IMG_1795Manfredonia, Italy. This is the 6th annual walking trip that our Church Ladeez hiking group has taken together (we all met at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, DC). Since 2005, we’ve hiked in Umbria, Italy; the Dordogne in France; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Lazio (Italy again); the Lake District in England and (with a larger group), the Camino Portugues in Portugal and Spain.

People drop in and out from time to time (only Judy and I have made every single trip), but we’re determined to keep this up as long as we can. This year, our group is Pat McGovern, Judy Leaver, Janet Randolph, Claudia Liebler and me. IMG_1790Nancy Gist couldn’t make it this time, but she’ll be with us in 2011. We plan to keep this up every year till we can’t drag along another meter; then we’ll rent a car and faux-hike.

Among us we have bad knees, bad shoulders, bad feet, bad necks, bad backs. We’ve been through cancers, family deaths, lost jobs and severely depleted stock accounts. We’re all over 60, and our appendages just don’t work as well as they used to. So we ache, we moan, we medicate. But we do not grumble. Instead, we laugh loudly enough to disturb the other patrons in restaurants and pass the bottle of wine around one more time.

And so we find ourselves in Manfredonia, Italy. “Wait,” you may be thinking, “surely you mean Germany or Slovenia. Manfredonia just doesn’t, you know, sound Italian.” Our thought exactly. Apparently there was a King Manfred in these parts in 1256 or so, and his name stuck. Manfredonia is on the Gargano Peninsula, that piece of Italy that sticks out into the Adriatic just above the heel of Italy. Technically, we’re in Puglia.

Wednesday was market day in Manfredonia. Here are photos of the market, but what you can’t experience visually is the cacophony of sounds. The vendors shout nonstop. The place rings with calls of “Favoriti, cinque euro!” and, “Beautiful ladies, buy here!” IMG_1818The women in the markets confer loudly about the ripeness of the apricots, the freshness of the calamari, how thickly to slice the salami, precisely which of the 20 varieties of olive they want. We stocked up for our hiking lunches in the days to come.IMG_1809