12th and 13th May 2014
We arrived at the town of Cassino at about 4.30 Sunday afternoon and could see the Abbey of Montecassino high above on the top of the hill. The 9 kilometre road was a windy narrow one with plenty of hairpins all the way to the top. Luckily we started by following a large bus, so that any cars coming down would see the bus first and slow down. At the top there was a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside but it was hazy and it was hard to make clear pictures. The fee for parking in their car park was 8€ and that included staying the night and as it was late in the afternoon we had decided to make it our overnight stop. Along with 3 other motorhomes we had a peaceful night until 5. O’clock in the morning when the bells of the Abbey began to chime and chime and chime. Why for so long we had no idea but they did the same thing a t 7.00 as well,” it was our early wakeup call”. We planned to be at the Abbey when it opened at 9.00 so that we could have a quiet look around without the busloads of tourists that were there the day before, so we were up ready to go when the doors opened.
And now for a history lesson. The Montecassino Monastery was founded by St. Benedict in 529 on and old site that was once a temple to the God Apollo. The monastery has been destroyed many times since, in 577 by the Longobards, in 883 by the Saracens, in 1349 due to an earthquake and recently in 1944 when the allies destroyed it when the Germans were using it as an outpost to defend the route to Rome. The reconstruction took over a decade and were to the original plans. The result is a magnificent building and gardens with a church that is one of the best we have seen. ‘And we’ve seen a few’.
At 9.00 in the morning is was very quiet only the staff and a couple of the people from the other motorhomes were there, a change from the busy night before when a row of tourist busses lined the car park. We strolled through the gardens and took in the sights before exploring the church and a chapel. We were amazed at the marble floors and columns all with elaborate patterns and various colours. The chapel roof was done entirely of mosaics and the effect was stunning. After seeing so many churches during our travels it takes a special one for us to stay and admire it for so long.
Back down the hill we made our way back to the motorway heading in the direction of Sicily where we were going to meet up with Clyde and Anna again. Our stop for the night was Lake Sirino, where there was a neatly laid out camperstop near to a pretty lake. On arrival we went for a walk to stretch our legs as we had travelled 270 kms. that day. The lake was only small and took us about 30 minutes to walk around it and back to our motorhome to have a peaceful night before setting of again for a full days drive.