314 – Sunday 28th February 2016: Montecassino Abbey and WWII
What a hill! Best part of a km down only to run back up again! Water on the pitch so a little more hand washing. We drove the Z bends up to the Abbey and paid the pricey sum of EUR8 to park. The attendant was quick to point out that we were allowed to stay over night, but we were rather attached to our parking towards the bottom of the hill … also the weather forecast threaten rain and winds so the top of a mountain is not thus most desirable.
The Abbey itself is HUGE. Really IMMENSE. It is another pilgrimage site as it is the mother Church of the Benedictine Order. St Benedict founded it in 529 and here wrote the ‘Rule’; these are the principles of prayer, study and labour for the West European monastic code. The hand written parchment is on display in the Museum. The Monastery became a centre learning and one of the richest by the 11th century. The opulence and wealth was extremely evident. The Museum was the highlight for us both.
During WWII the Monastery was supposed to be exempt from use by either side. However, we saw film footage of the German forces assisting the Monks in packing up their treasures … not sure if some made their way to Berlin? The Allies struggled to move North and eventually bombed the Monastery, which the Germans held. Well, that’s one version. Another is that the Germans were below the Monastery and the Allies thought they were in it, so started the bombing. The fatalities for the 4 major battles were staggering. More than 55,000 soldiers on both sides, although most were Allied Forces, and 10,000 civilians. There are several military cemeteries around the town, we spotted the English and German from up the mountain. The Polish cemetery was a short walk from the Monastery. More than 1000 Polish were buried here when is was built very soon after the war. There was an excellent multi-lingual information centre at the entrance. The gravestones gave the usual information of name, DOB and Date of Death, but also which prison of war camp in Poland or Russia they had been interned in, until Russia changed sides and released them. Many of the survivors never made it back home as Poland became part of the USSR.
The Abbey has had to be rebuilt 4 times – no wonder the word Peace was everywhere.
I don’t know if it was due to the relative recentness of the WWII rebuild or the sense of wealth, but it really had the feel of a 5* Hotel complex. And amazing views of the hills.
The Museum was very worth the EUR5 entry. This travel scripture was no bigger that a thumbnail – no wonder it came with its own magnifying case.
As well as a superb display of old literature, there were finely stitched garments and intricate ivory and wooden boxes etc.
The cathedral left K cold … too much 1800’s style bright marble. And I have a problem with such ostentation with vows of poverty etc.
The crypt had some of the original stone work.
Looking back at the Monastery from the Polish War Memorial. A very still and moving place.
There is actually quite a lot of snow on the distant peaks.
Selfie … not done one for a while.
Supper was haute cuisine … bangers, mash and beans … the baked beans being a parting gift from Frances when they left Naples. Yum yum ….
315 – Friday 29th February 2016: Leaping Gaeta
A leap year. I asked J to marry me … actually if he would have, had we not already been married. He assured me that despite being with me 24/7 for 315 days, he would have said yes!!! A politic man!
Heavy rain this morning so we refrained from tackling the hill with a morning run. A short drive down to the coast and along to Gaeta. The town sits on a rocky headland, which splits the old town from the new. We set off for a wander, which turned into a 3 hour walk. Along the front passing the Duomo’s bell tower and up through the old town onto Monte Orlando. We followed the Mountain Park’s signs for the Mausoleum of ???, a 2nd century Roman, which was right at the top. Great views of both sides of the headland. Down towards the beach and then through the town. The mountain was mostly mixed woodland, a lot of Holm Oak and it was really lovely to hear so much bird song.
The old town.
Looking back at the peaks inland.
Romanesque bell tower of the Duomo, with coloured tiles. The cathedral looked to have been rebuilt and we did not go in.
316 – Tuesday 1st March 2016: Terracina
Having rested from running yesterday, we both did a 6km run along the sandy front … J always puts in a little more as he doubles back to check on me or the route, and he is a lot faster. Yet when we compared calories burned, I was up on him by about 90 … I reckon it is because I am running longer, being much slower! Bonus!
Less than an hour later we arrived at Terracina – a popular seaside resort … in the summer!!! The whole of this coast line offers holiday village after camping village, after holiday bungalows … non stop. We asked ourselves, again, where do all the summer visitors come from given so much of Italy’s coast is resort after resort.
An Italian motorhomer, we met near Capua, whom we spoke to in pigeon English / Italian and then in French had been headed this way last weekend. He told us that there were usually 100 or so Italian vans there most weekends. Today we are one of 8. And both J and I having failed to master the car parking ticket machine, as it kept spewing our Euros back out at us, we asked a German couple (yes, my pigeon German came into play) about how to pay … only to be formed that weekdays it is free! Yippee – EUR12 back into our pockets. We celebrated with coffee and cake!
Terracina is overshadowed by the 1BC Temple of Jove Anxur … we opted not to walk up!
Lions guarding the entrance to the old town … we watched all the small cars do a 3 point turn here and comtemplated Chardonnay up here … NOT!
We’ve seen countless stray cats in the last few days … on Gaeta’s Monte Orlando we must have seen at least 20. Today the tabby was seeing off the black … food on the step!
More Roman remains … every Italian town has them
The WWII bombings did some good work here … a Roman arch was left standing as the buildings covering it collapsed …. building techniques gone forwards then! Here you can see part of the Aprian Way that was uncovered. We wondered how all the carts passed each other as it is so narrow.
On the left is tower of a fortification and in the middle is the Duomo which was built on the site of a Roman Temple … the steps up are original. A funeral taking place, so we went for coffee as the rain started coming down heavily again.
And it did not stop coming down … a pukka downpour, so we headed straight back to Chardonnay for a change of clothes and the heating. I always receive a Christmas stocking from the Aged P’s, which is particularly fascinating as it reflects their year’s world travels …. the Vin Chaud hit the spot.