Out of Caserta, and into Benevento

At Apollosa,  just short of Benevento.

After Scauri, we covered 35km in two stages to Mondragone, then the next day 36km to Capua – and then 32km to St Maria a Vico.  14th, we were tired – and covered 32km to Apollosa by heading up into the limestone hills, on a northern loop of the Appia. (thank you Giovanni).  We found a breeze, which made the day entirely better.

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These have been three days of extreme heat. One newspaper describes it as the hottest summer they have had, which may or may not be true.  We have still managed to cover good distances each day – mainly necessitated by the need for accommodation.

We have had to get used to the process of Pilgrimage again, and its rigours in extreme heat – well into the 40 C. in the sun.  Physical survival, and going within to find a place to move forward from has been the main task.  The process is deepening – but the physical exertion created by the conditions has been primary.

Pilgrims accept what they find!

This is what we find in Southern Italy.

The Pros:

1. Southern Italians are in general very kind, and generous.  There is a joie de vie, and genuineness about the people we meet which is enviable. It is a real pleasure to converse with them about our way and why we would do it.

2. They provide hospitality. Accommodation seems so far to be fairly good for the money. Some are even prepared to reduce the quoted price when told where we’re going and what we’re doing. (hint…don’t negotiate with Regula with an expectation of benefitting!)

3. There are some impressively beautiful places, and ancient towns and villages.

4.  Ditto the routes.  You are able to walk on some of the most ancient ways and roads it is possible to find. There are many many areas of genuine ancient fabric and ancient sites – the like of which can’t be easily found elsewhere. Our route the Via Appia is littered with remarkable early Roman sites including (so far) two amphitheatres, hundreds of tombs and kilometres of original surface.

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The Cons:

1. Walking with a backpack South of Rome makes you a great and unusual curiosity.  Sometimes, it can feel like being in a zoo, or even rural India!  Southern Italians do not walk, or run even.  There are no marked footpaths, and suspicion gives way to incredulity, when the task is explained.  I am yet to find the exception to this nearly half way through the South from Rome towards Brindisi.

2.  To follow the long distance ancient routes, for long periods you will be slogging along the messy hard shoulders of major roads, with the unending traffic at speeds which are well beyond the conditions. Italian young men drive with some skill in incredible dangerous ways for everyone but themselves.  Same for Italian young women, but with we agree, less skill.  Older Southern Italians…  just don’t ask…..  The general safe separations found in the North are more or less absent.  Speed limits are not adhered too at all, in any location and there are very few speed cameras. In the last two or three days we have seen an overtaking manoeuvre in a village at 80-85mph. Overtaking an overtaking vehicle is quite normal, with a three way race coming at you from  either back or front.  Drivers will not wait for pedestrians  – tuning left or right in front of you, inches in front – is quite normal.  There are thousands of permanent small road-side shrines to those who have died on the roads. Normally the young, and those on the most vulnerable steeds.   The numbers are enormous.  5-10 a day would not be to exaggerate. There is a continue road-side carnage of animals wild and otherwise.  So far in in ten days 14 cats, 4 dogs, 1 grass snake, 40 or 50 hedgehogs, 1 fox, many many birds and the rest.  The carnage is occasionally hard to stomach.

3.  Italian roads and their verges are used for dumping domestic rubbish.  It is not cleared away, but is occasionally set on fire with variable results. Otherwise, Italian drivers throw any and all rubbish out of the vehicle – from the most personal Items to the least.  This is fairly universal, but reduced in the immediate environs of towns. In some quieter areas, there are really quite major dumps on the Via Appia for instance.  Anywhere in reach of Naples is particularly surprising if one is from the North of Europe.

4. Italian Government.  Contact with the institutions of Italian government can be interesting. Admittedly, except for a few front–end folks, everyone has been unendingly kind and generous.  It is the ineffectiveness that is of more concern.  Nothing really works too well,  the roads remind of the UK, although generally with better surface, inconsistent signage, and no cleaning at all. Some areas closer to Naples have reminded me of the run-down chaos in particular parts of inner city UK.  The need for good governance is really clear. On a selfish note, tourist information existed in the Latina – not at all in the Caserta – and not so far in the province of Benevento. The “Pro-Loco” Offices are not open for the benefit of tourists from what we can see. In fact we have only found one open, and that to be without any literature or information!  They do not post opening hours. For the most part Italians seem to ignore them.

