August 15th is Ferragosto in Italy, the day the whole country celebrates summer and like the rest of the population we were intent of celebrating, However, things did not go to plan. I like it when things go off on a tangent, so to speak, the result can often be better than the anticipated original idea. A few weeks ago we made plans to visit Roccascalegna to enjoy an evening there during its three-day music festival. We’d looked at which acts were performing and decided to forgo the strumming of mandolins and rock based acts of days two and three and opt for the opening evening of jazz influenced piano playing under the stars.
We’d been privileged to be invited to a pre-festival get together at the Olive House; a mere 1.5km from the town centre and main stage. So we collected our friends Viv and Seppe and after Annie arrived with a van full of people we set off up the roads that snake their way upwards. We passed through the lovely town of Altino; making a note of the date for the town’s pepper festival and continued climbing higher. The views over Abruzzo from up high are magnificent, even in August, the valley is green and between the mountains you catch a glimpse of the Adriatic coast in the distance. We turn a corner and the road begins to descend and soon the medieval castle can be seen sitting on top of an outcrop; within minutes we’ve passed through the town centre and are pulling up outside our destination.
I became aware of the Olive House when I was asked to write some copy for a marketing campaign, since then I’ve become friends with the owners, Graham and Mark. Our convoy of cars park outside the property and our hosts invite us inside. The patio is set out with tables and chairs in readiness and as Graham serves drinks, Mark welcomes everyone. Some of our party have never been before and Mark gives them a potted history of the house and its facilities as Graham brings out the food, to go with the bowls of nibbles already on the tables. We’re served pizza rustica, a superb vegetable frittata and homemade herby focaccia.
Very quickly we’re all chatting and getting to know each other, there’s much mirth and merriment and as we’re coming to the end of the mosquito season seldom nips from the annoying little blighters. (Being higher up, the Olive House is less plagued by mozzies than our house down in the valley). The setting is perfect; there’s a slight breeze keeping the heat at bay. The half-moon is high and occasionally there’s a distant hoot of an owl. The evening air is filled with the sounds of friends laughing and sharing stories. People joke about my conversation with one of the dogs, as i always answer the question I ask the canine in a deep voice, Mike says it’s like a prisoner who’s been on sixty cigarettes a day for years, the lunacy threatens to become surreal when someone asks, “what time are we leaving for the music festival?”
Quizzical expressions are passed across the tables, shoulders are shrugged and heads are shook. The consensus of opinion is that we’re all having such a good time that we don’t need to listen to someone tickling the ivories to make the evening perfect. So another bottle of wine is opened and more laughter floats down towards the orchard.