Friday, May 31, 2019

Day 15 - Borgo Valsaguna to Primilano

Today we continue our stroll down Valsugana (the Sugana Valley) to Primilano. This will be a longer stage (25 KM), but somewhat shorter than the guidebook stage which carries on to     Cismon del Grappa (32 KM).

Remarkably, when we step outside in Borgo Valsugana, the sun is beaming down. Yesterday had some sun, but there were still many clouds about and the sun was limited to brief appearances through the vents in a larger grey tapestry. Today, however, the sky overhead is blue; only a few puffy white clouds cling to the high mountain peaks. This is going to be more like the Italy I was expecting for this trip.

Campanile, Borgo Valsugana

Once again we will spend most of our day on the bike path. The path we have been following began in Pergine and it continues as far as Bassano del Grappa. In other words, it will be with us for most of our trip through Valsugana.

As we stepped along, the Brenta river grew larger. No longer would an Olympic athlete be able to jump across it. Wider, deeper, and faster. Yesterday the river slowly chuckled along at a walking pace. I was able to keep up with a pair of Mallard ducks rafting down the watercourse. Today the river easily outpaced me, and the water broke in fast-moving rapids over barely submerged rocks.

Brenta river 

A couple of kilometers out of town we passed signs for a BiciGrill (Bike Grill). We have seen a couple of BiciGrills in our walks along the bike paths. They are essentially truck stops for bicyclists, a place to use the restroom, get a drink or something to eat. You could, with all due respect to C. W. McCall, label them “The old home fill ‘er up and keep on biking cafe.”


Since we were still flush with enthusiasm for the day’s walk, we did not pull in for an espresso.

Onward down a narrow valley between vast green mountains. Everything was green today: grass in the pastures, fresh spring leaves on the trees, the glacier water of the Brenta, the pine and chestnut trees covering the lower slopes of the limestone mountain. It was as if we had stumbled into a Picasso painting crafted during his green period.

The hours slowed by. The temperature rose as the sun strengthened. Our only significant problem was that we encountered a “road closed” sign on part of the route. We were able to get around this, however, by hopping across the river on a bridge and picking up the bike path.

Road Closed

Around 1:00, footsore and sunburned, we pulled into a BiciGrill for a break and a little sustenance. Mary picked an interesting menu item: toast. It came in two sizes (piccolo and grande). I think she had the grande. It turned out to be a toasted cheese sandwich.

At the BiciGrill

I was very excited when I saw that the BiciGrill offered a porchetta sandwich. I was first introduced to porchetta in Florence. To prepare the dish in Michelangelo’s city, they debone a small pig and then roast the carcass whole. The cook then cuts slabs of roast pork off the carcass and slips it between buns with a variety of condiments.

It was a disappointment, therefore, when I discovered that the BiciGrill version was nothing more than a toasted bun stuffed with a few thin slices of lunch meat ham. No condiments, vegetables, nothing. It wasn’t my favorite. The prosecco was nice, however.

Back on the road for the final kilometers into town. The bike path also had a closure so we were forced up onto a main road. As we walked out of Pianello, I saw a sign that made my heart leap: we were officially leaving the province on Trentino and entering the Veneto, the province in which I hope to settle someday.

Entering the Veneto

It was a happy moment.

The road was lightly traveled by cars and brought us expeditiously to our overnight stop, Primilano, which seems to be little more than a roadside hotel and a train station.

Today's Selfie

Today’s Distance: 25KM

Total Distance:  259.46 KM

Day 14 - Levico Terme to Borgo Valsugana

We woke this morning to an unusual, and virtually unprecedented sight: sunlight was streaming in through our windows.

Che strano, as we say here in Italy.

We had a wonderful breakfast, during which I was able to practice my fractured and fractious Italian. Once our landlady realized that I had a rudimentary grasp of the language, she switched over to her native tongue, and I was given a linguistic workout. It was a fabulous opportunity, and I need to step out in my second language more frequently to continue to improve my skills.

