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12 June 2020 - Day 62 – Termoli and San Severo

Up just before 8, cleaned up, packed for clear skies and 70’s with the light jacket on, I was down the stairs and off for Pescara Centrale by 8:30. The fifteen minute walk allowed me to grab a coffee and roll on the way, and once I determined where the 9:05 to Termoli would platform, I was headed there. When the train pulled in, I noted less filled carriages up front, so began rolling that way, and was able to put my roller into the baggage rack near the doors, and found a seat by the window, albeit looking where we’d been.

Seventy-five minutes and a dozen stops later, we’d travelled 100km southeast along the Adriatic coast. My final destination today was San Severo, and the next train going there left at one o’clock in the afternoon. So I had almost two and three-quarters hours as a layover. And Termoli happened to have a cathedral and some interesting history.

Of course, first I had to stash my luggage. Once clearing the station, I headed past the pair of hotels near the station that I’d asked via email, only to have them offer to rent me a room! The auberge I’d finally found, Locanda Alfieri, was less than 15 minutes away, with a slight downhill grade, and close to the two must sees for me. Manuela, who had confirmed, was there and we sat and had a cup of coffee. No charge for the bag, this was a great setup. A small 4-star lodging, it is close to the beaches and harbor, and set in the middle of the old city.

The Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria della Purificazione was less than 200m further north, with its entry façade facing east. On the Piazza Duomo, the basic style is Romanesque, with touches of remodeling and restorations from later periods. With a singular entry point within the central archway, there are matched triple arched insets above door height on either side of the central larger arch. A single circular rose window is set in the peak directly over the door.

Entering, it is not a deep nor wide church; organ pipes are mounted above the door. Columns supporting the clerestory windows providing natural light delineate the side aisles. Eleven stairs raise the altar above the nave floor, with the lectern set on the steps, while the cathedra, of carved stone, is at altar level on the right. A small stained-glass window is the sole ornamentation in the stone apse, which is filled with wooden choir seating. The entire interior of the church appears constructed of the same light stone blocks. I liked their stand for the Pascal candle, located by the lectern. There are two chapels, each dedicated to the exposition of the relics of the city’s patron saints: St Bassus of Lucera and St Timothy, Paul’s disciple and first bishop of Ephesus.

The older parts of #Termoli are built on a promontory that extends out from the mainland. The port barrier wall extends east from this, providing a nice safe harbor. I decided to walk along the cathedral’s north side out to the street and overlook, to see the lido (beach) off to the north, and visit the lighthouse. The view north was great, and I could see the breakwaters that protected the beaches. There is no climbing this modern lighthouse. From the other side looking south, I viewed the roadway to the harbor piers. Crossing back to the north, I headed to the Castello Svevo di Termoli.

Built shortly after the cathedral, this is the remains of a defensive building protecting the #Molise coast. Initially part of an effort to unite Germany and Italy, after the 1456 earthquake, repair was an effort of Ferdinand I of Aragon (Spain). Part of an encircling wall, it is all that remains. It still has military uses, as a small radar station has been built at the peak.

Heading back, I collected my bag, and began strolling towards the station, enjoying the shops as I walked through the commercial district. Returning to the station with 10 minutes before departure time, I was able to head to the platform and be ready for the train to pull in. Promptly at 13:02, the regional train pulled in with 4 carriages and I boarded the second. I stashed my bag behind the last seat and then sat there, spending the 42 minutes writing in my journal and looking out the window.

With this trip, I’d left the region of Molise and the province of #Campobasso for San Severo, in the region of #Apulia and province of Foggia. I’m slowly getting an understanding of the differences of these designations, such that provinces combine into a region. In any case, new cuisines and wines to try, and more history to learn.

#SanSevero is set well inland (after the two coastal towns I’d just visited.) It is reputed to be one of the last Italian settlements to stay pagan (until 536), having originally been founded by Greeks. After the fall of Rome, it was vacated, becoming a base for a monastery. Refounded in the 11th century, it became a trade town, and was part of Venetian, Florentine, Saracen and Templar jurisdictions. Into medieval and renaissance times, various kings and emperors sold the town off, with periods of relative self-sufficiency. Papal forces and the French were there for a time. By the 19th century, the citizens began advocating for a unified Kingdom of Italy. During the second world war, it was home to an airfield of the US Air Force.

The train station is a simple building, with two island platforms handling 3 incoming trains, and located on the east end of the city. My lodgings were a kilometer and a half due west and through the heart of the town. Until the Piazza Incoronazione, I was on a pedestrian way with trees lining both sides. Getting closer to the original circular street layout, there were a few more turns until I got to the Via Soccorso, passing the north face to the cathedral. Another 6 blocks, a right turn took me five short blocks to my B&B.

Up two steps from the sidewalk and then another 5 into the lobby, I found this to be a prissy-elegant place. My room was up a level, via a curving stone staircase, and overlooked the narrow courtyard in the back of the building. I have a very nice large room, a large enough bed, and floor space galore. The place felt like a destination facility, geared to hosting families for weddings and similar events. Ah well, how does one know?

Dropping my bag upstairs in the room, I returned to the street and set off for the cathedral. The entry to the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta faces west, its façade seemingly two stacked rectangular blocks. The upper contains a small rose window. The lower has three doors; the two outer doors have small rectangular windows above; while the wider central door is taller, framed with columns. The facing is yellow stucco, with white used for the trim and column features. A campanile, square to the level of the central vault, and then an octagonal two levels capped with a dome, sits to the south of the apse as the transept.

