Jun 27, 2011

Rifugio Meggiana Piode

      The other weekend I went for a morning walk to one of the nearby refugios, Refugio Meggiana near Piode. Rifugio Meggiana is accessible, not only by one of the well-marked trails, but also by road...which is of course how I arrived. These buildings, many times set in very remote parts of the mountains, provide food and lodging for trekkers or for a place like Rifugio Meggiana, a good place just for a meal. They serve typical fare for the region which means good game - wild boar, deer as well as the normal meat. Very good food by the way.

       I took one of the dirt roads to the top of the nearby hill (constructed no doubt for those who have secluded homes in the area) and from my vantage point, I watched as several trekkers made their way up one of the shepherd's paths. These trails snake over the hills, creating one long and intricate necklace of little villages. Today's CAI, or Italian Alpine club, have identified and labelled many paths that trekkers and hikers use for sport. However, these paths which were at one time little known, except to the villagers and shepherds who used them, were useful as escape routes.

A village embedded in the hills, can be reached from Refugio Meggiana by trail.
At the end of WW2 after the close of Auschwitz, the notorious Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, made his escape by posing as an ordinary German soldier instead of his actual role as the deadly doctor at camp. Once he was free, he knew it was only a matter of time before he would be discovered. He had been living in Bavaria and with the help of his friend Hans Sedlmeier, he traveled by train to the furthest point near the Austrian/Italian border, then crossed into Italy via the remote paths. He successfully arrived at the port at Genova and fled to Argentina.

View of Rifugio Meggiana from above;  Monte Rosa

Mountain pond with a great view:  Queen of the hill.

This is a great place to gather blueberries and since the fairly recent construction of the asphalt road, many can come to the area to pick them. The original route from the valley floor was by foot alone; The blueberries are bountiful at 1553 m. (about 5,095 feet)

Rifugio Meggiana:  0163-77295. Closed from October through April. 


Jun 8, 2011

June 2 and Ousting Umberto

I always enjoy a holiday and more so when it gives me a long weekend. This year's Festa della Republica which fell on a Thursday (June 2), gave a large majority of Italy the excuse to also take Friday off and Italians were on the move this last weekend, ourselves included.

Calabrian hillsides covered with flowering Broom. 
The north came under seige as Mother Nature unleashed storm after storm and threw a grey, fleecy cover over the sun. In the south, we lazed around the beach and watched the mercury rise. It was a shame to leave it and surrender again to the north's wet grip.

It's only after getting back did I learn the significance of the "festa". Italy went into WW2 governed by a monarchy with Victor Emmanuel III as the king and Benito Mussolini as the Prime Minister who was a Fascist. In 1946, just as the throne passed to his son Umberto, (because Victor met an untimely death at the hand of an anarchist), Italians were asked to vote on their choice of government; retaining the monarchy or becoming a republic. Their choice for a republic sealed the fate of all male descendants of the House of Savoy who were then sent into exile.  

A 65 year old history lesson might not have been so interesting if it had not been fairly recent that the Savoy males were again allowed to step on Italian soil. One of the first items on their agenda was to sue the government for damages. Short but interesting news clip "Fallen Savoy royals seek damages over Italy exile".