Today we had a relatively short stage. According to the guidebook, it was less than 15 kilometers to our next stop (Borgo Valsugana) and it was virtually all downhill. Even the descent was supposed to be benign: a 130 meter drop over 15 kilometers. We spent the morning digesting our wonderful breakfast, and then left a little later than normal.

Brenta River

We descended from the heights of Levico Terme, and picked up the bike path alongside the Brenta. The Brenta river is only a small agricultural ditch at this point; an Olympic long jumper could clear it with ease. The Brenta is going to be our constant companion over the next couple of weeks, as both we and it make our way to the sea.

We hiked east, with bikers whizzing past every few minutes. There were no complicated navigational problems on this day---one simply followed the bike path. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Follow the Bike Path

Which brings me to another major difference between the Camino Frances and the Via. As the astute reader will have noted, we have managed to go off course a few times over the past several days. The Via requires a much higher level of navigational ability than the Camino. Although I did not maintain comprehensive records, I would doubt if there is any section of the Camino Frances where you wouldn’t see a yellow arrow or the Camino’s scallop shell waymarks every five to ten minutes as you hiked along. The route is extremely well-marked, and you would have to be a very poor navigator to lose your way.

The Via has much larger intervals between its waymarks; occasionally it has no waymarks at all; and, as I have noted on preceding days, the waymarks occasionally deviate from the route described in the guidebook. If you walked thirty minutes on the Camino without seeing a waymark, the chances would be excellent that you were lost. On the Via? Not necessarily.

The Via is a more difficult navigational challenge than the Camino Frances. This is something that a directionally-challenged person might want to think about.

Today, however, we simply followed the bike path, which eventually led us to Borgo Valsugana. There were no intermediate towns on the way.

Borgo Valsugana

Borgo Valsugana is a pretty little town, whose central core is built around the Brenta river. As the afternoon came to a close, we walked among the winding streets and admired the picturesque, river-fronting buildings. The highlight of the evening was the discovery of a grape vine whose trunks was almost as big as my waist. Its vines were trained up the side of the building, bringing grapes to three floors of tenants.

Mary and the Giant Grape Vine

The town is small, lovely, and feels miles off the tourist track. We have enjoyed our stay here. Tomorrow is a much longer walk down the Brenta.

Today’s Distance: 15.2 KM

Total Distance:  234.46 KM

[Editor’s Note: I have been having occasional problems with the internet at some of the places we are staying. leading to posting delays].

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Day 13 - Trento to Levico Terme

On a grey, cloudy morning, with rain threatening, we bid adieu to Trento. According to the guidebook, today was supposed to be the last of the significant hill climbs in the first half of the Via. After Levico Terme, the terrain would either trend downhill, or (through the Veneto) be flat.

In order to add value for Camino peregrinos who are contemplating trying the Via, I would like to add a few observations to this blog about some of the differences we have noted between the Via and the Camino Frances, which Mary and I walked two years earlier.

One striking variation is the solitary nature of this walk. On the Camino, from the moment we boarded the train to St Jean Pied de Port, we were surrounded by peregrinos. The Camino Frances, with its 100,000+ pilgrims each year, is awash in fellow travelers. It definitely had a community spirit, and it was often difficult to walk for any extended time by yourself. Wherever you were, there was always a backpack (or several) in front of you.

In monastic terms, the Camino Frances is the city, while the Via Romea is the desert. We are thirteen days into our trek, and we have yet to meet another pellegrino. We have crossed paths with day hikers and bicyclists, but we have yet to encounter anyone else who is walking to Rome. Were we not together, we could walk long days without speaking at all. If you are a highly social person, and need the distraction of talking with someone while you walk, the Camino Frances is probably a better choice.

More reflections to come…

Mt Marzola

As noted above, the most challenging aspect of today’s route was the climbing. We left Trento in the rain, and climbed slowly up a long hill toward the Passo del Cimirlo, a low point in the saddle formed between two mountains, Mt. Celva and Mt. Marzola. The stage climbs 540 meters over seven kilometers. The first, and steepest part of the course was over a pathway paved with rounded, smooth stones. This surface, slippery when wet, is a speciality of this region. It was like climbing the stairway to heaven without any stairs.

