Some years ago, I had seen this Geroge Clooney-starring thriller called The American. While I was taken in by the story, it was the place that it was set in (Abruzzo in Italy) that really impressed me. The last time I was as impressed by the Italian country side, was while watching The Godfather.
Cobbled stone roads going up and down hillsides, church bells ringing in the background, old nonnas going about business in their Sunday finest – were scenes I had formed in my mind to associate with Italian villages.
The detour in Trento had suddenly increased our appetite to see more such small non-touristy Italian towns. Our Airbnb in Jesolo wasn’t very far from two well-known villages in northern Italy – Arqua Petrarca and Monselice. The plan was to head to Padua directly, but since these two villages were on the way, the decision was made, to make it a staggered journey with two pit stops.
Monselice is located around mountain valley. The entry to the mountain involves walking through an arched gateway – a definite throwback to its walled past. There weren’t many people around, apart from the local hangers on outside a Gelateria. This sort of communal places are so abundant in small towns, be it anywhere on the planet. And rare in cities such as Mumbai.
Walking up the stony pathways, reminded me of one travel show – Grandma’s Boy – where a chef tries his hand at cooking traditional Italian dishes under the guidance of Italian nonnas (grandmas). Reason being, there are a lot of montages of small Italian villages which are shown during the show. The one I was walking in, could easily be one of those.
At the top of the Rocca hill is the Monselice Castle. Somewhere close to the highest point of the hill is the church of San Giorgio, and if you continue walking further, there are rows of six small chapels – the Seven Churches Sanctuary. These form part of a pilgrimage which is at par with the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.
These chapels are located at a slight height from the regular road, with the connecting wall covered in lush green vines. The immense use of stone in the architecture, as well as with the pathways, certainly makes this area fire-proof.
Arqua Petrarca makes it to every ‘Villages to be seen in Italy’ list. But it is more renowned as the home of poet – Francesco Petrarca aka Petrarch – who lived here in the 1370s. I just happened to see the house from the outside, but since I had just learnt about the poet while researching the town, there wasn’t much to do going inside.
Arqua Petrarca, just like Monselice, is a town located around a hill. Although I didn’t notice too many religious places while walking around this town. I did spot a couple of cafes and gelaterias which looked like they were meant for locals. In terms of activity, there wasn’t much happening here either.
One cafe had an Italian football-jersey wearing old man who was staring into space. Even his dog was mimicking him, for a while, before getting back to playing around.
I kept my camera aside. Settled down myself under the shade of a tree. Watching Vespas pass by. Tyring my best to mimic the guy the in blue jersey, who seemed to be attracting a crowd.
Both Monselice and Arqua Petrarca, are located within a 20 km radius of the more popular Padua. If you are headed to this university town, make sure you take some time out to see these two beautiful villages as well.