Thursday, September 19
We had breakfast at La Novellina with Anna and Bart, friends of Judy’s. Anna was Judy’s Italian contact who set up our accommodations in Cicagna. Our party was too big for La Novellina, so John and Elaine’s daughters and their men stayed these two nights at another place nearby. Once we had regrouped, we began the ride north to Bettola.
This, by the way, is the single scariest ride of my life. For part of our way, our road ran right through a nature preserve on the side of a mountain, which meant one-lane dirt switchback roads without guard rails. Our drivers handled this amazingly well, and within a couple of hours we had crossed over the mountains and arrived at Bettola, the town where the Lavezzis moved from Soglio in the mid-1800s and from which they emigrated around 1870.
Our accommodations here were at the Villa Enrichetta, which in the USA would be called a dude ranch. Noël says the accommodations reminded her of band camp; and although my own camping recollections are more primitive, it is certainly rustic enough.
Bettola today has about 3,000 inhabitants, and to my eyes appears to be essentially a bedroom community for the town of Piacenza, about a half hour to the north. It has a very pretty town square and another beautiful church, and a remarkable bar called Vecchia Stazione (the Old Station), tended by a 33-year-old bundle of energy named Francesco Costa. Francesco is an old acquaintance of Judy’s, and has done some research work for her. Although he says his English is poor, he speaks it pretty well–certainly far better than any of us speak Italian. Francesco had us all in for drinks and snacks, and then we settled in at the Villa for dinner before what would be an early morning tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we meet the Big Cheese–about 100 pounds of Parmigiana Reggiano. We’re going on a cheese tour.