24 – “Casa Lawrence” Near Picinisco

"Casa Lawrence"After lunch we took a short drive towards the little town of Picinisco on the edge of the Abruzzo National Park.  Cousin Mario had told us that the English author D.H. Lawrence, and his wife Frieda, had once stayed in this area in an isolated, little house, owned by Orazio Cervi.  Lawrence wrote about  his experiences here during the Winter of 1919. 

Having cut short his stay in Rome, Lawrence described his arduous journey, by train to Cassino, by post-omnibus up into the mountains to Atina, by cart to an inn and on foot with a donkey at the end. 

“You cross a great stoney river bed, then an icy river on a plank, then climb unfootable paths, while the ass struggles behind with your luggage”. 

He described the accommodation as being  staggeringly primitive” and “so cold”.

“The house contains a rather cave-like kitchen downstairs – the other rooms are a wine-press and a wine-storing place and a corn bin:  upstairs are three bedrooms, and a semi-barn for maize cobs: beds and bare floor.  There is one tea-spoon – one saucer – two cups – one plate – two glasses – the whole supply of crockery.  Everything must be cooked gipsy-fashion in the chimney over a wood fire: The chickens wander in, the ass is tied to the doorpost and makes his droppings on the doorstep, and brays his head off.”

Lawrence describes the mule track up to Picinisco as being  “a sheer scramble – no road whatever”  and Atina, where they went to the market to shop for their weekly supplies, as being perfectly wonderful to look at”  for costume and colour”   but which offered only basic provisions and no wine hardly”.

He seems to have been intrigued by the local culture and wrote about musicians playing under the window and a wild howling type of ballad”.  

He referred to the locals as wearing “skin sandals” and the ladies as wearing sort of swiss bodices and white shirts with full, full sleeves – very handsome – speaking a perfectly unintelligible dialect and no Italian”.

He describes the days as being hot and lovely”,  however the nights were already freezing amid the snow-capped peaks.  As the weather was turning colder, and as he suffered from a weak chest and the weather was turning colder, he and his wife decided it would be best to move on to the milder climes of Capri.

However, Lawrence  took inspiration from his soujourn in Picinisco, to write his novel “The Lost Girl”,  which was published in 1920.  The final chapters are set in the villages of “Ossona” and “Pescocalascio”  (fictitious names for the towns of Picinisco and Atina).

This information was sourced from the book entitled “D.H. Lawrence 1885 – 1930” by by David Ellis, John Worthen, and Mark Kinkead-Weekes.

The charming “Casa Lawrence”, with its arched doorways and wrought iron balconies,  has now been converted into a museum and is furnished as it would have been at the time of Lawrence’s stay there in 1919.   It is a picturesque, location with lovely mountain views and fresh mountain air. 

On the day prior to our visit, “Casa Lawrence” had been the venue for a convention, of academics specialising in the works of the author – “L’ Italia di D.H. Lawrence”.  

The house is also an Agriturismo offering Bed and Breakfast accommodation and has restaurant serving tradition dishes using home-grown produce.  From time to time soirées  are organised when local musicians play traditional instruments such as the zampogna (a type of bagpipe) dressed in the typical Ciociaria costume.

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