The roads and trails ran higher. The rain steadied and the wind began to sigh in the pine forests. Eventually we reached the Passo del Cimirlo, which meant it was time to begin a steep descent.

At the top

I don’t know how other hikers experience various terrain types, but for me there is virtually nothing harder on my feet and joints than a long downhill segment. By the time we limped down from the pass, my feet and ankles were aching. Give me a nice uphill course (as long as it is not too steep), or, ideally, a flat dirt trail.

Not Everyone Makes it Over the Pass

We rolled into Pergine, which stands a little past the halfway mark of the day’s stage. Once we passed through the modern part of the town and made it into the historical center, I found Pergine perfectly charming. It had beautiful old buildings, a lovely piazza, and narrow streets simply dripping with character. If I was walking the Via again, I would book a room in Pergine for the night, just to have some time to look around.


We compromised by taking a rest stop. Mary had water and a muffin, while I tried to order an espresso---there were no problems this time, and I received espresso rather than a flute of beer.

After Pergine, the trail angled up again, to pass below the Pergine Castle. We had a much better view of the castle from the town below. Once we had climbed another slick stone path, the trees blocked our view, and it wasn’t until we has passed it that we could once again see it crouched on the hill behind us.

Pergine Castle

It would appear that this medieval castle is now a restaurant and hotel, which might explain why the guidebook did not encourage us to make an even longer climb up to its walls.

Eventually our route led us above Lake Caldonazzo and through the vacation town of Ischia. This town is still waiting for the return of summer. Most of the houses had shuttered windows, and the driveways were empty. No one was out on the lake, and a desolate wind blew through the alleys and streets of the town. Give it another month and the town will undoubtedly be heaving, but not today.

Lake Caldonazza

After Ischia, the stage runs through a nature reserve on a steep, downhill trail. The trail is extremely narrow, no wider than eighteen inches in places, and bordered by an extremely steep drop off on the left side. More ominously, one of the signboards said we were heading for the Val de l’orco --- Valley of the Ogre, if my Italian hadn’t deserted me. I imagined the the ogre waited in the bushes and then pushed people off the narrow trail when they went by. Quite fiendish.

Val de l'orco

At the bottom of the hill, the trail widened, and then turned into a mud swamp. Water, flowing downhill, was using the trail as a path of least resistance, and the trail had become oversaturated. We slogged along through the mud, trying to keep our shoes from sinking ankle deep. Eventually the water found its way to a nearby stream and the path dried out again. The stream grew from a trickle to a creek, gaining width and volume as we continued downhill.

Ogre Totem

At the bottom of the hill was a small wooden bridge that crossed this stream. We examined the signs very carefully, and all were rather confusing (one sign, for example, indicated that our destination, Levico Terme, was in the direction that we had just come). There was one sign that was crystal clear, the small Via Romea arrow that directed us to continue straight ahead. We did so, passing by the bridge and continuing straight along the path we had been following. Eventually the lake emerged on our left side, and we walked on a rolling, but wide and soft trail.

After fifteen minutes, I felt prompted to check my GPS. To my shock, horror, and dismay, I realized that, contrary to the clearly posted arrow, we should have turned left at the bridge to proceed on the opposite side of the lake. We were on the wrong side of the lake. This was not a fatal blunder as our trail did eventually connect with Levico Terme, but it did add at least an extra kilometer to the day’s hike.

In any event, we eventually made it to town. It is all downhill to the Veneto from here.

Today's Selfie

Day’s Distance: 23.4 K

Total Distance: 219.26


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Day 12 - Trento

A rest day for us. We don't even mind the rain today, for we can go out whenever the deluge lightens.

Trento is a very beautiful city. When the Romans conquered this region, they founded a city here in honor of the sea god Neptune. They named their city Tridentium, the Latin root from which, in later centuries, the name Trento evolved.

