Caspar Institute logoitinerary   < 9 September Assisi, Italia   11 September Dozza, Italia >

Assisi-Dozza, Italia 10 September 2011

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Long ride from Assisi to Dozza

After breakfast on the roof at Hotel Ideale and a quick pass through the farmers market in Piazza Mateotti, we began the longest ride of the trip, something like 250 kilometers through the head of the Perugian plain, over the Appenines, and down into the broad valley of the Po River, Italy's breadbasket. (More about that to come.)



All along the road we saw fields filled with PV racks solemnly harvesting the sun. The Italians have figured out that this troublefree power source beats dead dinosaur-produced electricity in every way.

mouse over to see where in Italy we're traveling

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By our standards, the Apennines between Perugia and Cesena are pretty mild, but nevertheless, the Italians do a magnificent job of pushing a high speed freeway through them. So well done that I was planning a detour ... until we discovered that the Italian Highway Department had one already planned for us. Work on a tunnel put us on the old road for 20 twisty beautiful kilometers, along with a bunch of ill-tempered Italians. Luckily, it was a one way detour, so we met no oncoming traffic, and twisted our way through a pretty little wood-and-stone town that is apparently a ski resort in winter.

In this heat, it is hard to imagine that it ever snows here.

Rolling down out of the mountains, we descended into a sea of haze, much like what can be seen in California's Central Valley in late summer. I knew there was an ocean out there, but...

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Since we were close, and I knew it had to be there, I routed us on a little loop over to the seaside along the long beach that extends from Ravenna through Rimini to Ancona on the Adriatic. It sounds more romantic and picturesque than it is. Here's where Italians come in droves to stick their toes in the sand, and it is just possibly the ugliest strand on the planet. Beautifully fine sand, an ocean that has forgotten how to wave, and infinite beach umbrellas stretching in both directions farther than the eye can see through the haze.

I didn't expect much. Sienna waded in to her thighs and reported that the water felt warm and soft. We found a slightly breezy bench in the pine forest behind the dunes, and ate the lunch we had bought at the Assisi farmers market.

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Dozza was on our big Italy map, and we figured out how to exit the E45 at Imola and made our way to Dozza, but then we realized we weren't sure what to do next. So we parked and walked into town until we found a likely restaurant that didn't look busy, and asked for directions. It turned out to be easy once we knew the way to go, and half an hour later, after circumnavigating Dozza's little Rocca, we were on the Via Valsellustra and then up the driveway at #55.

It is worth noting that between 1pm and 4pm, especially at this time of year, the only open establishments are restaurants, bars, hair dressers, and tourist establishments. So we drove up to an apparently abandoned farm. Cars, tools in the driveway, shuttered windows ... and then, miraculously, a sleepy but friendly face: Milo. 

The fact that I am remarkably short of pictures of the farmstay, our hosts, their interns, animals, and the accommodations, is a good measure of how full our time there was. We were suddenly plunged into a big multilingual, multi-species, semi-functional, but friendly family: Davide, Victoria, Isabel, Charlotte, Milo, Joanne, Nathan, three dogs, two cats, and three kittens. 

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After the sun went down, we joined the family for a raucous, family style, rustic dinner outdoors under an arbor beneath a nearly full moon. Lubricated by wine made from grapes grown right on the farm, we explored similarities and differences in our lives.  

Victoria came to Imola to teach English with only a bookish grasp of Italian, but within a year she was communicating comfortably. Davide, who has moved far from his family (ten kilometers) has lived on this land all his life. He remembers with pleasure summers in the region near Bolzano, near the Austrian border, but clearly his heart is here ...and in music. He has a whole room devoted to vinyl.

Milo presents himself as a rolling stone and a jack of all trades. He spent last winter in New Zealand -- "cheap flight; I worked for a baker" -- before that, he was here, so this is his second sojourn.

<p>Victoria, Davide, Michael, Rochelle, Milo</p>

Victoria, Davide, Michael, Rochelle, Milo

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There is always polarization

Fairly soon, Davide felt called upon, with aide from Milo, to explain the difference between Northern and Southern Italy and the finer grain distinction between Emiliani and Romagnoli, of which Davide considers himself a proud avatar. It seems that the border between these two age-old rival states runs right through the Val Sellustre, where we are located, the valley just south of Dozza. The Rocca (castle) we saw up in town is, of course, the stronghold of the oppressors. The Romagnoli are earthy, hard working, intense, and straightforward. By contrast, the Emiliani ... well, let's just agree not to talk about their many defects. Davide can tell after only a syllable or two if someone is an Emiliano; the two races have very different dialects. As, of course, do all the tribes of Italy, Milanese Milo assures us.

The divide can of course be extended further. The only real workers in Italy come from north of the Po River, asserts Milo; Davide bristles, but Milo has been such a stalwart supporter of the screed about Romagnoli v. Emiliani that he can't really object. (The squiggly northern boundary of Emilia-Romagna is the Po.)

Rochelle asks, in innocence, why there was a bank holiday last Monday in Siena. "Ah, Siena!" explains Milo, "South."


[The map at left is adapted from a Wikipedia map.]

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