A Week at Rocca di Benano

This post is another wonderful guest’s answer to the ever-popular “what would a week at Rocca di Benano be like?” question. I like his answer, particularly the “discovery” of Anguillara Sabazia on the shores of Lake Bracciano. And don’t miss the last shot, when he and his family had to leave Benano. 

Thanks very much, Mike. We’re looking forward to having you back to Rocca di Benano!

It has taken a while but I’m finally writing about our perfect week this past August in Benano. Since our son and daughter-in-law live in Florida it was longest all five of us had been able to spend together over the past few years. It was a wonderful trip and I’d like to share a few highlights.

To make the most of this trip we hired Francis for the entire week. That could not have worked out any better. Driver and interpreter, tour guide, photographer, historian and storyteller. He even helped  with grocery shopping.

We visited many of the same cities and sites that other Benano guests have experienced. However, we would like to highlight a couple of places we visited that others might be interested in reading about. We arrived in Rome on Saturday morning. Since official check-in isn’t until 4pm, we used the time traveling between Rome and Benano to visit the city (or is it a village?) of Anguillara Sabazia. It’s just bit north of Rome and sits on the shore of Lake Bracciano. If anyone is a fan of the television show Everybody Loves Raymond you would recognize it as the site where they shot their two-part episode in Italy.

Our family is a fan of that show and we can remember seeing that episode for the first time and thinking how nice it would be if someday we could visit a place like that. Well, that someday came. Of course, the town was spruced up a bit for the filming but it’s still as picturesque as it is in the show.

Another site we visited was the Florence American Cemetery. It’s just off the A1 Autostrada south of the city of Florence. This is one of two American World War II cemeteries in Italy. This is the resting place for soldiers killed in the later stages of fighting in Italy, after the Allied liberation of Rome. The other cemetery is near Anzio.

We left Benano early for the drive north, spent some time at the cemetery and then, rather than go into Florence, made our way back toward Benano and spent the rest of the day in Siena. The campo in Siena just happened to be set up for their famous horse race, the Palio, which was going to run the next day. Since we did not see Florence itself we have one more reason to someday return to Benano. Actually it was such a wonderful week all around I don’t think we need any one single reason to come back.

We were on the go every day. We visited Orvieto twice, Civita di Bagnorigio, Assisi, the sagra in Torre Alfina (along with return visits for dinner and gelato), Pienza, Montepulciano, Siena and a full day in Rome capped with an evening dinner on the beach in Fiumicino. We still found time to enjoy Benano, too, with a couple of evenings grilling on the terrace and a special Creole dinner on our last night there.

We had a wonderful time in Italy and at Rocca di Benano. It was the trip of a lifetime. At least until we’re able to go back!

Wandering Around … Cemeteries

There are two beautiful and poignant WWII cemeteries near Benano.

The Orvieto war cemetery is primarily a battlefield cemetery. The dates of death are almost all about the same — and all of them are way too close to the dates of birth. They were so young.

The British men buried here died within weeks of June 5, 1944, the day that Rome fell to the Allies. So in early June, these Brits were fighting against the Italians. They died in late June, fighting with Italians to chase the Germans out of the country.

Bolsena War Cemetery

The Bolsena War Cemetery is also a short drive from Benano. The sentiment of gratitude from the Italians is reflected by the meticulous maintenance bestowed on these cemeteries. There are flowers planted at the base of all the headstones that bloom every year.

And the guest books! The guest book comments from family members from England who have come to pay tribute to uncles and great-uncles they never met are heart-rending.

 

The richly appointed cemetery just outside Orvieto

One of my Italian teachers was surprised to hear me refer to the beauty of the War Cemeteries, and she insisted that I visit the Italian Cemetery on a hill just across a very small valley from Orvieto.

We found the cemetery on the road toward Bolsena. As soon as we entered,  I understand her point. It is everything the war cemeteries are not – lush, elaborate, and exuberant expressions of grief. Very Italian, and also beautiful.

 

 

A Bit of WWII Perspective from Benano

The war came very close to home. A neighbor explained to us over coffee one morning that she lost her hand in 1947 when she picked up an unexploded ordnance in the field just outside Benano. From her description, I realized it happened in this field, which sits just below our dining room windows