Duomo, Trento

Once again we were balancing the desire to catch a little rest with the urge to see everything we could. We chose to hit two of the principal sites in the city, the Duomo (Cathedral) and Il Castello del Buonconsiglio (also known as the Palace of the Prince-Bishops of Trent).

Our first stop was the Duomo. I was surprised by how small it was, compared to similar cathedrals in Italy. It is disproportionate to its importance, for it was here that the Catholic cardinals and bishops met to weigh the claims advanced by the Protestant reformers. This theological gathering, the Council of Trent, ran from 1545-1563. After vigorous debate, the Catholic representatives judged that the Protestant reformers had no valid support for their claims. In fact, the church’s beliefs were correct, and the Protestants were simply wrong. The schism between the two wings of the church, opened by Martin Luther, was reinforced and remains in effect to this day.

Duomo Interior

Here in this dark, rough-hewn stone church, Catholic clergy met and wrestled with decisions that continue to resonate today. In view of the theological importance of this event, I was a little disappointed that there weren’t some placards to educate visitors. You might never have known that such a weighty affair had happened in this building.

The Duomo did a little better job explaining its Roman heritage. The Duomo was built on top of an ancient Christian basilica, that had allegedly been established by Saint Vigilius. According to the story, three Cappadocian missionaries had been sent to this region to spread the Gospel among the pagan Germanic tribes. The three had been murdered, and when Vigilius arrived in the late fourth century, he gathered the remains of the evangelists and buried them outside the city walls of Tridentium. An early basilica was built on the spot, and then, much later, the Duomo would be built over the first basilica.

Tombstone of Bp Giorgio Hack

Today one can go beneath the main floor of the duomo and view the archeological remains of the earlier church. This is mostly funerary art, a couple of sarcophagi, and some fragments of an ancient Roman mosaic.

Onward. After a pizza luncheon, we hiked across the town to the Castello del Buonconsiglio. The castle was the primary residence of the Prince-Bishops of Trento. In the medieval period, Northern Italy was under the control of the Germanic, Holy Roman Emperors. In order to enforce their will, the emperors had co-opted the high-ranking members of the church (bishops and abbots) and gave them secular power to help the emperor secure his lands. The Emperor granted the bishops of Trento the right to rule over much of the South TIrol, and consequently, these bishops enjoyed great power, prestige, and wealth


Their palace is a testament to their position in society. It is a vast stone complex that has evolved from a defensive fortification to a Renaissance-era country home. The palace was seized by the Austrian army and converted into a military facility during the First World War, but it has now been restored to its original splendor.


And how splendid! Today the Castello serves as a museum. As we wandered up the great stone staircases, we passed through the different periods of its life (Roman, Medieval, Renaissance). We viewed art and artifacts from each of these periods and marveled at the wealth that was displayed in each chamber.  

Today's Selfie

It was a large museum, and the clock had made a significant advance before we finished our tour. There was so much more to see in this town, that I cannot help but hope we will return again sometime in the near future.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Day 11 - Nave San Felice to Trento

How many more stages will I describe with the words “it was raining?”

Here comes another one. It was raining. The rain had stopped, momentarily, when we departed this morning, but that was only temporary. The dominant story of today’s stage was near-constant rain, which ranged from a light drizzle to a steady downpour. As a general rule, rain is my favorite form of weather, but eleven days into this trip, I, a confirmed lover of damp days, would relish a break.

Today's Selfie

As attentive readers will recall, we divided one of the book’s longer stages into two parts. Today we were required to finish the second half, which began with us beating through the vineyards toward Lavis.


Lavis is one of those smaller towns that I would have liked to have spent some more time in. It seemed like a personable town with some lovely old buildings. There was also a strange terraced structure built into the side of a hill behind the buildings. This turned out to be a monumental garden, “dei ciucioi,” built in 1860. I suppose you could label it a folly, designed to imitate ancient Roman or Greek ruins. At the moment it is undergoing a renovation, covered with scaffolding.

