Day 10 – Caramanico, Sant’ Eufemia, Italy
After my husband tore me away from the beautiful La Ghiandia (meaning: The Garden), we took off for the Abruzzo region of Italy. This was the most remote area we experienced on the entire trip, but well worth it. We rode through the longest tunnel we’d ever driven, right through a mountain. We cruised at about 140 km/hr.
It was an easy drive, until we turned off for Caramanico. The road signs were confusing, pointing left, but not specifying which road to the left. We took the first one, and ended up on a winding, unpaved road. The only plus was that we stopped and took pictures of some gorgeous land with red wildflowers.
Two hours later, after finding our way back to the main road and starting over again, we arrived in Caramanico, dodging construction, and our car climbed the main road into town. I spotted the Mazzocca Hotel quite easily, and we squeezed the car between a tree and another car for parking.
Caramanico apparently becomes touristy in the summer, and some sort of event was going on that particular weekend. We walked into Mazzocca Hotel, and tried to ask for a room. In Italian they told us they were booked because of whatever was going on in town. Then I pulled out my pictures of Grandpa and tried to communicate to them that I was a Mazzocca. The two men at the counter were also Mazzoccas, cousins who ran the hotel.
They did not know the names I showed them of my Grandpa or his parents, but it didn’t stop them from yelling to some other Italians on the street, who also ended up being Mazzoccas. They seemed happy to meet us, but did not know the relation. We think they were trying to tell us that on Monday there would be a Mazzocca reunion. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay.
Eventually, they decided that they did have one room they’d let us stay in, and only ended up charging us 50 euro for it. The room was nice, with tall ceilings, and a balcony with mountain views. The woman served us a nice breakfast of; you guessed it, bread, rolls, meat, and cheese. Of course she made us fresh coffee as well.
We hopped in the car and somehow ended up at the creepy old cemetery. The graves were more like 6 or 7-foot tall monuments, some of them rooms, which had entire families buried together. The grass was long and unkempt, with a few rocky pathways among the hillside of graves. It was freaky.
We thought we should split up, but that was a mistake. We both ended up uncomfortable in the deserted cemetery, and I scared my husband half to death when I found him. He had just seen an open tombstone and walked closer to take a look when he saw his own reflection inside and it was moving! It was a mirror.
Then he approached a gravestone with an opening at the bottom. He bent down cautiously to see what the large bag was at the bottom, hoping it wasn’t a body in there (most likely cement or rocks) when I spotted him. I whispered frantically; “Ricky!” and he jumped about ten feet! In retrospect, it was quite funny. He thought they were speaking to him from beyond!!!
We took several pictures of Mazzocca headstones and found my great grandmother, Carmine’s mother. We think we found his brother who died as a child, but weren’t sure because there was another name on the tombstone. A grave was next to it with no name, which made us wonder if that was Carmine’s father, but there is no way to know for sure. Several tombs had no names or dates.
Next we drove a little further up the hill and found Sant’ Eufemia, a tiny little town with more buildings made of large stone. There were a group of old Italian men gathered in front of a store, who all turned to watch our car drive by, and then turn around. Thanks to Ricky, we actually stopped and ask them where my Grandma’s cousin lived. We easily found the house next to the town’s Church, knocked on the door, introduced ourselves, and found ourselves being pulled into the door and kissed on both cheeks. They probably didn’t have a CLUE who we were at first.
Ricky communicated in Spanish/Italian and I just sat and smiled a lot. Nic remembered a few words of English, not bad for a 91-year-old man. She spoke only Italian, and even though she knew I didn’t understand, she just talked and talked and talked to me anyway. We pulled out pictures of Grandma and the family, and left them some to keep. We had a nice visit.
Nic’s wife made coffee and put out a plate of pizzelles, which she later sent with us. She started yelling “Manja, Manja” to Ricky, who looked at her in confusion. I leaned over and told him, “She wants you to EAT.” That is one word I remember hearing in Italian. Ricky said she was ranting about how the food in Caramanico’s restaurants is so expensive, and not that good. She also made Nic go to the store and buy some sort of meat for us, which we insisted we were not hungry for.
We still hadn’t figured out what exactly it was, but they were trying to tell us how to cook it. Ricky tried telling them we didn’t have a refrigerator, and no place to cook, but finally I told him just to agree to take it. Nic and his wife just yelled at each other in Italian, which was amusing, but a little daunting…
Two hours later Ricky explained we needed to go before it got dark. We were afraid we wouldn’t find our way back to the hotel otherwise. The roads were so curvy and steep. Before we left, Nic got out his phone book and called Grandma, making each of us speak to her. A few minutes after we hung up, the phone rang again, and Nic’s wife was speaking in Italian, apparently not understanding the person on the other end of the phone.
Finally she realized they were asking for Jennifer, and handed the phone to me. It was mom and dad! They heard we were there from Grandma and called to talk, since we had barely been able to contact them since Paris. While we talked, three loud voices behind me kept chatting, making it difficult to hear.
We got back to our hotel and went across the street to a restaurant for dinner. It turns out that it had opened the week prior, and they didn’t have a menu yet. The food was good.