Italian Folktales ~ Day 11 (July 5, 2011), Fanna, Maniago, Poffabro, and Frisanco

Visiting Fanna was like going home.

After ten days of traveling, and the last four in the mountains, it was awfully nice to find a comfortable place to settle in for a couple of days, wash our clothes, do a little grocery shopping, and reorganize our luggage to put away the hiking gear we no longer needed.

Fanna’s Al Giardino hotel welcomed us with its resident heron, a friendly cat named Bilba, and a garden full of singing frogs and swishing fish. It almost made me homesick for our own menagerie.


Bilba in the sun

Fanna also felt a bit like home because it was the one place in Italy that was familiar to us. Nearly twenty years ago, on our first trip to Europe together, M and I went to Fanna and Maniago (right next door). Although I didn’t remember much of Fanna from that first trip aside from visiting M’s great aunt in the most peaceful nursing home I’d ever seen, I’d never forget the main piazza and the Albergo Leon D’Oro, where we’d stayed.

Maniago Leon D'Oro

In a more literal sense, though, Fanna felt like home because it’s the town where M’s paternal ancestors are from.

On this visit, we were lucky enough to spend the afternoon with M’s cousin and his wife, Albert and Toni. Albert and Toni began our tour at the stunning nearby hill town of Poffabro.


Poffabro passageways

Poffabro stone

After a stop for coffee in Frisanco, they graciously toured us through Fanna and its cemetery (where many Mions and Maddalenas are buried).

At the end of the afternoon, before returning us to our hotel, they took us to their Fanna home and served us beers and juice on the patio beside their abundant, fruit-tree studded garden. We talked about family, shared stories, laughed, and even argued a bit (good-naturedly). Just like family.

Later that evening, the three of us, alone again, went out to dinner in Maniago. We talked about the day, ate too much (we never did get the hang of ordering the right number of dishes at an Italian restaurant), drank some delicious wine, and listened as the rain began to pour down on the roof tiles above us. Somewhere along the way, something got into us and we had a giggle fit in the restaurant. Everything felt carefree, funny, silly, simple.

We ate, drank, and laughed. Then we ran like mad through the pouring rain in a city that wasn’t home, but somehow was.

Italian Folktales ~ Day 10 (July 4, 2011), Fanes to Fiames to Fanna

Just above Fanes, the trail flattens, passes a turquoise blue lake, and then begins the long, sloping descent down the valley, back to Fiames.

Fanes - End of the "up"

Mountain lake

Homeward bound

Trail down through the pass

We left the bare, rocky summits behind us and, little by little, were enveloped by a forest of tall conifers, mysterious caves, and tumbling cascades.

Although at least one in our party was happy to see the end of this part of our trip, I was reluctant to leave. I spent much of the hike down looking up and looking back, thinking about those lucky ducks just arriving at their first rifugio that day. As excited I was for the rest of our trip, truth be told, I could have easily spent another week, two, three right there in those mountains.

But the Fiat Panda was waiting patiently for our return, and we had miles to go before our rest in Fanna that night. Miles that included (unbeknownst to us at that moment) a road that resembled a zipper on the map and, in real life, turned out to be a seemingly endless series of terrifying, single-lane switchbacks that ricocheted us up and over the mountains and down into the gentle plains of Fanna.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I have not a single picture of that harrowing journey. I was too busy gripping the seat and wondering when we’d stop going UP to think about preserving the memories digitally. All sense of peace from the past few days was momentarily gone. It was a very quiet trip over those mountains. Now, of course, I wish I’d taken at least one picture so you’d have an idea of what that road was like. You’ll just have to trust me: you wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

And then, we were down, with the Tagliamento river on our right.


Gliding along the gentle, suburban roads that led us to Fanna.



The clear, blue-sky weather that we’d been blessed with for the past four days turned to grey and the rain started. But it didn’t matter at all. Our packs were dry, and we found the largest hotel room this side of Texas, with comfortable beds, air conditioning, and generous, hot showers.

As appealing as the mountains are, civilization also ain’t so bad.