Thursday, June 18, 2009

At Somana, on the Sentiero del Fiume

[The Path of the River]

June 2nd, 2009.

Little waterfall with an inviting pond

Another waterfall
After Somana (LC), up to the first hairpin bend, there's a crossing with via dell'Acqua Bianca ["White Water road"], start-point of a wonderful excursion. Here there are clear indications for homonimous Bed and Breakfast. There is also a parking lot, but it is really small, and when we arrived it was already full. Going back downhill we finally found a space for the car, adding an extra piece of hike on the asphalted road. As soon as we parked the car we met a nice old man who upon seeing our preparations (backpack, hiking boots, knee-pads, hiking sticks and waterbottle) all of the sudden asked, in a kind of teasing tone, "Where are you going at this time of the day?" (as if to say - at 11am isn't it a bit late to start an excursion?). "Eh, we wanted to go up to the waterfall!" - "Ah, the Sentiero del Fiume! That's ok, at least there should be some shade!". Actually good thing that a good part of the path is in the forest, because the sun that day, was really burning. "Be careful!" he warned, "you'll probably encounter some biscie..." [A biscia is a small, harmless grass-snake in italian country sides]. Now, Grandpa was beginning to be a little too much... "Hey, this way you'll frighten my wife!", I say, to lighten the mood, "...then she'll change her mind and she'll not be wanting to go up anymore". "Oh, well...", he smiles, "you have the sticks to chase them away!", he tries, a little clumsily, to encourage her.
To tell the truth, R. was not frightened at all. Grandpa waves wishing us a good hike. We won't meet any terrible monster (anyway, what's wrong with biscie?). Later we will laugh for his thoughtful suggestions.

Unfortunately Maddie recently broke a crossed ligament and that day she was waiting for the operation. Now she is recuperating and, even if everything will be ok, she still has to wait few months before she'll be able to hike again. Thus, this time she stayed home, and Mr. Bentley decided the same for keeping her company. Good thing, since in some points the path would have been impassable for them.

Entering via dell'Acqua Bianca you can find the first signs, with trail marker n. 15B pointing

I, climbing on a point with chains
to "Sentiero del Fiume" that, along with the red dots painted on the rocks, were a constant help to find our way. The asphalted road, after the last houses of the village, slowly descends on a carriage road. Here we met some animals (donkeys and goats) in a corral. Soon the carriage road becomes a small path and in the ups and downs, it arrives to the level of the river. Here it starts the most scenic part of the excursion, that coast the river and crosses it several times in easy fords. Here you find also some little waterfalls flowing in small ponds, so much tempting that i was almost ready to dive in.

one of the many fords
The hike, in some points, then becomes more difficult. Impossible to pass some tracts without clinging to the chains nailed to the rocks for that purpose. To tell the truth it's not that terrible an experience, if not for somebody like me that suffer for dizzy spells. Once one hangs to the chains it is pretty easy, but the cliff, in some points about a dozen meters high, was not encouraging at all.
The hardest part of the climb is when we arrived to the bottom of the wonderful waterfall Cascata di Era. The path is very steep, the top of the cascade, where path n. 15B ends up crossing with n. 15.
Going right from here, within another fifteen minutes we could go to Alpe di Era (mountain farmhouses) where there is also a small chapel. We cut this part and went back to Somana following the yellow dots along path n. 15. This part of the excursion, more flat, is much easier than the outward. This path dominates, on one side, the canyon where the river flows, and in some points it is possible to see the path 15B we covered before, much lower on the other side.

Niche at one station of the Cross
All of the sudden there is a little church with some rooms that volunteers run as a refreshment point, collecting money for the maintainance of the chapel. Thirsty, we stop by for a coke (the one-liter waterbottle has been dried up a long time before!).
After a quick visit to the cool interior of the church we restart our hike. The last part is a very long descent on irregular steps, marked at intervals by the stations of the Way of the Cross (that, going down, we cover backwards). The path terminates on the main road, at one hairpin bend after the crossing with via dell'Acqua Bianca.

The excursion, although long and hard, doesn't have insuperable difficulties, apart the small tracts with chains. The 15B is anyway labeled with a double E (Expert Excursionists). Since the river can have sudden floods, it is not advisable if there is the risk of rain. Because of the frequent fords (we got water till the ankles) it is suggested to wear waterproof hiking boots.
  • Time: 2:41
  • Distance: 15.5km [9.63mi]
  • Difference of level: 591m [1939'] (1146m [3760'] uphill and 555m [1821'] downhill)
  • Altitude: from 343m [1125'] to 934m [3064']
  • Backward:
  • Time: 2:06
  • Distance: 8.16km [5.07mi]
  • Difference of level: -591m [-1939'] (214m [702'] uphill and 805m [2641'] downhill)
  • Altitude: from 934m [3064'] to 343m [1125']
  • GPS track of the excursion.
    In red the outward on path n. 15B, in yellow the backward on n. 15.
    A: parking lot; B-C: Era waterfall; D: chapel-refreshment
    Cumulative statistics of the 5 excursions from the beginning of this year:
  • Total time: 16:31
  • Distance: 58.39km [36.28mi]
  • Difference of level: 3646m [11962']
  • Minimum altitude: 343m [1125']
  • Maximum altitude: 1550m [5085']
  • Monday, June 8, 2009

    Pea festival

    Sunday, May 31st, Casalborgone (TO).

    Pea omelette, Voul-au-vent with pea sauce, Lasagne with peas, Gogu (pea-stuffed ravioli) with butter and sage, meat stew with peas.

    I, Maddie and Mr. Bentley at Casalborgone
    "Madam, has it been a long time since they make this festival?" I ask to the nice elderly woman that is having lunch with another lady friend right in front of us. "Uhm... it could be atleast thirty years" she says thoughtfully. It looks like in these little villages they all know each other, in fact, sitting next to us, an old man that wants to tell us his opinion at any rate intervenes: "No way! it is atleast fifty years!". After that they say something in Piemontese dialect that i cannot understand. Then the lady, facing me again, adds "Here, for this event, in the past they also used to sell a lot of peas. Then the Lancia factory [car industry nereby] came and the young people preferred a reliable job to the pea plantations. They sold up to two-three hundreds quintals [1 quintal = 100kg = 220lb], you know?" and the elderly man "Two-three hundred? They passed also one thousand quintals!". I love chatting with these people! "I heard there are also guided tours in the historical center town. Is it nice to see?". "It's wonderful" she says, "'s worth to go to see, although, in only 20 minutes by foot you can see everything there is to see" - "20 minutes? - It will take at least one hour and a half if one wants to see really everything!"... and so on, tit for tat for the whole duration of the lunch.

    The festival organization is really good, you pay before at the cashier, choosing from the displayed menu, they give you some tickets with the names of the dishes. When you sit at the table, the efficient volunteers for the local tourist board collect those tickets, and soon they come back soon with the chosen plates and drinks.

    For the guided tours at the center town, there is an electric tourist train with three or four wagons ("in the past there were 20 wagons" the elderly man ensures). We preferred to go by car to avoid waiting for the next run. The center is actually very small but it looks carved in History. Every garden is full of colored flowers, every lane opens on a new landscape in the Monferrato hills.

    At the typical products market we bought a couple of kilos of peas and some other products.

    A lovely day passed in a place of peace and harmony.


    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Elections day

    Let's go to vote in a large number and let's try to throw this idiot down from the throne.