In the morning, Piazza Torino. It's not very clear which of the bus stops is the right one, and the local drivers hanging about have different ideas on the subject. I pick my favorite and hope it's right, because there's no way I'm running across the intersection with this heavy pack. If I miss it, I've got half an hour to mosey over to the right spot and wait for the next one.
Turns out I picked a winner, and off we go, down from Cuneo's hill and back over the plain. With the low clouds, there's no way to see the surrounding mountains at all, and the close foothills are just shadows. Then finally we approach a town stacked up against a hillside - Saluzzo!
Now, to get to the hotel go straight (though stay right), past the marketplace in full Saturday morning swing, then straight up. There are some little lefts and rights, but the bus driver seems to have mentioned them just for absolute completeness: the zigzags are matters of a few feet either way. Must be from here. It's almost surprising he didn't warn me of that dogpile, but I see it in time.
I'm meeting up with my Rotary friends in an hour, which is just time for a quick turn around town. I think there's a guided tour of Saluzzo later.
Does that say noon? Time to head back to the hotel and catch my ride to the village where we're all meeting for lunch.
Our lunching spot is at the foot of a hill with a great castle on top. Would love to go see it, but it's not on the schedule. Dang. If I'd thought for a minute we'd be right here then not get any closer, I would have hiked up there instead of spending so much time milling around waiting for the critical mass of Rotarians to be reached so that lunch could be served. Merisia would have gone with me, I'm sure.
Finally we are all together, and on the road with our guide. The first visit is not the castle on the hill, which I am assured is a kitchy reconstruction, but to the monk's shelter across the road. All the land around here used to belong to various monastic orders, and when they sent their guys out to work the orchards (in this case apples), there was a place for them to take shelter and worship.
After that, the Monastery. I forget which one, what order, and even if it's the one the orchard shelter belonged to (surely). What I get for not taking notes. But I refused to take notes. Our guide was great. She knew Everything. She knew everything, and she wanted to share it All, which is great at first, but then gets quite long in two languages and really really long when you realize that she's not going to skip one detail. (well, she did skip a lot of them in French, but the Italian explanation was interminable).
|detail from the fresco in the upper right of the previous photo|
|Monastery cloister, with hidden cats|
After this visit, there was supposed to be another stop, but it's getting late, and people want to relax before the grand dinner. Most of the French participants set out at 6 or 7 am, and would like a shower, and to press their clothes.
We get back to the hotel at 6:30, and those of us who want to shop for local stuff have just half an hour before the shops close. Six of us want to shop, but it's like herding cats to actually get going. There will be no going alone, of course, so we advance at the pace of the slowest and make it to the local supermarket with just time to pore over olive oils and wines and cookies and make our purchases before last bell.