From Roccasicura to Civitanova del Sannio

2 - From Roccasicura to Civitanova del Sannio

Clck per allargare

Departure at dawn. The sight of the brightly lit tratturo in the morning sun and the cool air add a spring to my step. After a first stretch where the tratturo is so well preserved that it is as flat as a board, I cross the SP86 road which connects Roccasicura to Carovilli and find a totally different but equally fascinating version of the old green way. Indeed, the tratturo climbs uphill slightly and maintains its width, but its surface is probably what ancient shepherds had to face: there is no real path to follow, only animal footsteps. However, the direction is clear up to the point where the path is totally invaded by spontaneous vegetation. Fortunately, there is a gap in the green barrier which is kept open by animals passing. It is no longer sheep now, but large cows. The soil is clayey, and the trail is so full of potholes it is like Swiss Cheese, I really must be careful with each single step I take if I want to avoid twisting my ankle. I imagine how boggy it must be whenever it rains and think the drought this year is a stroke of luck... it's one way to tolerate the heat and to see the glass half full!

Eventually, the area invaded by plants comes to an end, the tratturo regains its width and starts descending shortly after, on top of Merocco hill. The descent towards the valley is on easy dirt roads and the sun brightens the view beautifully. The descent ends at the Masseria Fischietto, a large farm which was another base point for ancient shepherds. Unfortunately, this is where I have to face a critical situation. I have just passed the farm when two big dogs notice me and start chasing me. I have faced this kind of situations on many occasions, even several times a day, so I behave as usual: I ignore them and quietly carry on my way. Dogs normally bark at you as they approach, but keep at a safe distance and usually leave you alone as soon as they are sure you are moving away from ‘their’ property. But this time is different: they noticed me once I had passed the masseria and tend to get too close each time I turn my back too them. I must face them this time so as to avoid them getting far too close. Nobody from the farm calls them back. Fortunately there is no contact, but they do follow me right up to the top of the hill. Eventually, the dogs decide they have done their duty and go back home. They must obviously believe that ‘their’ property includes the road and the hill nearby too... who knows? In my trips I have often had to deal with dogs left unleashed. This is basically wrong, owners ought to keep an eye on their dogs, especially when they are so aggressive, so as to avoid dangerous situations.

Having escaped the danger (or presumed so) and reached the top of the hill, I start a slow descent towards Pescolanciano. At the entrance of the small town the tratturo is recognisable once again and, indeed, it is clear that the town itself has grown along its axis.

At the exit of Pescolanciano the journey continues, with asphalt and dirt roads built on the tratturo alternating all the way up to lake Chiauci... and this too has been obtained at the expense of the tratturo. Given the period of drought, the lake is almost empty. The satellite images show that it is potentially possible to walk along one of its shores, along a cart road that starts from a pillar of the SS650 road. The cart road must have been created when the dam was built. The road is no longer used but is still in good condition, tough partly covered by tall grass. I follow it up to the lake shore, where it continues for another short stretch but then ends against a vegetation barrier. No way to pass. Openstreetmap does indicate an alternative path running a little higher, but this too appears not to be accessible. Too bad, I just have to go round the lake using the roads which run on the hills. They are all asphalted but scarcely used, and vegetation has partially invaded the carriageway

in many places: just one car passes me in 5 km! Fortunately, trees provide excellent shelter from the sun in the hottest hours of the day. A steep downhill path finally allows me to cover the last stretch of the stage leading to Civitanova del Sannio.

After finding accommodation and having my ritual rest, I walk around the village. The dialect here has strong Neapolitan influences. One thing in particular strikes me right away. All the streets in the old village are named after Antonio Cardarelli, the well-known surgeon born in Civitanova del Sannio, and progressive numbering is adopted to distinguish one from the other.

In the evening, I treat myself to an aperitif in a small bar to savour the village’s atmosphere. All the tables are taken, and a friendly English couple asks me if they can join me. It is such a nice, spontaneous gesture which has now become unusual in many parts of Italy. It is obviously natural to exchange a few words with these newcomers. Surprisingly, I find out that I am actually the newcomer, they are absolutely at home here and know everyone. They have been spending their holidays in Civitanova since 2004 and have also bought a house here. When summer comes, they leave England and come here to enjoy a relaxing time, reading and playing music(she is a musician). What attracts them most, but this is my opinion, is the slow pace of countryside life: I see that they really blend in with the environment and the people.

I end the day with a dinner at the restaurant. After the meal, the lady who runs the restaurant, probably intrigued by a customer who is dining alone, asks about me and, when she discovers that I am walking along the tratturo, she tells me that a local cattle breeder still implements transhumance every year. It is nice to discover that this tradition has not been lost completely.

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