A Week in Villa Il Piņa, Montecorice

Oct 13 - 21 2017


Bishop's Alumni


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It was an easy ride to Agropoli Sud and we easily found our comfortable B&B, Antico Casale. The manager didn’t speak any English but we understood most of our instructions anyway. Our first choice for our evening meal was a restaurant that kept Italian hours i.e. they did not start serving until 8 PM. We compromised and found a good pizza place in the village. They do make good pizzas in Italy.


The next morning we had time to explore Agropoli, especially the beach before heading to the grocery to stock up for the coming week. David and Suzanne Andrews were in the parking lot of the grocery in Agropoli Sud, followed a few minutes later by Cathy Pawley and Ginny and Huibert Arnold. The Arnolds and Cathy left soon after and the rest of us bought our supplies and headed nearby for a nice lunch at El Ceppo, the best place in town.


After lunch we followed the instructions given us by the owners to meet them in a small village near Montecorice, In Cafe Medici. Before leaving Canada we had used Google street view to follow the directions given and had located what had to be the cafe. Getting there without google was difficult. Especially when we got into a village where we recognized a few of the buildings from our search at home and found a cafe but it was not Cafe Medici. We stopped anyway and were very pleased when a man approached us from the cafe and asked if we were the Burnham group. Happily, we had found the right place, although the cafe had been renamed Cafe D.O.C. Hopefully the directions will have been updated for the next visitors.


We followed our host, Gaetano, up the steep switchbacks to the gates of our villa, Il Piņa. There we were relieved to see the Arnolds and Neil and Claudia Carver parked outside the gates, waiting for us.


We drove in and found parking places and trooped inside to choose our rooms and get organized. That is when I found myself dealing with shortages of essentials in all the rooms. The beds were unmade and not every room had either linen or towels. There was no soap or toilet paper in the bathrooms. It was a mess. The number of people staying in the villa had been arranged and agreed to with the rental agency months in advance. I had paid the rent for the week and had agreed to pay the extra charges on arrival. I had enough cash to pay the cleaning fee, estimated electrical charges and linen fees for all of us. After multiple arguments about how many people were in our group and the number of beds in each room, Gaetano and I came to an agreement. Enough toilet paper, towels, linen and blankets were found for all the rooms and Gaetano’s co-worker, William, agreed to go to a nearby store and buy soap for our group. Thankfully the villa had enough charms to get over the rough start and we all enjoyed our visit to the less visited Cilento Coast.


We settled into our usual routine:

All food and wine expenses were tallied and shared with the group.

Breakfast was whenever, with whatever was in the fridge.

Lunch was also on your own.

Activities during the day were not organized for the group. Each person was free to join someone else to explore the area or plan an activity for themselves.

Swimming in the ocean at various nearby beaches was popular.

Walks and drives to local villages were popular.

A bridge table evolved for late afternoon or in the evening.

Pre-dinner drinks and munchies were outside on the patio.

Groups of three or four of took charge of dinner in the evening.


The Dunphys and Ray and I had bought pasta and sausages for a meal and volunteered to make dinner that night. Kathy and Andy Greiner arrived before supper and Jim and Ginnie made it after dark, straight from Naples airport. A string of tables, with seating for 20 people, became our dining room next to the kitchen. Pre-dinner drinks and snacks were served and consumed. The noise level increased as each person related their activities prior to their arrival that day. Dinner was a success. We were all here to renew our friendships and have a good time.


The one excursion that interested everybody was a visit to the Greek ruins at Paestum. Cathy Pawley and the Arnolds were the first to go and came back speaking the site’s praises. The rest of us made the trip the next day. Ray and I took the Carvers in our car, driving the scenic route over the mountains. We stopped at the pretty, hillside village of Perdifumo, with flower boxes in the windows and nicely restored ancient buildings.