Lavis Garden

We climbed the hillside away from Lavis. The rain began to soak down with a vengeance. Our path led through more vineyards. I must confess that I am beginning to shudder whenever my GPS map indicates vineyards ahead. They never plant vineyards on flat ground around these parts. If you are heading for vineyards, expect either a steep climb, or an equally vertiginous descent. There doesn’t appear to be a happy medium.

Climbing away from Lavis

Here’s a warning for those who might be contemplating a trip on the Via: there is a major discrepancy between the guidebook/map and the waymarked trail after Lavis. The book and map indicate that the trail heads for Gazzadina, but, in fact, if you follow the trail waymarks, they will take you up the hill to Vigo Meano and then on through Cortesano. In other words, the waymarks do not match the guidebook through this section of the stage.

We followed the waymarks and huffed up the hill to Vigo Meano. By the time we reached the little town, we were tired, wet, and in need of a break. We pulled into the Pub Moby Dick for a short rest.

Mary didn’t want anything to eat, so I went up to the counter and laid some of my highly polished Italian on the woman manning the cash register. I ordered an espresso doppio, a double-shot of espresso.

Well, something got lost in the translation. Perhaps it was the noise level in the bar. The counter woman passed me a receipt for four euros. I noted that she had charged me for two items. Clearly she had misunderstood my fractured Italian, and assumed I had ordered two espressos. That would be entirely reasonable, since she had seen Mary and I come in together. I, however, knew that it was unrealistic, because Mary never drinks coffee.

Alas, alas, I thought. I shall just have to drink Mary’s coffee as well---two cups of espresso instead of one. I was feeling fairly content with this turn of events. I do love my coffee.

We sat at our table, discreetly wringing water out of our clothes. A couple of minutes later, the counter woman swooped out of the kitchen with a platter in hand, bearing an assortment of items, none of which were espresso.

There was, in fact, a bowl of potato chips. There was a long, thin plate that held four small tuna sandwiches. And then, the piece de resistance, two beers in narrow flutes.

Definitely not an Espresso Doppio

What in the world? I am still at a loss to understand how an espresso doppio was altered to two beers and snacks, but there it was.

When you think about it, and I did, that’s quite a little meal for four euros, even if I generally loathe beer.

Having tucked our repast away in our stomachs, we resumed our walk south. We passed through Cortesano and then took to the woods. Here we stumbled across our first encounter with the old Roman road, the Via Claudia Augusta. This road, completed during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, (ca. AD 46) linked the Adriatic sea with southern Germany. We hiked down a well-preserved section as we headed for Trento.

The wet stones of the Via Claudia Augusta

We had gained a significant amount of height during the day’s walk, and it was all dispersed at the end. The Via angles sharply downward after Martignano, and we slipped and slid down the trails into Trento. The rain had not abated, and the steep downhill sections were treacherous. Ultimately, however, we passed beneath the Aquila gate and made our way into Trento. We have another rest day scheduled for tomorrow, and are looking forward to exploring this interesting city.

Day’s Distance: 17.8 KM

Total Distance: 195.86

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Day 10 - Salorno to (near) Nave San Felice

7:55 AM. The cathedral bells of Salorno had been tolling vigorously for about five minutes, calling the faithful to the morning mass. Suddenly, we heard the sound of a brass band erupt outside our hotel. What was this? An unanticipated display of South Tyrol culture? I quickly threw on my shoes and scampered down two flights of stairs to the ground floor of our hotel.

Just as I made it to the Piazza Duomo, a large brass band finished their song and began to break formation. The members of the band were all garbed in traditional dress, brown tunics and hats. They ranged in age from high school girls to old men with Gandalf beards. Once the song was completed, the well-dressed families that had been listening to the music climbed the steps and went into the cathedral. The band broke formation, milled around in the street talking for a minute, and then dispersed. Some went into town hall across the street, others trudged down to the bar at our hotel to order a morning expresso.

