Autumn tour part 4: Molise and San Marino

500 kilometers and 5 hours after leaving our beautiful trullo, we pulled into the b&b in Agnone in the northern part of Molise. Happy to be out of the car but with Puglia still present on our minds, soon enough it was time to set out for dinner.

Grrrrr…third strike out!

As it happened, restaurants in upland Molise weren’t so dog-friendly. Whether by choice (from the Slow Food guide) or at random, every place we went to didn’t allow dogs. Even the opening hour for dinner was absurd – not before 8:30pm! We wasted an hour and a half driving around before heading back to a pizzeria next to the b&b. They didn’t allow dogs either but they had take-out. What a run of unfortunate circumstances on this trip.

Ah well, Agnone may not have been a hit for writing up a stellar meal but it has one thing going for it that makes visiting worthwhile: caciocavallo. The caciocavallo impiccato of last month still lingered in the back of my mind, and when I saw this in the breakfast room, our host explained that every home has at least two hanging in the cellar. It was time for cheese shopping.

Where to buy – Caseificio Di Nucci in the center of Agnone is the place to purchase smaller, vacumn-packed sections since their factory on the outskirts of town sells whole ones. There’s cacio with black truffle, lemon zest, hot pepper flakes, stuffed with butter, and a cheese called caciosalame that has a whole salame in the middle. I should’ve bought more, but at least I didn’t leave without a jar of mushroom/truffle topping.

A brief word of how the cheese got its name. Wikipedia in both italian and english explains it well enough but I’m going with what our b&b host told us. When herders and their livestock took part in the transhumance, cacio (cheese) produced on the way was transported ‘a cavallo’, or by horseback.

Samnite ruins over museums

Agnone’s main attractions are 2 museums dedicated to copper and bells (big ding-dong ones), but if guided tours aren’t your thing, try the ancient Samnite ruins at nearby Pietrabbondante. The entry fee is 2€, you can wander at your own pace, and dogs can go in too.

Maddie at Samnite ruins

San Marino

Poor little San Marino. The oldest republic in the world and all it gets is a mention. I booked an overnighter at an agriturismo so that we could come down from “vacation high” before hitting the road home. It was wonderful to experience the various cuisines, accents, change in scenery, and hospitality in the southern regions, but most of all it was great to record our travels with our dogs since we never like to go anywhere without them. Thank you for reading!

Related posts:

Home, sweet home
Autumn tour part 1: Tuscany, Abruzzo
Autumn tour part 2: the long road to Basilicata
Castelmezzano
Autumn tour part 3: Glamping under the Puglia sun

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Autumn tour part 3: Glamping under the Puglian sun

Some 1500 kilometers from home when we finally reached Puglia and the southernmost part of our trip, we simply could not wait to settle down, settle in, eat, drink, and be off the grid for 3 whole days. We booked a pajara, a thick stone building which is basically a trullo in another name. Most people are familiar with the cone-roofed trulli of Alberobello. Ours by comparison had a simple flat top but it held more character and charm that I could have ever imagined. It actually felt like having a second home.

Trullo lu Ruezzo

Trullo Lu Ruezzo has everything for a self-catering holiday: fully-equipped kitchen (small fridge and gas tank stove), breakfast table, sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, 2 outdoor dining areas, hammocks, outdoor shower for rinsing off after the beach, clothesline, barbecue area (perfect for an open wood-fire paella), AND a small garden from which we were welcome to pick as many vegetables as we wanted. Paradise!

Trullo lu Ruezzo

The pajara sits on a large parcel of land dotted with olive trees, fig, and prickly pear, with the nearest neighbors being the owners who lived a stone’s throw away. Absolute privacy, tranquil, and 100% rural by all definition, yet within easy reach of beaches and major towns like Galatone and Gallipoli. Where the glamping part comes in is how you need to step outside when going from room to room. Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom all face the foyer on 3 sides, so it had a sort of camping vibe but upgraded to the most basic of creature comforts.

Kitchen with a view
A kitchen with a window from which I could call out to the MotH – a tavola!!! (come and eat!)

View from kitchen window
He hung around a lot between meals.

Ricci di mare for lunch
But he was totally hands on when it came time to crack open the sea urchins we picked up from a roadside vendor in Gallipoli. Not a lot, but you don’t need much for spaghetti ai ricci di mare.

