Thursday, May 26, 2011

Valle del Fiastrone hike, Gualdo cheese festival

26 Maggio, 2011
Hike one in the Gillian Price book, "Italy's Sibillini National Park-Walking and Trekking Guide' is the Valley of Fiastrone which is a hike through a canyon carved by the Fiastrone river which has been tamed somewhat by an upstream hydroelectric dam which has formed Lake Fiastra.  This hike also can include a jaunt over to a grotto used by hermit monks some centuries ago.  You find the trail head just down hill from the town of Monastero, park by the cemetery and begin in a pleasant meadow surrounded by wild roses and a view to the east of the end of the canyon as the river flows into  a valley leading past to the Adriatic Sea.

 Now, I don't know how many people are like me and like the tough part of the trail at the start of the hike, but this trail is contrary.  You begin with a descent of 70-80 meters to reach the little stream called Fosse, then up 20 meters before descending another 140-150 meters.  All I could think of while descending was I was going to have to regain all those meters on my return, when theoretically I would be a bit more tired.  The trail is well marked to the river Fiastrone where you can take a right and climb up to the hermit's cave with its chapel inside, a relatively easy 20-30 minute climb.

There I met a group of about 30 teenagers hiking with their adult supervisors and a forestry service guide (more about him later).  They and soon Bacco were enjoying their lunch break.  On the return, I, who have been hiking all my life lost the trail (and 30 minutes) 3 times because the friendly wild boars had formed their own pathways especially at the switchbacks which led me straight into the woods.  At the first intersection the sign posts which are easily visible when you ascend are well above eye level and behind a tree as you return which led me to a parking lot.  Pay attention on this part and don't make my mistakes.
The next part was especially made for Bacco and included 7 stream crossings, which in springtime means if you are not an olympic long jumper or circus acrobat you are going to get wet.  The water level lowers later in summer revealing rocks you can use to cross relatively dryly.

 I was standing on a rock ledge at the first crossing with a stream 7 feet across and a foot deep or so and trying to remember my junior high standing long jump skills (always my weakest task in the physical education tests).  Anyway, after  my first failure it became more fun, because it is not possible to get your boots and lower pants more wet than soaked. In one place the trail became a tunnel where small trees had fallen along 10 meters of the trail and I had to crawl through on all 4's.  Bacco and I continued to trails end and then walked into the "gola" or throat of the canyon past the trail's end to enjoy our snack lunch in complete solitude with the sound of birds, stream and falling water as our musical accompaniment.

We then returned down stream with our 9 stream crossings (we did 2 more than required going in) and ran into the forestry fellow who had cut all those pesky downed saplings away, so no tunnel to crawl through on the way back. He didn't want the poor kids to exert themselves.

 Then we climbed up the two major hills, which weren't all that difficult, as this trail overall is pretty easy and we drove our wet selves on to the Gualdo cheese festival.
Gualdo is a nice little hill town above Sarnano and has this nice cheese fest every year and amazingly brought in some really fine producers from as far away as the Piedmont and the Veneto with their alps cheeses.
practically all regions offer Mozarella by now, but the original is from Campania and can't be beat!

most of our local shepherds are from Sardegna, the masters of Pecorino cheesemaking

Fontagrana, our local maestro was also there along with an artisanal beer maker from Padova, Slow food's contingent from Campania with Caciocavallo cheese (photos below, they hang one of the cheeses over hot coals to make it spreadable and give out samples on rustic bread)

Cacio Cavalli from Campania

, a wine tasting area with Marche wines, and lots of other goodies like wild boar sausage from Norcia.
I bought the best and stinkiest cheeses I could find, my favorites being one from Fontagrana of Belmonte Piceno, Marche and the other 2 from the alps and some desserts called Baba' for our wine label designers who were visiting from Verona to go over the final touches on our first 2 labels.
We have bottling of the first 2 wines scheduled for June 6 and I am still uncertain when the winery construction will be completed.  As you remember, it was scheduled for completion last christmas
easter, mid-May.

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