Arriving in Italy – Old Tivoli

Tuesday 28 August 

I love Italy!!!!

We arrive at the hotel near Tivoli around 4.30pm By 5 we’re on our way to old Tivoli.

The road is steep and winding with hairpin bends, real hairpin bends!

It’s very old, everything was built in the thirteenth and fourteenth century. Tivoli is built on a steep hillside, the alleys are narrow and dark and intriguing. I like it very much because its a living town. As I look down alleys I can see washing hanging on lines suspended from upper windows. The buildings are all about three stories, and have sharp corners, I suppose to make the best use of the steep hill.

Some doors are open and we see a group of old men playing cards in a cool dark room.

Mass is being said as we arrive at the Duomo, and the Kyria Eyalason is being sung by a nun. She is accompanied by a softly playing organ. Her voice is lovely and the ambience in the church is very special. We will come back after mass.

As we leave the church we are accosted by a man with his hand stretched out, demanding to know what language we speak. He is menacing and we manage to move on.

Walking down the hill I see the Gothic House. It doesn’t have any characteristics of “gothic ness” it is rather pretty and bigger and more open than the other houses.

San Sivlestro is a Romanesque church. It’s simplicity is stunning. I really like how it has been untouched, unrestored for at least seven hundred years. It has two rows of white stone arches running the length of the church. There are windows above the arches to let in light. The ceiling is made of wooden beams that peak in the centre.

By the time we walk back up the hill to the Duomo it’s about 7pm.  An old lady is leaving. She grins at me and speaks rapidly in Italian. She laughs and i think she is telling me that peter must take care of me. She says “providence” three or four times, smiles and waves goodbye,

Within the church are beautiful frescoes on the ceilings and walls It seems that every town in Italy during the this period had talented artists. The Altar is under a half dome and behind and around it are wall to ceiling frescoes. It is magnificent.

The beggar we saw earlier has been joined by a few others. The priest beckons them. He obviously knows them, and has work for them.

Old Tivoli is very different from other towns. There have been no tourists and no shops

The hotel receptionist recommends a “seductive” restaurant that is beside the river. We eat al fresco, of course, at the edge of the drop down to the river. We are surrounded by foliage, alongside, across and up. It is beautiful. As the sunsets the colours change and the moon appears. Night falls and the moon is bright in the clear sky.

There is a ruined temple a near our table and it adds to the ambience especially when it is floodlit in the dark. That, and the candles on the tables, are the only light. 

The food is wonderful. We are warned that the servings are generous. Seafood  platters include mussels (that I would usually avoid but the flavour of these is subtle, especially the tiny ones), small delicious dumplings with dried sardines, shrimps on cress, finely sliced salmon, chopped up sharply flavoured sushi (I think was tuna), cubes of layered something’s that we’re the best of all. I couldn’t finish the scampi pasta, but managed to taste some of Peter’s melt in the mouth scallopini in a mushroom sauce. 

As we left we stopped to read the stone plaques where names of the rich and famous who had eaten at Sibilla had been carved … Napolean Bonaparte, the Queen of Sweden, and Austrian Archdukes had eaten there in the early 1800s, and more recently various Saudi princes and their families. Amazing!

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