**The Blissful Adventurer is running about Italy at the moment so in his stead we happily endorse and support the work of the following blogger, Sheila Hurst: Reading, Writing, Dreaming. Please check out this post, leave comments for exchange with the author, and give their blog a read.**
Why Sheila Hurst is a cool contributor: She may not be the greatest tour guide since she tends to get lost easily, but she does love to wander and wandering can lead to the most surprising places. She's worked as a reporter and now freelances for newspapers and magazines.
The Invasion of Radicofani
Radicofani seemed to be an Italian ghost town. There were no people there. None. But for a town with no people, it was a lot of fun.
We arrived around early afternoon, the traditional Italian time to close up shop for a few hours, so we figured that must be why the town looked so abandoned. Either that or the townspeople had found out Americans were on the way and quickly shuttered all the doors and windows. There were about 10 of us traveling together so we must have been a scary sight, almost an invading force, and we did take over the town.
Radicofani is a medieval hill town with a dominating castle that serves as the highest point, not only in town but for much of the area. A castle has been peering out from the top of the hill since the Dark Ages, with the first one built in 973. Over the years, Radicofani has endured its share of invasions. By now, the 1,220 townspeople must have gotten used to hiding.
The town’s winding cobblestone streets travel up and up to a stone church and courtyard. We found ourselves whispering to each other as we walked up. Our footsteps echoed. Everything began to take on an eerie feel as we walked further into the town with no people. Every once in a while, we’d turn to each other and laugh at the strangeness of it all.
At the courtyard, a sign pointed to a path that promised to lead to the castle. The path brought us away from the stone buildings and offered views of glowing farmlands as it continued to wind its way up the hill. By then, everything felt like a fairy tale and so it seemed appropriate that we were on our way to a medieval castle.
We walked through an arched stone entrance to the castle’s courtyard. There we found medieval games scattered everywhere for people to play. Long wooden spears stretched out on the grass near a target with a knight sketched on it. Low tents made of hay could be crawled through and explored. A ladder made of sticks and twine waited to be propped up against the castle wall for a mock invasion. We still hadn’t seen any people so there were no lines to wait in. Our invading force attacked the games. It felt like some sort of a medieval recess.
After exhausting ourselves with the games, we wandered into the castle and continued our upward climb, this time with winding stone stairs. The view from the top of the castle is a panorama of yellow fields, treetops, distant shining lakes, and dark mountains. A daring look straight down offers views of the town’s clustered orange rooftops. From up there, it’s easy to imagine what it would have been like to be a knight looking out for any invaders. The landscape, full of farms and fields, seems as if it hasn’t changed much. Thankfully, there were no stores or malls or parking lots to be seen.
By the time we made our way back through town, it was after 4 PM so we should have seen some people or at least a few other tourists. But there were none. Not one. The streets still echoed as we crept away. Maybe everyone had stayed up all night playing the medieval games.