Thursday, October 30, 2008


San Diego was great, and is good fodder for fantasies, but Paducah is home. It will take me a few days to find my routine. Can't believe I've been away from here 3 out of the last 4 weeks. Here are a few more pics from the week. (All photos by my gracious host, Dr. H.Tilker.)

Foggy morning

On the brink of self discovery...but for a week!!??

There can be beauty in death

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Very briefly, I've been in San Diego all week, will return home tomorrow. The trip came up suddenly and unexpectedly. It was too good to refuse.

I still have one more Italian post to get out when I get back.

from the Tilker's deck

Mt. Laguna

Thursday, October 23, 2008


After the festivities of the night before the Americanas were a little late in getting their breakfast on this last complete day in Castelnuovo; folks straggled into the restaurant in bits and pieces. We spent the morning talking and walking around the grounds of the hotel. After lunch we headed back up the hill as a group where we would continue or tour of the town, led by our tireless leader, Dante.

The first thing we confronted in the piazza was the weekly market. Fortunately we got there before it departed early in the afternoon.

While others shopped I took some time to do this only sketch of the town.

Dante led us through the winding streets of Castelnuovo with a fixed destination in mind. My cousin Joan had a small bag of her father’s ashes, determined to leave them on a Castelnuovo hillside, and Dante knew just the spot.

To reach the location Dante had in mind we had to go through a private lane. He approached the woman standing in her yard looking at a hoard of strangers coming into her lane. After he explained who we were and what our mission was and she welcomed us into her yard and directed us to the back of her house. When I looked up I was, for just a moment, envious of my uncle’s ashes.

As we headed back to the street our new friend came out of the house with a plate of fresh figs from one of her several trees. They were wonderful, and, as a special treat we were invited to pick some of the figs ourselves which we enjoyed on our trek back through town. We were a tired but happy group of cousins when we gathered once again for our before dinner wine and conversation in the lounge. The food in Italy was fantastic, and none was any better than what we were served in Castelnuovo.

I must confess to falling in love in Italy. Our waitress Maria won my heart, but sadly she had a boyfriend, and Patience made it clear that we could not take her home.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Foggia and the train to Rome.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


When asked where we planned to visit while in Tuscany and Rome, and we replied Foggia and Castelnuovo, the usual response was, why? Until very recently Apulia (aka, Puglia) has not been a destination for tourists, and even now they are not very many, at least not in Foggia, and no one goes to Italy to visit Castelnuovo. So our arrival, 22 Americanas walking their streets generated a great deal of interest by the local residents. Old ladies stared at us from their balconies and doorsteps; their intense curiosity betrayed by their faces. As soon as Dante introduced himself, Antonio Renzulli’s son, Pasqual’s and Angelina’s brother, their faces would light up with recognition and we were warmly welcomed into the town. We later learned that we were thought to be evangelicals coming to convert them to I don’t know what.

The homes, shops, markets, and everything else in the town is unpretentious, existing to serve only the people of Castelnuovo. This was a refreshing change from everything we experienced in Tuscany and Rome.

Upon reaching the crest of the town from our hotel we were confronted by this arched street which would lead us to the central piazza.

A small park/piazza situated just outside of the arch overlooks the vast Puglia valley below.

The tiered piazza was anchored by the villages ancient church, as well as this one building that obviously needed major external support.

From the piazza we wandered up and down the convoluted streets, stopping from time to time for Dante to talk to the folks we encountered along the way. None of us could understand the animated conversations, but every once in awhile we would hear, “ah...Antonio’s son”, uttered with great delight.

We arrived at the "other side" of town where we took this photo.

Returning to the hotel, the clan slowly gathered in the lounge area and enjoyed some time together, as well as some wine, before sitting down to what would be a memorable meal to end our first day in Castelnuovo.

From the lounge to the dinning room...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Finally, after 10 days, we made our way to Castelnuovo Della Daunia, the hometown of my grandfather. This was the focus of the entire trip, where we would meet the remaining 16 members of our party and celebrate our connection to this Italian village. Fortunately my cousin Dante was with us. He grew up in Castlenuovo and lived there before coming to America as a young man. He was our guide and translator, and seeing the joy and pride on his face as he led us through the tiny streets and introduced us to old friends and aquaintances was as memorable as anything on this trip.

We left Rome early in the morning, on a train to Foggia, about 4 hours away. There were 11 of us, and the mood was rather festive as we enjoyed seeing the Italian country side unfold before us as we traveled south and east to Foggia. Shortly after arriving in Foggia we boarded a bus for the final leg of the journey, a one and a half hour ride through the beautiful hills and mountains of Apulia. Along the way stopping in one small town after another.

We arrive, climbing off the bus and retrieving our bags, and find ourselves standing in a small, empty piazza, not quite believing we are here.

Dante has made reservations for all of us at only hotel in town, and a nearby sign tells us it is about a mile away, down hill from the piazza. One by one we grab our bags and make our way to the hotel, totally in awe of the view before us. Thankfully the hotel sends a van to meet us, and we are able to send our luggage on ahead, preferring to continue walking.

Along the way we met up with others who arrived the day before.

The hotel is delightful, a wonderful oasis in what has been a hectic day.

Nathalie, Dante, and me on the hotel's terrace.

After settling in and getting ourselves together, we set out for town, this time going uphill, with Dante leading the way, stopping for a drink from one of the towns springs.