Inside, the ornateness is seriously baroque. While the nave is five bays, the columns are faced in red and gold, supporting natural-light from the clerestory. The presbytery is at the same level as the nave, with a ciborium over the high altar. Carved wooden choir stalls line the chancel, and a geometric design fills the overhead vault. Paintings are placed into elaborate marbles and stucco framing built into the walls, as colored glass windows provide more light. After the simplicity and stripped-down plainness of Termoli, this was like sugar-shock.

When I left the cathedral, I brought up Maps to see where the center might be. Piazza della Repubblica seemed a likely candidate. What it turned out to be was a pedestrian space within a commercial district. The Chiesa ed ex Monastero della Santissima Trinità dei Celestini, an old building on this street, has been turned into the City Hall. But it did push me north towards the Piazza Municipio and the Chiesa Matrice di San Severino. The city’s name derives from this saint, albeit it was originally named for a Roman governor. Important to the city folks, St Severino had twice appeared in the sixteenth century to aid the city in its defenses. A Romanesque church, it had little to keep me there.

Walking north, In Vino Veritas Wine bar caught my eye. I’d skipped lunch, and had nothing further on my agenda, so I figured I might be able to sample some wines from Apulia. When I arrived, they were just opening, earlier than their usual 8pm start, but it is Friday, the weather is good, and I was lucky.

I took a small table outside, ordered an appetizer whose name I’ve forgotten to write down, but it was two slabs of bread, toasted and doused with a little olive oil, with shaved cheese, arugula, strawberries and tomatoes under a drizzle of balsamic. As this is also a winery, I did their wine sampler, which included two whites, a rosé, and two reds. (I got an alternate white to avoid the initial prosecco.)

The whites were bombino bianco: yellow, minerally, lightly citrus; and Greco bianco: straw color, peaches for aroma and really mild to taste. The rosé, made from the negroamaro grape, native here, is typically bitter (hence the name) but as a pink, it is tart and dry with a hint of sour cherry. The reds were a nero di Troia, with big tannins and medium acidity with cherry and tobacco aromas, and bombino nero, from Castel del Monte, deep red color, light flavor and nose. The tasting opened me up to try more rosé from the region, as well as the nero di Troia. And maybe the bombino bianco when I need a white fix.

As it was approaching 5pm, I decided to walk back to the B&B. Two hundred meters on the same ring road, I greeted the reception and asked if there was a concierge service. A university student, Ute (native German), has been on a tourism work-study program, and she came out to see me. I explained my two needs: a dinner reservation for a place with Apulia cuisine, and perhaps some assistance finding a place to leave my bag in #Foggia tomorrow morning, so that I didn’t have to return to the B&B to recover it before heading to Barletta for tomorrow evening. Setting an 8pm dinner time (flexible), I said I’d retire to my room for an hour or so.

Upstairs, I unzipped the roller after putting it on the ground, and began a little sorting. Organization is usually the last thing to happen, as I don’t usually allow the time. So shifting stuff around, I felt set for my time on the Adriatic coast. I pulled out my journal and started on my San Severo doings and thoughts. After an hour, the room phone rang and Ute had my issues handled. I walked back downstairs, and she had two sheets of paper – my dinner restaurant for an 8pm table for one, and a store near the station in Foggia which would hold my bag. She declined my proffered tip, graciously. Thanking her, I stepped out onto the street. I’d noticed a florist as I’d walked from the wine bar, so I went back and picked up a small arrangement. Ute was flustered, but there was no way to take it back, so I left her with a big smile, and a few jealous looks from other female staff.

I had over an hour before I needed to leave for dinner, so I pulled out the netbook and began writing the blog for my time in Termoli. I still had to match pictures, but at least I had a start. Heading back in the direction of the cathedral, I arrived at the Osteria dei Santi, directly across from the cathedral but down an alley, and discovered I’d left my journal behind. So all I have is my memory and the pictures from my phone. And I didn’t take one of the menu either. I guess I’m getting older?

My starter was an antipasti salad, with sliced chicken and raw tuna, orange slices and spring greens. The primi was a ravioli dish, in a thick veggie broth, with chopped eggplant on top. (I really couldn’t tell how this was made, but I know I’d eat it again, and my vegetarian friends would love it.) My secondi was what I would call a schnitzel, a veal scallopini, battered and deep fried. But this had real seasonings, with a lot of onion and garlic so it had lots of flavor and was truly delicious. Served with marinated red peppers, I don’t even know if I had eaten something (anything) that was Apulian. But I didn’t care.

I found the lightest and smallest dessert, as I really wasn’t hungry – a meringue. Flavored with orange, it was just the right thing. Really hit the spot. And because my meal had been focused away from red meat or tomato, I was able to order a native rosé, this a blend of bombino nero and negroamaro grapes. The former added something to balance out the natural tart/bitterness of the latter, making this a better wine to me. Now I just have to remember what the label looked like, since it didn’t make it into the phone either. I have 4 more days in Apulia.

Walking back, I passed the Teatro Verdi which looked stunning in the street lights. I learned that it offers opera, theater, recitals, concerts, ballet and dance, and lectures. There is a controversy related to a 1987-91 modification, which resulted in cutting seating and sight lines, and still isn’t popular. Back at the hotel, I headed to my room and started updating my journal with what I could remember from my dinner, using my phone’s photos. I fired up the netbook, downloaded photos from both the camera and phone, and finished writing the blog.

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