11 November 2017

I have spent so much time at Pieve Suites this week that I found myself feeling quite homesick. Out here in my country home, final tomatoes need picking, quinces are falling from the tree, and crabapples and medlars are about ready to transform into jelly.

But I have spent almost all week up in town, keeping an eye on the men transforming my garden space, furiously attending to last-minute details (many of which shouldn’t have been last-minute at all) or simply sitting at my first-floor desk trying to get this venture up on booking sites while soldiering on with ‘proper’ work at the same time. Put that together with a series of extra-early mornings to let the builders in, and it has all been pretty exhausting.

What’s more, with family coming to visit next week and wanting all the excitement of being the first to stay in the town house, I found myself paralysed by despair over the filth walked through the place by an endless series of labourers, doubting that I would ever get it clean again. (I have now, more or less.)

That all sounds quite negative, but somewhere buried in there is a kernel of positive. It’s ready. It’s finished. A mere, um, year and ten months after buying it; a paltry year and five months after starting work. I no longer have any excuses for not opening the place. I have managed to put it off for another week, cleaning up the aftermath of garden-building, then putting plants into the new space. But now I can’t delay any longer.

It’s odd how difficult it has been, grappling with AirBnB and Tripadvisor, ploughing through their interminable listings processes which come across all user-friendly but in fact conceal layer upon layer of hidden corners where more useful information can be squirreled away to lure browsers (in the people sense). Each time I look I find another empty box into which I can insert more guff… all magnified by the fact that for various reasons I have to list my suites one by one, rather than as a single venue. But hey ho. I’ll get it all done in the end.

Quite apart from that, there’s all the other stuff: the Facebook page, the Instagram thing, the Twitter account (both @pievesuites) and the website which has been an endless to-and -ro with my techie guy in India, trying to get something that reflected how I feel about my venture. Now all I need are bookings…

A belated response to a question I put in my last post, a question I thought was rhetorical. Do hunters shoot each other by mistake?

After the thick fog of omertà (conspiratorial silence) lifted on the tragic episode in our valley last month, I found that the answer is: yes. There was no plunge down a ravine, no ill-timed heart attack. There was just a pack of gun-toting, testosterone-crazed males staggering around a moderately misty valley with a shocking degree of gung-ho Rambo-ism.

One next-door neighbour told me of two armed-to-the-teeth young men staggering up to her back door earlier in the day saying “can you tell me where we are? We’ve never been in this valley before.” They were new members of this particular hunting fraternity. If they had no idea where they were, then presumably their bloody-thirsty mates weren’t keeping track of them either. When you come to think of it, it’s amazing fatalities don’t happen more frequently.

There are, apparently, now about 570,000 hunters in Italy – half a million people who make 60 million people think twice about going for a walk in the countryside for six months of the year; half a million people who between 2002 and 2015 ‘inadvertently’ killed over 130 people according to figures compiled for Wikipedia.

Yes, the boar around here are a pest – especially since the herd was re-invigorated some years ago to keep the hunters happy. But to me that sounds like they need the occasional well organised cull, not a jolly jape for boys with lethal toys that can end in tragedy.

It took a while for the culprit to come clean, protected by the wall of silence thrown up by his fellow hunters. Guns were confiscated – though I’m told that the real die-hards simply went straight out and bought themselves new weapons the following day – and the investigation went forward. Awkwardly and ironically, it was a carabiniere policeman who had fired the fatal shot.

Now many lives are in tatters, including, I should imagine, that of the shooter. It brought home to me one of those niggling terrors – lurking well to the back of the darkest part of my imagination, but there nonetheless. What if I were to knock someone down with the car and kill them. Could I live with myself? The nightmare is gapingly infinite.

Pieve Suites (Tripadvisor)

Pieve Suites (AirBnB)

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About Gardens, Food & Umbria

I am a garden designer, working throughout central Italy. I have lived in Italy for over 30 years – for many years in Rome but now in the wilds of Umbria where I have fixed up one wreck of a house, am working on another, and tinker endlessly with two and a half hectares of land, some of which is my garden.
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