The Band

It was strange, an inexplicable mystery. Does the band assemble every Sunday morning to serenade arriving parishioners, or was there something else behind this musical outburst?

The answer, it turned out, was Salorno’s celebration of the rite of confirmation. Several of the local teenagers were being confirmed in the cathedral on Sunday morning, and this was the town’s way to recognize this step of faith. A lovely custom.

The time had come for us to leave Salorno, a town that had been very nice to us. The rain, which had begun belting down at 2:47 AM, rattling on the skylights of our bedroom, had stopped. We needed to reach our next stop before it returned.

Probably the most significant event of this day’s stage would be our departure from the Sud Tirol. We have been in this Germanic region since the beginning of our walk, but today we would cross its southern border and move into the province of Trentino.

I had already noted some signs of the approaching transition. Last night, for example, more people were speaking Italian than German. All the way south the street signs have been marked with both German and Italian names, with the German name on top. In Salorno, the Italian names are on top. Salorno/Salurn is the last town on our map with two names. From here to Rome, we will be in a monolingual environment.

We hiked out of town, and immediately turned onto the bike trail. Most of today’s stage would be on the bike trail, running flat and true beside the Adige river. Who ever said dreams cannot come true?

Back on the Bike Trail

Roughly three kilometers south of Salorno, we crossed the border. A sign wished the motorists on the statale “arrivederci” from Sud Tirol, and then we were in Trentino.

As a practical matter, we elected to cut today’s stage in two. The guidebook calls for a 29.5 KM hike to Trento, with hills in the second half, but we have chosen to turn this into a two day hike.

There was only one small problem: food. We planned to stay at an agriturismo in the hills above Nave San Felice, but it did not have a restaurant. In fact, restaurants are thin on the ground in this part of the country, and what few existed, were closed on Sundays. Mary had thought that we might at least pass a store where we could grab some food to tide us over, but there weren’t any stores either. As we approached Nave San Felice, we began to grow concerned.

The tiny town does have a hotel/restaurant, but according to Google, the restaurant was closed. Maybe, we thought, there would be an open bar near the hotel where we could get some basic supplies.

There wasn’t. When we pulled up in front of the hotel, it was dark. Mary pushed on the front door and it opened. It was dark inside. Something began to beep.

“it’s an alarm,” I muttered, half in jest. Why, after all, would the front door of a hotel have an alarm on it? Aren’t hotels always open?

A siren began to sound. It was an alarm. We walked around the end of the building as a teenage boy came flying by on his bicycle. “Sorry,” yelled Mary, as he passed.

We rounded a corner behind the hotel, following a sign for a pizzeria. A group of men swarmed out of a house into the street. “Via Romea?” asked one of the men.

“Si,” I replied.

“That way.” He pointed south, in the direction of Lavis. He was rather emphatic: we were off course and he wanted to set us right.

“No,” I explained in my my fractured and fractious Italian. “We are looking for a restaurant.”

“All closed on Sunday,” he said.

“How about a supermarket or store?”

“No. All closed.”

“We need to find some food.”

The men began one of those delightful Italian conversations in which they debated solutions to our plight in language that was much too fast for me to follow. Finally, one of the younger men pulled out his mobile phone and placed a call. He explained to the person on the other end that we were pellegrini, had come from Brenner on foot, and needed something to eat.

As he worked on the plan, I spoke with the older man, who also, as it turned out, was a pilgrim. He had already walked the Camino Francese, Camino Portugese, and the Via della Plata in Spain. He was definitely sympathetic to our problem.

“Allora.” The man with the mobile phone hung up. “Follow this boy and he will take you where you can get food.”

That sounded good. We followed our young companion (the same teenage boy who had ridden his bike past us to turn off the hotel alarm --- it turns out that his father had set the alarm but had forgotten to lock the front door). He accompanied us up a hill behind the town for a few minutes, and then stopped before a concrete path that angled steeply up into the forest.

