Yes, at Fiumicino Airport in Rome I rented a car (I think it was with Auto Europa) and drove about 3 hours or so to Celenza. The road into town was winding, and goes higher and higher up the mountain.
Once we were in a town we didn't necessarily need the car (plus driving on the small narrow roads sometimes was challenging). I usually looked for a place to park and explored. I don't know how we would have got around without having a car.
In Celenza the gas station didn't seem to be open so I asked a man where to find one. He called someone in San Marco la Catola and told him we were coming by.
Yes that seems like it would be a good idea. Having a car from the start suited our needs at the time. I almost went that route though. I think the website is Trenitalia.com.
I drove to Campobasso when I was there. Can't remember for sure, but I think it was like a half hour or so drive from Celenza. Campobasso was much larger than the other towns and seemed to be more developed and "city" like. The cemetery is enormous, there are walls and walls of mausoleums.
The director of the hotel I stayed at was the only person who we came across in Celenza that understood and spoke some English. We learned some Italian prior to the trip and brought a pocket English-Italian dictionary along which did help.
Did you find any relatives in Celenza? Is it easy to drive in Celenza? I heard that the roads where very narrow. Is it easy to get around there? I am going to stay at the Relais San Pietro just outside of Celenza. I have been studying some of the Italian language and going to bring my Rick Steves Italian Language with me. I also downloaded a few apps on my IPOD that can translate but of course that depends on wifi connections there. Did you bring any pictures of home and of your relatives to show other people?
My ancestors were from Tufara, which is just a short drive from Celenza. When I was there I met a man who told me I could follow him to the cemetery. He ended up being a property manager, had the keys to the office, and looked through some books to help me. He showed me his father's grave, and come to find out we had the same surname! (although unable to find a connection)
From there he directed me to the municipo, and a man came out and greeted me. I had a copy of my family tree with dates and names and he asked to see it. He pulled out his licence and had the same name as me. They were very funny about the language barrier, and completely welcoming (even posed for a picture with me). They opened some original birth record books which I recognized as a possible source of the Family History Center's microfilm. They also informed me that the records in Tufara prior to 1800 were destroyed in a fire.
It was easy to drive. The scenery is really so breathtaking I had to remember to keep my eyes on the road! I bought an Italy map for my gps which was pretty accurate with minor exceptions (directing me to drive up a clif). I had a Fiat 500 which got a lot of looks from people in town.
I stayed at the Relais San Pietro in Celenza, which must be the hotel you are referring to. I can go on and on about how great our stay there was. Beautiful place!
Thanks for your reply. Did you have to get an International Drivers License? I went to the local MVD and they had no clue what I was talking about. It's such a short drive from Campabosso I wonder if it really is necessary?
I wrote to some family from my Genealogy research and last week got an email back from a cousin who lives in Rome and will meet me the day my tour ends. AND she offered for me to stay in her house in Celenza? Final plans have not been made yet.
I also got another email from someone who is not related, on my grandfather's side living in Celenza and she also said she would meet me there!
I plan on going to Caselvecchio where in my genealogy research 2 people there have gotten in touch with me. No relation but both said they will be glad to meet me also!
My Mom said that the dialect in Celenza is different. Did you have a problem with that?
I did purchase an International Drivers License through AAA. We had a several hour drive from Rome so I wanted to cover all the bases. Basically the license has things like "Name" "Date of Birth" "Country" translated into several different languages with your information filled in next to it. They also attached a photo of me to my license. I ended up not having to use it, but I had peace of mind that I had it.
The people we came across were very helpful and kind to us. In Celenza the center of town was where everyone seemed to gather. People (mostly men), would slowly stroll back and forth chatting with each other as they enjoyed the day. Some people were staring at us as we admired and explored the town. We did not take offense, the town is small and everyone probably knows each other. I said hello and was greeted back.
Although I have no plans yet, I am already looking forward to returning maybe in a few years. One thing I hope to do is further my Italian language skills. I was able to communicate basic things but it would have been nice to have more in depth conversations. That said, the dialect did not seem to be an issue.