Annie’s Adventure in Agnone

Once a year my friend, ‘The Lovely Annie’ as I refer to her comes over to Italy to join me in an adventure. Now our adventures are not high octane or feats that could prove life threatening. There’s no diving from ridiculous heights into vats of cooling tagliatelle or climbing Italian mountains dressed in traditional Alpini uniforms, our adventures are of the more sedate variety. This year’s adventure is to visit a town neither of us have been to before.  We mix the excitement up with a decision to leave the safety of our region of Abruzzo and cross the border into Molise. So on a hot and sunny August morning we set off for Angnone, a town we’ve randomly chosen – gripping isn’t it?

The journey takes us about 45 minutes and very soon we’re over the border into the Isernia province of the much maligned and often ignored region of Molise. The first thing that strikes us the greenery, the countryside is lush and has an almost alpine feel despite the region being less mountainous than Abruzzo. We come around a bend and Agnone comes into sight. We follow the signs for the centre of town and find a parking space to abandon the car in. The space between the two cars is tight and I can only get out of our 4×4 monster by climbing over into the back and exiting through one of the rear doors. After struggling in 30 degree temperatures to wrestle myself free from the car another car in the shade with more space leaves the car park and I’m then climbing back inside, face pressed up against the widow as I try to get my lanky legs over the headrest to plonk myself back into the driver’s seat. The car is eventually parked and I’m a sweaty mess as we set off to check out the town.

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Agnone is a well kept town, the streets are free of litter and the old buildings are sandwiched nicely between modern fronted shops and bars. The town has an air of wealth about it despite the rumour that Molise is a poor peasant region. Ladies are shopping in their finery; their hair coiffured and necks adorned with precious gemstone necklaces.

 

We begin our adventure by strolling up the town’s main street just taking in the atmosphere before it’s time for a coffee; we drop into a bar situated on the main corso and the three of us are soon sipping cappuccini as we watch the Agnonese go about their daily routines.

 

The town is famous for its bell manufacturing which has taken place here since 1040: The factory is now run by the Marinelli family who took it over in 1339, and is recognised as the oldest family business in Italy and ranked third oldest in the world. So with this in mind and the fact that the factory created the bell that hangs in Pisa’s leaning tower we head off for tour that is advertised on their website to start at 12.00. Sadly when we arrive as one tour is ending and there’s not another one. (Methinks their website needs updating). So with no opportunity to go inside we take some photos outside with the array of bells on display.

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After the bells we do a little shopping and then make our way through the town stopping occasionally to visit one or two of the 19 medieval churches that are in this small town: There’s actually now 20 churches as a new modern one was recently constructed.

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We stroll up past the council offices and come into a large piazza and as it’s lunch we drop into a restaurant called, Borgo Antico. The service is very good and as the temperature outside is nearing the 34 degree point we’re shown to a table in the shade . Our waitress takes our orders and very soon we’re drinking a cold beer and being served a typical Agnonese platter with truffle flavoured cheese, freshly made bruschetta, a sweet young ricotta and some slices of salami. This was followed by a very flavoursome primo of lamb ragù and pasta. So if you’re ever passing Agnone, drop in and sample the service and food they have to offer.

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Post lunch is followed by more strolling and dropping into the various touristy places, making sure we we step into the Ndocciata museum. Ndocciata is a Christmas festival where men carry flaming borgates, wooden frames of constructed in nine quarters through the streets. We make mental notes to come to witness this in December.

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The day comes to a close with us driving to visit the oddly named nearby town of Capracotta, which literally translates as cooked goat. The drive up through the winding lanes is breath-taking, the countryside is beautiful and as the roads don’t have the steep drops the mountain ones in Abruzzo have we’re able to see for miles.

We’re welcomed into Capracotta by the sight of two dogs copulating on the pavement and make our way up a tiny cobbled street to the lower part of the town. The town is capped by a large impressive church with a fabulous view over the surrounding countryside, we stop at the ‘belvedere’ and marvel at the natural beauty below us before making our way into the church.

DSCF9565 To be honest despite the grand outside appearance of the church it’s interior is rather bland and not much to write home about.

We take some time to sit in the afternoon shade in the local park watching children at play while mothers look on and old men gossip beneath the beech trees. Our drive back takes us through the village of Rosello and we stop off for a drink at the local bar and within minutes the entire population has come out for their passeggiata and we’re overwhelmed by the number of people in this small street as teenagers play cards and shout, ‘Ciao’ to elderly residents and couples walk hand in hand for that special period of time between late afternoon and dinner time. Our day ends with aperitivi followed by pizza at our local pizzeria. DSCF9567

My dictionary defines adventure as, (noun) an unusual and exciting or daring experience and (verb) engage in daring or risky activity. So ours hasn’t been an adventure in the technical term, but 12 hours filled with happiness, love and friendship is in my opinion a fantastic feat to achieve.

Moving Back to England

So we’re all in limbo following the shock referendum and potential Brexit. I say potential as I’m still hopeful someone with a modicum of sense puts a stop to all this nonsense. Now let’s not get political, I voted to stay and that’s all I’ll say on the matter, I’m not here to start a debate or be called a sore loser, just as I’m not here to berate people for voting leave. But the issue has raised many questions both with locals and ex-pats about whether we’ll return to Britain. So I gave it some thought and as the Clash said back in 1982, I asked myself the question, Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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It’s funny when you meet people who’ve recently moved out here, within minutes they will be saying something along the lines of, “I’ll never go back to England.” I’ve been guilty of saying something similar in the past, and I think it’s the excitement of being on your new life adventure that provokes the remark. But a few years down the line when you’re asked if you’ll ever return the response isn’t blurted out as quickly as previously. The reason I think is because the rose-tinted glasses have slipped and your experiences mean you’re able to make a more informed decision.

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Recently at a barbecue I met some new people who’d moved over about a year ago and we had a conversation about returning to the UK. I said once again that I have no plans to return; well that’s the truth, for the time being. I no longer use the word, ‘never’ as I’ve discovered that there’s no such thing as never. People’s situations change; I’ve known people who moved here and loved every minute only to have circumstances dictate their return.

Another reason for people to return is boredom. I think if you adapt to your surroundings well and you become embroiled in the local lives and customs as much as you can, and of course learn the language, then you’ll have a better chance of remaining in your adopted land. There must be nothing more soul destroying after the warm glow of moving abroad has faded to discover you’re alone and the outside of all that surrounds you. I once met a couple who moved to Italy around fifteen years ago, neither of them speak the language, as a couple they choose not to integrate and they spend a large portion of their monthly expenses buying English products from internet shops. I asked them why they came here and they told me it was for the weather and because they’ve always liked Italy having holidayed here. I pointed out that living here is vastly different than being on holiday, to which they told me for them it wasn’t, as they have a twenty five plan and will then return to England. I asked why, and they told me, “We don’t want to be old here because if something happens to one of us the other will be left isolated. At least back home we can talk to our neighbours.”

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Where I am in my life at the moment means I’d prefer to stay and I don’t have any plans to return to England. I have many, many reasons and I’ll not cite them here as that would be pointless. Suffice to say, if I didn’t have moments of nostalgic desire for what was familiar as a child I’d be a robot, but my life is here in Italy and there’s nothing at the moment that dictates it should change. Besides, you really can’t answer the ‘stay or go’ question with honesty, because, (to close with another musical reference) as the Queens of the Stone Age said in 2002, No One Knows.