Sleeping in a trullo

Bedroom

A cool experience that we nicknamed “hunkering down in the cave”. Even though the roof is flat, the ceiling slopes up into a conical shape which gives a sense of height. Simple details like the lampshade below is made from a dried cactus leaf.

Cactus leaf lampshade

Bathroom

Even the bathroom rocked! Note the prickly pear cactus leaf decoration nailed to the wall. There were a couple of geckos in there that looked like the common house geckos in Hawaii.

The best part though, was creating meals and drinking wine

Mixed antipasti platter
We popped into the Conad grocery store in town for daily antipasti.

Calamaretti and spaghetti
Made spaghetti with baby calamari and enjoyed a taste of Calabria (the only region we didn’t pass through) with a bottle of Greco Nero rosato (Statti).

Sweet peppers and bombette
The next day we picked sweet peppers, fried them with bombette (meat roll-ups made with pork and a tiny cube of cheese inside), and enjoyed them with a big bowl of salad. SO GOOD!

Ital-english Scrabble

Since there was no internet available, I brought the Scrabble board along and we played in both languages. It was the first night in a long time where we weren’t glued to the tv, tablet, pc, or phone. Liberating, but I LOST!

Trullo lu Ruezzo outdoors

Last day

Mister B at Trullo lu Ruezzo

It was a very sad day when it was time to leave, but we hope to be able to visit again and soon. The proprietress saw us off and we left with a bottle of her own homemade tomato sauce – a generous and lovely gesture that we will treasure for always. Mille grazie e Mahalo!

Castelmezzano

Autumn tour part 2, continued…

Castelmezzano

Put on the map after being mentioned in Frommer’s 10 years ago, Castelmezzano manages to retain the look of a place untouched by mass tourism. Set within the Dolimiti Lucane mountain range, this small village of less than a thousand souls is a draw for thrill-seekers (rock climbing and ziplining), nature lovers, romantics, history buffs, and even those looking to re-connect with their past. Our b&b host shared with us:

“We had an American here recently. Her father was in the military and the family lived here when she was very young. Her sister died of an illness before they left to return to the states, and she wanted to leave a marker in her memory.”

We came here partly out of sentiment (vacationing friends had sent a postcard ages ago) and because it was listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy. We liked the remoteness, the sensation of being up where the birds fly, and how silent it was at night.

View from room 2
Balcony room at Al Balcone delle Dolomiti

Naturally the first thing we noticed was the incredible view. Looking at, out, up, down, or from if you happen to have a balcony room. This was ours from Al Balcone delle Dolomiti, a family-run b&b at the top of the village. It felt like a privilege compared to other places we could’ve stayed at, but there was a catch – trudging back up the 21% slope when we walked down to explore.

Piccole Dolomiti Lucane
Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa (view large on Flickr)

For a different perspective we drove the narrow winding road (southern option) connecting to Pietrapertosa. From this angle Castelmezzano is barely visible on the left while Pietrapertosa can be clearly seen on the right.

Bedroom picnic dinner

Foiled again! No-dog policy at the only Slow Food resto in town. But a couple of tiny shops had everything we needed: pizza, cheese, locally-produced and super spicy salsiccia, plump muscat grapes, and those peperoni cruschi that I posted while we were there.

Evening picnic in our room

About those peperoni cruschi…

Arianna our b&b host told us the way her mother prepares them: a drizzle of olive oil in a hot pan, then fry the peppers for no more than 30 seconds. Place the pan immediately in a cool area (like next to an open window) so that the shock of cold air will help to crisp up the peppers and make them crunchy. I just tried this with a pinch of fleur de sel – yummy pepper chips!

Peperone dolce

Tavole Palatine

Basilicata merits another visit (a fellow b&b guest said the town of Venosa is a must for ancient ruins) because the region has so much to offer: beaches at Maratea, medieval castles in Melfi and Lagopesole, and last but not least, the city of Matera which is the biggest attraction being a world heritage site. The only ruins en route to our next destination in Puglia were the remains of the Tavole Palatine in Metapontum.

Tavole Palatine

This is all that’s left of a temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Hera. Parking is free and there’s no admission fee, and you’re allowed to wander without restriction. I couldn’t understand why this place wasn’t swarming with tourists, but what an advantage for taking photos.

MIster B and the Mads at Tavole Palatine

Up next: 3 glorious days in a pajara…