Five days camping in an Italian olive grove with an almost 1 year old, nearly 500 metres above sea level in Serramonacesca in Abruzzo’s Apennine Mountains… what could be more perfect!
Even though we were hardly roughing it, not even having to put up our own tent on arrival at the Kokopelli camp site, as any newbie parent knows many plans that involve a bit of a departure from the norm are accompanied by a whiff of anxiety, either on one’s own part or those one tells. On this occasion I decided that mine were being seeded by the sleepy olive monsters that sit under those protected trees waiting for the perfect baby to have a midnight feast whilst their pot belly rumbles echo off the mountains … silly doubts be gone, 3 & 1 spaniel were off camping!
Space at Last for the Newbie Parents
The camp site’s breathtaking vistas look out on Italy’s highest ranges, with the Gran Sasso Massif on one side and the blockier Majella or Mother Mountain on the other. A huge wonderfully airy bell tent, with travel cot, drawers, firm mattress, cosy quilt and cover, mosquito nets, fairy star lights trailed round the door, a lamp, a hammock strung up between olives trees right outside the tent door had been provided by Kokopelli. Less than 20 steps away were hot showers, toilets and a large indoor communal kitchen in a fully converted barn. This housed a whitewashed dining area and sofa to watch a DVD in if you don’t fancy a hike or want to sit on the double terrace and escape the mid-day summer heat. This little enclave provided our first time in what seemed an age to chill and watch a film and there was a healthy selection to choose from.
We’d bought a little paddling pool which we set up under the shade of the olive trees which also doubled up as a bath. Perhaps this was A’s first experience of a wellness bath as herbal heady wild mint and bitter chocolate scents were released from the tobacco flowers as our dog padded around nearby. Musical splash time was to accompany an accordion being played after lunch at a neighbour’s house, ooh sweet memories if only you could bottle them for mid-winter.
Life with our little lark had meant that the sleep fairy hadn’t been on an all-night visit for a year, but perhaps us all popping into bed by 10.30 every night after sitting out watching the sunsets and a few shooting stars helped restore the parts that no end of jazz naps seemed to fail. A slept through most nights and till after the sun rose, later than his usual 5.30 sunrise ‘give me yoghurt’ calls, we got to sleep till 6, 6.30. 7.00 even one day. Was it the power of melatonin on all of our circadian rhythms, whatever it was we were thankful for the grace of a small lay-in after 11 months of some very early starts. We weren’t perhaps full of the camping beans I remembered from childhood but we were a damn site more refreshed… perhaps it was not being hunched over a laptop till midnight trying to catch up with work.
Things to do Nearby
There is plenty of good hiking nearby. Our Ergo sling was more than adequate. Particularly enjoyable was a local 4-hour round hike through woods with cooling freshwater streams and ponds to dip your toes or whole torsos in (the dog was ever so happy). Sadly the famous C9th abbey, San Liberatore a Majella wasn’t open when we visited despite the best efforts of an Italian family on the phone to the door-keeper but it’s still impressive to take a peep at. Another notable excursion is a nearby mountain hermitage, San Bartolomeo in Legio a short drive away, with a perhaps more manageable 2 hour’s unrushed walking.
Pretoro’s sagra, le Notti di San Lorenzo (9-11 August) was well worth a visit, great open cellars filled with crafts, home baked cakes and wine, good live music and a whole range of street food reflecting the coast and the mountains.
Pomodoro Spiaggia (Tomato Beach) not a bad beach for the Adriatic and a 40 minute drive.
Tip: Don’t take a dog who is nervous especially with you if it is sagra season in Italy, August and a lot of July its fireworks and bangers galore!
Price for Hiring a Bell Tent
Per person, per night: Adult (12yrs +) – €16 / Child (5-11 years) – €8 / Child (under 4 yrs) -Free. Family of 4: per night – €48 / per week – €325
Couple: per night – €32 / per week – €220
(Single supplement of €8 per night, reductions available for bookings of 1 week or more)
© Photos Sam Dunham, Lucciola.me all rights reserved