“Walk maybe 300 meters up this path, and you will find a house. Go to the house, ring the doorbell, and someone will give you food.”


Now, I have to confess that I had already formulated my own plan. There was a small train station in Nave San Felice. I thought we should get on a train, ride into Trento, a large city that would have open restaurants on a Sunday. We could grab a bite at a restaurant or a pizzeria, then ride the train back out to Nave San Felice and finish the last leg of our journey.

It was a good plan, a sensible plan. We decided to try the house on the hill first. Up we went, climbing away from the valley floor, on a small road that angled up at roughly a 45 degree angle. I studied my GPS, and the only thing it indicated was Maso Poli, which I assumed was a winery. Had our friends below called a winery on our behalf?

After a long slog, we came to the first (and only) house, which, as it happens, was Maso Poli. There was a tour bus in the parking lot, accompanied by many parked cars. Well-dressed Italians wandered among the vines, contemplating the subtleties of vintages and graftstock.

We approached the entrance. A young teenage boy met us. Could we get food here, we inquired?

“No, sorry,” he said, and then rattled something off in German.

“Could we speak English, or Italian?” I asked.

He seemed confused. My fractured Italian often has that effect on people. “Wait here,” he replied. A minute later he returned, dragging a lovely young lady who would turn out to be our guardian angel. The Angel of Maso Poli. We were able to enter into a mixed English/Italian conversation with her. As it happened, Maso Poli was holding a wine-tasting event this afternoon. We could purchase tickets (ten euros each) that would allow us to sample a variety of wines, but more importantly, would give us access to the inner sanctum, behind the fence, where a catering service was cooking food that we could purchase.

The Food Court

We could also, if we desired, go on a guided tour of the vineyards.

Wine-tasting---check. Food---double-check. Vineyard tour? Maybe next time.

The Angel of Maso Poli found an out-of-the-way corner where we could stash our backpacks, and then she gave us both glasses and a half-bib, half-pouch contrivance to hang around our necks. This was actually a wine glass holder that one wore around the neck, much like St Bernards and their casks of ale. I still am not completely certain of its purpose, but I suppose it made a handy place to stash your half-full wine glass while you expounded on the superior quality of the wine, both hands set free to roam like barn swallows in wild flights of ecstatic appreciation.

We tried a couple of samples, but, uncharacteristically, my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted what was at the other end of the compound: food. A catering company had set up a barbecue unit, and their sign promised “American Barbecue.” The already-served, chewing away at the tables, were tucking into barbecued ribs and pulled pork sandwiches. Give me some of that protein now, I thought.

We took our place at the end of a line that I estimated was about twenty people long. Thirty minutes later I estimated that there were will about fifteen people ahead of us. This was absolutely the slowest food truck I had ever seen. I think they were stalling, working slowly because they had run out of available pork. After one of the cooks pulled a slab out of the barbecue unit, the line began to move more quickly.

The World's Slowest Chefs?

Another oddity. After I had ordered my ribs, the cook sliced them, and then placed them on a lukewarm griddle. Hadn’t the barbecue unit already reduced the ribs into melt-in-the-mouth flesh? Why would you need more cooking time on a grill? When I finally sat down to eat, the ribs were still pretty tough, with the consistency of a medium pork chop. Pretty chewy for American barbecue. Mary had ordered the “vegetarian” plate, which turned out to be a pile of french fries and a half-plate of melted cheese.

The Mysterious Barbecue Unit

But you know what? It is amazing what you will eat and feel happy about eating when you know there are no more opportunities for a meal until breakfast the next day. And in fact, these were definitely the best “American Style” pork ribs I had ever eaten in Italy.

After we had finished, we collected our backpacks, bid goodbye to the Angel of Maso Poli, and headed down the hill to our agriturismo. Sometimes you don’t hop on the certain train to Trento, but rather, you let serendipity have its head. Climb the mountain and knock on the door of the house you find there. Who knows what will happen?

Daily distance: 14.7 KM

Total distance: 178.06 KM