We had been traveling for two days without sleep. When we finally bedded down at the Albergo Alle Alpi, it came easy – also, the grappa didn’t hurt. Due Cappuccinos and a simple pastry to start the day and we are ready for the momentous hike. The plan is to hike the trail of my grandmother’s youth from Frisanco to Fanna, my grandparents’ village in Friuli. We had consulted with a few locals who have confirmed the existence of the trail and it’s ease. This is good because it is about 9 AM and already we can feel the heat of the day bearing down on us. My brother Ange, our tour guide and the closest thing to a local in our entourage, will be tending to some business in Fanna. So he will not be participating in the hike. We will meet him in Fanna in a couple of hours for lunch. He drops us off at a chapel at the top of the hill in Frisanco at the trailhead. There is a trailhead sign, so onward we go.
My brother, our guide to this foreign land, departs and we start the hike. From the trailhead we can see Fanna. How hard can this be? I mean, I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon. About two minutes in we have no cell phone signal, but we continue on. The trail starts to split in different directions, still we continue on. The heat & humidity are now at Philadelphia levels and we only have about 24oz of water between four of us, but we keep going. Each split in the trail seems to lead to a dead end and a thorny brier patch. At points I am crawling under the thicket to see if the trail continues. I didn’t even bother wearing hiking attire – I am now soaked in sweat, my clothes are torn and I am bleeding in several places (I am finally regretting the Grappa). Doesn’t Italy have Boy Scouts that maintain these trails? We have a choice – keep going and risk getting lost in the mountains of Italy and worse, missing lunch. That, or we head back to Frisanco, while we can still recognize the trail. After a moment of indecisiveness, my nephew Patrick points out that we can be back in time for a gnocchi lunch in Frisanco. We turn around and head back. Along the way we acknowledge the abuse we will take at our next family function – after all, Nonna did this hike yearly. But we console ourselves with thoughts of Gnocchi Pomodoro just over the hill. This time at Alle Alpi, we indulge in some of the more seasonal dishes. We have Vitello Tonnato, sliced veal in tuna sauce, and Bresaola, a cured beef with arugula, lemon and Grana Padano. Of course we also had the Gnocchi Pomodoro.
Another gnocchi lunch under our (straining) belts and we continue the day. We are joined by our cousin Max from Maniago. He guides us on brief trip through the mountains to Longarone. An extraordinarily tragic event occurred here in 1963 when the side of a mountain slid into the reservoir of the newly constructed Vajont dam. The resulting wave wiped out the entire town of Longarone in an instant in the middle of the night. The dam stood and the town rebuilt and today thrives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajont_Dam
After a quick dip in the frigid Vajont River, we head to Maniago, where Louisa, Max’s mother, has been preparing food all day for our visit. First, we stop in Maniago to do some shopping.
Maniago is famous for its knives. I have been waiting to visit some of the shops to learn about the proper knives for cutting large wheels of harder aged cheeses such as parmesan and grana padano. I purchase a wide and heavy Chisel knife that I will try to learn and use. My 14 year old son is also very interested in purchasing a knife. After my refusing him the ‘Rambo’ knife (yes – the knife used by Stallone came from Maniago) we settled on a nice high quality pocket knife that will last a lifetime. As I looked around the square of Maniago at the dinner hour, I noticed that many people were drinking an orange colored cocktail. The drink is called a Furlan. Depending on who you ask it is made from proseco, Aperol and an orange slice. Aperol is a bitter, orange colored liquor. The Italians love their bitter drinks and I grew to enjoy it as well. Next: Louisa’s amazing home cooked meal – Polenta and Brasato al vino nero.
1 oz seltzer
1 orange slice
2oz white wine
2 oz Gassosa (or Sprite)
1 orange slice