Back on the coastal road, we reached the UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site, Paestum, just north of Agropoli. Paestum, an ancient Greek city dating from 600 to 450 BC, is famous for its three Doric temples, dedicated to the Greek gods Hera, Athena and Poseidon. The city was conquered by Lucanians, then the Romans and eventually abandoned in the middle ages. The city was named Poseidonia by the Greeks and later renamed Paestum by the Romans. The temples were also renamed by the Romans to their gods, Juno, Minerva and Neptune. The city came to be noticed in the 18th C after the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the construction of a new coastal road south of Naples. In 1943, the American chose Paestum as a landing beach for the Allied Invasion of Italy. Both the Germans and the Allies had declared the ancient temples off limits to bombing, so the temples became a tented hospital and remained unharmed. It was a fascinating visit. We spent several hours exploring the site, walking through the ruins of a once thriving city and visiting the Archaeological Museum.


Ray was using a cell phone app called “maps.me” to navigate through Italy. The app works very well but it does have its difficulties. We encountered one of the problems trying to take a different route through the village of Montecorice, which was about 2 KM below our villa. Maps.me led us into a small piazza in front of a church. We took some photos then tried to leave following the directions up a narrow, steep street near the church. As soon as we started up there were warning shouts from locals in the square. It was obvious we were in trouble. We were headed to an archway too narrow for our car to pass. I got out of the car to direct Ray as he backed down the hill, hoping to turn around and get out of there. A local woman also came to our rescue and helped me direct Ray. He made it. I don’t think we were the first tourist to get stuck in that spot.


Castellabate, (the castle above) was perched on one of the highest hills in the area, 300 M above San Marco and Santa Maria beach towns. It was the location of a popular movie some time ago and was now on the list of stops for several tour companies. Ray had been curious about this town of white building on the hilltop. We drove to Castellabate following narrow switchbacks until we were at the base of the town and found a parking place. We head up to the center of town by climbing steep staircases, navigating through dark corridors and stopping to admire the views far below us. There were several flowered piazzas on every level of town. We visited the Castle itself, now a small museum. The castle was founded in 1123, and provided shelter for the residents during raids by the Saracens. The museum had a few naval relics and amphora but the main draw for visitors and residents is summer concerts performed on a terrace. We had missed the last performance of the season but we did enjoy a good lunch in one piazza boasting several restaurants.


Another day we walked from the villa to visit the local cemetery, about 1 km farther uphill. Cemeteries are always a good way to see how various cultures differ in the way they remember their ancestors. Farther up hill we walked through more small villages, one with a small factory producing olive oil. Olive groves were on each level of the hills surrounding our villa and it was harvest time. Farmers were spreading nets below the trees and using special rakes to collect the ripening olives. We made it to the top of the hill where a construction site indicated that someone was building their house so that they would get the best 360 ° views in the area.


Friday was our last day together. Dinner that night was an opportunity to celebrate two birthdays. October 21 is Suzanne Andrews birthday and October 30 is Claudia Carvers birthday. Ray and I had bought a special cake large enough for our whole group earlier in the day. We put all the candles we had on the cake and brought it in as a surprise dessert. We sang Happy Birthday to both women and had both share serving the cake, with ice cream brought by Dunphys for the occasion. Suzanne and Claudia were very pleased.


Checkout time was the next Saturday morning. We were all going our own ways, some going straight home to Canada, some staying longer in Italy. Ginnie and Jim Galloway were continuing on for another ten days in Italy travelling with South African friends who had just arrived the night before, after we were all in bed. We were introduced to Lizzie and Alan Schwarer when they came down to breakfast and sent them off with leftovers from our food supplies.


The two managers, Gaetano and William, arrived at the villa to confirm there were no unacknowledged problems and to take final readings of electricity, water and gas consumption. The results were good. Our final cost was less than what we had paid on arrival and so we got a rebate. We ended our trip on a good note, although I would hope the next people to occupy the villa find their arrival less chaotic.


We left to drive to Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast, where we would spend our last night before returning to Paris to visit with our family.



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