So, how does this affect the possibilities of a permanent route to the South to link with the Via Egnatia.  I can say that it’s a big job in the face of huge social and practical obstacles.  Pilgrims need appropriate accommodation, which can be found, but not at adequate intervals. Folks can’t and shouldn’t be protected from the realities of life in the South, but a safe and authentic route with necessary accommodation is going to need huge amounts of work.  We have, for the most part not found it on the Via Appia.

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In Deutsch – alles etwas kuerzer gefasst und leicht abgeaendert… Wir befinden uns im Moment in Apollosa kurz vor Benevento. Die letzten drei Tage waren unglaublich heiss zum Gehen. Wir versuchen so gut wie’s geht die heissesten Stunden des Tages zu meiden, wobei klimatisierte Bars und Restaurants uns meistens einen grossen Dienst erweisen. Die hohen Temperaturen sind eine rechte Herausforderung und wir ueben uns vor allem in Gleichmut sowie Geduld angesichts den unveraenderbaren Umstaenden.

In Italien haben wir bisher einiges erlebt, Positives wie Negatives. Hier ein paar Gedanken dazu:

+ Die Menschen in Sueditalien sind im Allgemeinen sehr herzlich und gutmuetig. Man spuert ihre Lebensfreude.

+ Wir haben sehr viel Gastfreundschaft erlebt, die Hotels, Unterkuenfte und Herbergen sind meistens preiswert fuer ihre Leistung.

+ Die unzaehligen meist gut erhaltenen Ueberbleibsel aus roemischer Zeit sind wahnsinnig eindruecklich… Aequadukte, Amphitheater, Foren, antike Strassen und Wege.

– Als Pilger sind wir eine grosse Ausnahme und fuer die meisten Sueditaliener eine Attraktion. Manchmal ist das Starren anderer unangenehm und gewoehnungsbeduerftig.

– In Sueditalien ist quasi niemand zu Fuss unterwegs. Es gibt keine Fuss- oder Wanderwege, die Autos und Scooter rasen mit grosser Geschwindigkeit an uns vorbei und so manches totes Tier haben wir am Strassenrand gesichtet, von Katzen ueber Hunde bis zu Schlangen.

– Sueditaliener scheinen hauptsaechlich Strassen und Felder als Abfalleimer zu nutzen. Nebst dem Schaden fuer Tier, Mensch und Natur, der damit angerichtet wird, ist es ein schockierender und trauriger Anblick!

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4 Responses to Out of Caserta, and into Benevento

  1. Mony says:

    Oh, the memories this brings back! We experienced similar conditions in countries such as Albania, Turkey and some of Syria and Lebanon. It’s pretty hard to stomach.

    A thought occurs to me – have you considered contacting monasteries, convents or churches along your path? In Italy especially, we called on them because we often stopped in small towns where there were no accomodations, and usually when we explained to the priest or the superiors what we were doing, we were offered at least a roof over our heads. We often slept on floors or tables, but were also offered beds and meals especially in the Franciscan monasteries which have a tradition of helping pilgrims. Neither Alberto nor I are practicing Christians but we are spiritually open and believe that all paths lead to one God. We were usually accepted for our beliefs. We did not try mosques but found Arabs in general to be very hospitable and often offered us their homes to sleep in.

    Hope this helps. Keep on keeping on!
    Love and light,
    Mony

    • Thanks Mony

      We are in the flat of a young Priest now! Other help from the Church has been thin – and few monasteries. But the best are fine…I wonder what Greece will bring! We are told it is going to cool a bit……just hope it doesn’t go too far with rain forecast!

      Ian

  2. I am surprised to learn that things have got so much worse during the part 23 years.
    The Napoli area is a diferrent country. To say that it is like the Middle East is offensive to the Middle East. I am surprised that no Italiuan intellectual is prepared to acknowledge this disastrous situation and denounce it on the press. This is the least one should do.
    Fare well

    Giovanni

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