Ha, yeah that's right - - I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the bus ride home from Mt Belvedere, and I didn't wake up when we arrived Vidiciatico - nor did I wake up when we reached Lizzano in Be
lvedere. Fortunately another descendent tapped me on the shoulder to alert me that "we're here" -- otherwise I probably would've spent the night in the bus. I heard it's a 25-30 minute uphill walk back to Vidiciatico, so i was grateful that the Hotel Montepizzo asked the Hotel Miravell if they could drive me back up to my hotel. (Yeah, the small towns are great and all help ea other out.) :)
So trying to go back to recollect Thursday...which truly was our first full day in the Hill Towns.
We all started out w breakfast in our respective hotels, and then the bus pick-up at 8:30. Nice breakfast spread at hotel - - - 3 different types of cornettos (croissants) - - plain, jam, and crema-filled; fresh fruit, meat & cheese, yogurts, and breads. Caffe of course!
The drive up to Mt Belvedere - - and the drive up to Vidiciatico/Lizzano - -made me feel like i was watching fireworks. Lots of oooooh's and ahhh's - - it is absolutely breathtaking! I couldn't help to think of how blessed we are to be seeing this, and to wonder what my Grandpa may have seen or thought of it. He certainly didn't have the luxury of riding in an air-conditioned picture window bus hugging the side of the road with the panoramic views of Riva Ridge, the Lizzano valley, and Mt Belvedere. I'm thinking most likely he was marching in the cold....a young boy not knowing what immediate danger he faced.... while carrying a 90lb rucksack on his back. (And probably in the dark too.)
Someone had said that the hills were cleared - - very few trees were on the hills when the 10th was marching through this area, as the area then was big on foresting and lumber. So the hills were somewhat bare. I'm not sure how much snow was on the hills then back in Feb 1945; but this area now is popular in the winter for alpine skiing.
So after maybe a 30-45min ride, we arrive at the start of our Mt Belvedere hike. The base had a newly tarred road - - not too hard. And then the fresh tar turned to a bit older tar, then to more of a rocky path, which lead to a choice -- - through a sunny steep field (shortcut) or through a rocky path in the shadow. (I chose that one, even though it may have been a bit longer w more gradual of an incline). And then all were joined up for a more steep climb -- to when we approached to top!!
I'm not sure how long the journey up was...but it was worth it! I just kept telling myself "wait til you see the top! Just keep going"... and also no matter how much I was sweating, again kept thinking of my Grandpa and him carrying 90lbs! The viewpoint was gorgeous -- various shades of green for all the distant hills & mountains, and seeing the clouds hang in the mountains was beautiful!
I immediately asked an Alpini to have a photo taken w me and the Mt Belvedere monument that I've seen in so many photos before. Yes!! I've now made it here myself finally. :) And then over to the other side of the top where you could see the other hills.
As in true Italian fashion, there was a table set up for us all -- with wines, salumi & cheeses, breads, and lots of water. Love, love how they know how to celebrate each small victory.
And also chairs were set up under a white tent for a mass celebration that we had too. Even though I'm no where near fluency in Italian, it was very special to listen to the Priest speak the mass on the mountaintop. I was able to follow along, and we did have a few songs in English. But again -- a very touching moment for us all. (The mass was optional...and I was so glad to have found a small spot on the grass to sit.)
After the mass there was the small ceremony at the monument, and more time to mingle with everyone. I was lucky to have a chance to chat w a few more current 10th Mountain soldiers. Turns out one was a Captain, and the other was a Major. They are on the journey with us through the 22nd, and then I believe they go back stateside.
Then the walk down.... which for me went much faster than the climb up. Steve Coffey had connected me the the Midwest Chapter Director Patty LaRocca at the top, so we walked down together. Along with Susan Jackson from Aspen, CO and a few others. And one of the younger descendants (see, I'm not the youngest!) had found some barbed wire on the side of the road - - cool!!
Steve had asked Patty and I if we would place the wreath at the monument for the Querciola ceremony, being that her and I are both Chapter Descendant Directors. Well..... turns out we actually were in the parade carrying the wreath and then placing it by the monument. Wow!! We were both beyond grateful for that special occasion - - what an honor for us!!
The small ceremony in Quericola has to recognize a solder - - Andrew Bernstein. A new plaque was unveiled, and a family member from the Bernstein's from Bologna was inviting to be in attendance. And all around us were the proud townspeople of Querciola - - it was very touching!
Next..... lunch! Now this was something else.... we all were under a large tent. We just had to go find a place to sit, and then the townspeople served US food that they had prepared for us. It started w a bowl of tortellini - - the most amazing tortellini with parmegiano. Wow -- so good! And then of course there were two different white wines - one sweet, one dry. And then there was the crescentine fritte with meat plate. And the dolce plate -- a bunch of small cookies on one plate, and the other was some small pies (I believe). It was a very special lunch for all of us.
Oh, oh... I'm hearing the church-bell ring now. (It's 6:30am on Saturday - - and my iPhone alarm just went off too.) Time for me to get ready for today. I am super excited for today! We'll be visiting Castel d'Aiano. This is the Hill Town that I've visited before with my brother -- so I have been very much looking forward to today!!
I will write more later... more to fill in from Thursday, and all of Friday to fill in too. Ciao, ciao -- buon giorno!!!