In early March of 2004, after two weeks of studying Italian in Sorrento, Vern and I rented a car to drive to L’Aquila, high in the central Apennines, researching some of the settings of the novel I was writing. Set in the late 1200s, the novel included the coronation of Pope Celestine V, who was crowned in L’Aquila where he had founded the Santa Maria di Collemaggio monastery.
The forecast called for snow in the mountains, so we insisted on having some tire chains for our rental car when we picked it up in Sorrento in the morning. The rental agent reluctantly rounded some up for us. By mid-afternoon , as we climbed into the mountains, we were glad to know we had those chains.
With lots of snow-driving experience behind us, we weren’t concerned with the first couple of inches of snow, and just kept driving. Finally, though, when the snow was approaching six inches deep, we pulled off under an overpass to put the chains on.
Guess what? They didn’t fit our tires.
In the dark, with the snow still falling thick around us, we wondered if we would be able to make the last hour or so of the trip. There wasn’t much traffic on the roads, and we didn’t have a cell phone with us to call for help if we needed it.
As we sat in the car talking it over, we heard heavy truck traffic on the overpass, and then down the ramp, headed toward L’Aquila, came a snow plow. Just what we needed! As we started the car, a second plow followed the first one, pulling out onto the road ahead of us. And then a third!
We felt like a special escort had been arranged just for us, and though the speed was a little slow, we followed the plows all the way to L’Aquila’s city gates. From there, we had to make our own way through the snowy streets to our hotel.
The following morning, a Sunday, we walked through a foot of fresh snow to the monastery church of Collemaggio, whose pink and white façade I had seen in many photos in the course of my research on Pope Celestine V. The banner photo on this blog was taken that morning.