Thursday, September 11, 2008

Basilicata: Flying With Angels

We first heard about the chance to fly with the angels last year when we visited Basilicata with my cousin and her friend, Rhonda. Il Volo dell'Angelo is an open-air thrill ride where you rocket across a 400 meter deep ravine at 120 km/hour. (That's 1300 feet, and 75 miles per hour.) Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that you do this while strapped into a flimsy vest which is attached to a wire?

I admit that when cousin Michele told us about it, Rhonda and I were all over it. Oh yeah, let's do it! Celia and Bryan were less enthused. But it all a moot point anyway; our visit was in October, a few weeks after they'd closed for the season. Still, being a roller coast enthusiast, I was intrigued.

Fast forward a year. Bryan and I finagled a day away from la famiglia to explore the high-altitude towns of Pietrapertosa, the highest town in Basilicata at 1088 meters (3569 feet) and Castelmezzano, a little lower but no less dramatic. Both nestle into the clefts of the fanciful and bizarre peaks of the Dolomiti Lucani. The views are truly breathtaking and the sight of these towns tucked into the rocks is astonishing.

On the twisty road below Pietrapertosa we saw movement overhead, then *zoom* he was gone. That's when we noticed the thin line and just how deep that valley between the towns really is. And how fast you fly. Omigod! I don't think so! And just as I'm thinking that Bryan says, "Woohoo!" Huh? I have a hard time coaxing onto my favorite coasters at Cedar Point but this he'll do?

After meandering the pretty lanes of Pietrapertosa the moment of reckoning comes. Bryan buys his ticket and is awaiting my final decision. After having seen the sucker in action and walking up to the departure point and looking down -as well as across to the end point- I totally chickened out and said, "nuh-uh". Off we went for Bryan's wingless flight.

That's when things got a little complicated. What they don't explain when you buy your ticket is that this is a round-trip affair. Because of course you have to get back to the point from which you started somehow, but having seen vans marked "Navetta - Volo dell'Angelo" we thought a shuttle returned you. Okay. No problem. A double-header. But what they don't tell you about *that* is the grueling hike to reach the second departure point in Castelmezzano. Bryan would discover this only after his first euphoric flyover. The shuttle takes you only a short distance and dumps you at the foot of a very steep peak, which you must scale to reach the departure station. In 35 celsius (95 fahrenheit) heat. My former Eagle Scout hubby thought it was pretty intense; I would have been calling it a day and waiting for the next bus out of town, whenever that may be.

So was it worth it? He said emphatically, yes. "It would have been a little more enjoyable if they'd tell you the finer details up front, but it was a blast." So there you go. If you want to be strapped in and pushed off a mountaintop to soar like an angel, here is your chance.

WHAT: Volo dell'Angelo, a 1400 meter (4593 feet) long suspension wire spanning two mountain peaks.

WHERE: Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano in central Basilicata.

COST: 30 euro roundtrip

HOW IT WORKS: 1) Purchase a ticket at the biglietteria in town. 2) Walk to the departure point. 3) Let them rig you up in a vest and helmet. 4) Take the heavy metal piece which will hold you to the line. 5) Go to the departure station and get hooked on. 6) Soar and scream.

NEED TO KNOW INFORMATION: Unless you have a friend with a car waiting for you on the other side, this is a roundtrip adventure. You must be in good physical condition to hike to the departure points. Bottles of water are provided at the Castelmezzano station for the trail.

OTHER STUFF: There are a couple of restaurants and coffee bars in both towns but Castelmezzano is a bit more "bustling" than Pietrapertosa.

For hiking enthusiasts there are loads of trails available in this area. Lodging is available in both towns and the evening sunsets and star-filled nights would make this a very romantic destination.

Read Bryan's account of his flight here.


Judith in Umbria said...

My apologies to Bryan, but I was laughing my fool head off through this whole piece. Complimenti, perĂ², Bryan.

Would I do it? I dunno. I have a sliding scale of possible depending on how safe the equipment looks or the track record. So I do not bungee jump, but would have parachuted when my hips were still good. I won't parasail but would definitely love to fly an ultralight. Loved gliding until 2 friends died doing it.
So I will have to drop by and look because this is so unItalian in concept that it seems as if one should do it!

Valerie said...

Judith, I think the picture of Bryan getting rigged up is enough to make ya laugh! He's braver than I!

I am thrill-ride kind o'gal but this seemed a little too freaky for me.

carol in dc said...

Holy Sh*t!!!!!! What an amazing concept. I used to love roller coasters and would seek them out, but the last time I tried one, it made me I guess I don't like them so much anymore. But, the *outfit* for this spectacular event is so spiffy, that I'd be tempted......NOT! Bravo Bryan!!!

erin :: the olive notes said...

WHOA!! That looks fun...but scary :) I did a "zip-line" tour similar to that contraption in the rainforest of Costa Rica...but at least there were trees all around to *maybe* break my fall...and not just a huge valley :)

Leanne in Italy said...

I saw that on Linea Blu I think it was just the other day. It looked so scary on the tv!

Valerie said...

Erin, I'd probably feel more comfortable with trees, too. I mean, a 400 meter fall could hurt! ;)

Leanne, If it looked scary on TV you should have seen it in person!

Anonymous said...

Not in a million years. And, not for a million pounds. I'm feeling queezy just reading this.

And, I'm thinking that if they gave all that information up front, they wouldn't have nearly as many customers for that hair raising ride!

Anonymous said...

No f*ing way!! Bryan must be nuts!