed no interest whatsoever.
Having got Mabel back into Basil, we headed north on the A3 motorway. Another great bit of Italian engineering and for some reason free of charge. At times we had the azure mediterranean on one side and at others the motorway plunged inland through the Apeninne mountains. As we neared our overnight stop the Pollino Range came into view and at over 7000 feet in altitude the tops were still capped with snow.
We stopped in a free sosta courtesy of the town of Morano Calabro (39.840814, 16.137374 – official Sosta Free with water and drain). It is another stunningly picturesque town set on an impossibly steep hillside in the heart of the Pollino National Park. Italy’s largest and home, to amongst other animals, wolves. Sarah and I went for a strenuous wander in its precipitous streets. I say streets, but it was mostly stairways.
From the sosta, where we parked Basil, to the ruins of a Norman castle at the top of the old town, there is a height difference of over 500 lung busting feet. There was no way of navigating, so tortuous were the twisting alleys, stairways and streets. The only option was at every junction, to just head upwards and sure enough we finally reached the Norman keep and paused for a well earned rest.
Sarah and I commented, that if this town was in Britain it would be one of our top tourist attractions, tarted up and thronged with tourists all year long. But Italy has so many of these beautiful hill top towns, that Morano Calabro, down in unfashionable Calabria, is a little down at heel; many of it’s buildings uncared for; but all the more atmospheric for that.