On Wednesday the sun was shining, yeah! We went to see the 11th century Benedictine Abbey (Abbazia Benedettina della SS. Trinità) just outside the city center of Cava de'Tirreni. The upper church is definitely more modern than that, and was clearly re-done in the 1700s in the baroque style. We were fortunate to have a private tour by a lovely Italian woman, Anna Russo, who spoke enough English to make this visit very educational for us. Inside the church is a cave, where the nobleman turned saint, Alferio Pappacarbone lived and is credited with founding this monastery, over the ruins of ancient Roman and other pagan temples. It is still an active monastery and we saw priests coming and going and lots of kids on tours (I believe there is also a school on the grounds.)
We were unfortunately not permitted to take photos down in the catacombs or the cloister but it was incredible to see how these spaces had been literally carved out of the rock of the mountain there and utilized ancient materials. There are still some frescoes visible that pre-date the 11th century church and are hidden away below the church. Anna is working hard to promote tourism to this little visited, yet fascinating site. If you are coming to this area, it's just a short detour from the Amalfi Coast and well worth your time. You can reach Anna through the abbey's email: firstname.lastname@example.org and address your questions to Anna Russo. There is a website but it is completely in Italian: www.milleannorum. We were told that in the year 2008, Pope Benedict will be coming for a visit and they are so excited. The Benedictine monks have carefully preserved this place and only in recent times have they attempted to open it to tourism.
Anna also gave us a brochure that lists all the events going on for the Christmas holidays in Cava and pointed out that there was to be a Gospel concerto in the main church there that very evening. We laughed when we saw the name of the group - Bridget Campbell and Windy City Gospel Choir! (from Chicago!) Of course we had to come out and hear them perform and they were incredible. The strength and power of their voices in the small space of the church was truly impressive. We learned that they have been coming to Cava for the past few years and love it. The feeling was mutual as the audience couldn't get enough of them and clapped and swayed along with the music. They have a very unique sound, Bridget and the six "background" singers, with an amazing harmony, and at one point, their voices peeling like bells. We loved it too!
After the concert we walked through centro and enjoyed the peace and quiet, along with some other couples who were also strolling along. We admired the lovely way the city is decorated for Christmas, with hanging baskets of greenery adorned with stars and twinkling white lights, so charming and romantic!
We are growing attached to this city near Vietri. It has this shopping street and some really nice shops, along with grocers and fruit stands, it is definitely not just a tourist destination but a city where people live and work.
Yesterday morning we went back to look for a parrucchiere (hair dresser). I hadn't had my hair cut since before we left Verona and the color was getting a bit iffy as well. Not knowing where to go I thought Cava would be a good place to find one. I noticed a very pretty young woman about to open one of the shops for the morning. Her hair was golden in the sunlight with a terrific cut and I just went up to her and excused myself and asked her if she could recommend a hairdresser. As luck would have it, she had just come from getting her hair done! No wonder it looked so good! She was kind enough to walk me around the block and straight into her hairdresser's shop! They had time for me too, which was another bonus since I really had hoped to get it done and not have to wait for an appointment. On the way there she told me that they were very good and not expensive. Important! They were wonderful. I am happy with the cut and the color and will definitely go back. If you are in the area, it's called "Jouannos Parrucchieri, Teste Calde (which means Hot Heads in Italian!) di Lirpa Giovanni. Stefania seemed to be the owner and it is located on Via G. Pellegrino (traversa Canonico Avallone, n. 19, Cava dei Tirreni). You're sure to be treated well. It seems to be a very popular place as many women popped in asking for an appointment and the clients were back to back (or head to head??) Overall it was a great experience. I felt fortunate once again to have met some good people!
I want to write all about the day we went to the medieval city of Casertavecchia too and met Ursula who carves these amazing wood sculptures and art pieces. But that's another story.
Ci vediamo presto!
Rosemary e Robert