The Retirees return to Italy – Villa Contessa, Cesi

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Roberto is extremely proud of his Villa and has every right to be so. He has taken a centuries old residence and breathed new life into it. To attest to its age one is greeted by a mural on the wall of the virgin painted in the 17th century and treasured by the village. After climbing the stairs in Via Carlo Stocchi, and entering on the ground floor, a semi circular staircase takes you to a three bedroom apartment with all the modern conveniences.

The Villa is on the western end of the village below the old convent and Church of St. Michael the Archangel, sharing a wall with the church. There are two neighbours below the Villa, one of whom shares the entrance to the Villa. The village has a small convenience store, a pharmacy that opens when the doctor visits (no one knows exactly when the doctor visits) and a bar on the outskirts of the village near the bypass road to Terni. The village is serviced by a bus which travels from Terni terminus to the village with some services going on to Portaria, the Roman ruins of Carsulae, and Acquasparta. The bus takes the circuitous route winding down through the olive groves whilst the general traffic comes up a narrow lane (the bus won’t fit) exiting beside the bar (you need a drink).

On the Sunday morning after we arrived, I took a walk around the village passing the entrance to the grotto, the present parish church of S’Onofrio through the town gate on its eastern end and ended up above the village and found among the brush the remnant of what appeared to be the city wall.

The village celebrates the Feast of St Joseph (St Guiseppi) this time each year at the former church of St Andrew. Of course we went to the feast. The former church is now a community hall but the former use is present in the frescoes on the wall. The fact that this was a religious feast was born out by a raffle for an icon of St Joseph and child (Jesus) displayed at the front of the hall. The burial cairns from Carsulae tombs are incorporated on the facade of the church beside a doorway. The purpose of doing this was explained to us in Italian by the local historian and of course we did not understand a word.

Inside the hall is a plaque in remembrance of a visit by the famous Italian baritone Titta Ruffo who sang in that hall in 1916. Titta was a contemporary of Caruso and one recording of a duet between them remains. The feast had been prepared by the local citizens and included an antipasto, followed by a dish of lasagna, followed by the first course then two desserts and all washed down with a local wine. Good value for 15 euros.

I was all set for a lazy afternoon when it was decided we would visit the ruins of St Eraszmus Church which are slowly being restored. The ruins are a 15 minute climb at the back of the village and provide astounding views across the Terni plain. Our walk took us past the track up the mountain which plays a part in a later episode (the signs point out all other directions but up the mountain which is the only track that was open – go figure?). When I said the renovation was proceeding slowly, I meant very very slowly.

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