11 January 2018

0111ALate last night in an idle moment I clicked on Weather Underground and found this. Cue a double, then a triple and quadruple take. I mean, we’ve had our good days and our less good days – some biting cold and some rain but yesterday, for example, it was 13° (55°F) with resplendent skies. Minus 15°? Difficult to get your tired evening brain around.

Shocked, I reloaded the site, and this forecast had gone. The earth had slid back on to its correct axis. Things looked much as they have been – a bit of rain and generally warmer than normal for this time of year. Had the algorhythms gone wild? Or were the people on the other end just having a bit of a giggle? Checking whether anyone was still awake?

L keeps saying he can smell spring, and some of my plants agree with him: the Teucrium fruticans (tree germander) is in extravagant unseasonal bloom and some of the roses have sprouted emerald leaves which look healthier than anything I ever get in summer. I’ve sworn off making springy predictions until well into February: you never know what that fickle month might throw at us around here. But it’s a joy to see the days surreptitiously lengthening. If I could just steer myself outside, there might be some hope for my garden.

It’s distressing how easy it is to pick up bad habits. The long restructuring works on my Pieve Suites project in town – and in particular the final stages where I was personally hauling furnishings and bits and pieces – distracted my attention from all kinds of regular activities. Until then, my more-or-less usual mode of reaching town was a healthy pedal. With the excuse that I had too much to carry, the car replaced my bike. Now it rarely occurs to me not to drive up the lane, polluting the countryside and doing nothing to tone my thighs.

Likewise my garden. Much of my final flurry coincided with our absurdly short spring and grimly hot summer: it was no sacrifice really to find reasons to be inside, fiddling with decorative details. After months and month of easy excuses, though, I’m finding it’s a massive effort to propel myself into some gardening clothes and out the front door. Once I have my trowel and secateurs in hand, it’s a breeze. It’s just getting to that point that I’m finding ludicrously difficult. Which has predictable results on the state of the garden.

The one area which has partially escaped my agorophobic sloth is the veggie garden, where garlic (though not onions) and peas are now in, and where there’s a mediumly satisfying crop of turnip greens and cavolo nero to save me from horticultural self-loathing and despair. My giant broccoli plants continue to run rampant without the faintest whisper of a head of broccoli. At least, though, from afar they give the impression that it’s a successful and well tended orto.

I’m thinking that perhaps the only way to steer myself outside in any kind of organised way is to plan some bits of makeover. I don’t seem to have any trouble getting out into the gardens of all the various people I’m working for at the moment. Obviously I need a project to draw me into my own. And quite frankly, having grown up in dribs and drabs, with very little overview behind it, it could certainly do with some major shake-ups.

Though in general I loath teaching, and I fought long and hard against pressure to accept the task, it turned out to be an interesting experience, doing a course on garden design recently for our hyper-active Libera Università  (free university). This used to be called the Terza Università (basically adult education, though the connection with terza età, ie the aged, gave it overtones of some kind parking lot for the old and infirm) until some bright spark realised that the median age might plummet if it sounded a bit more rad. And so it did. Well, a bit.

Pulling together all the various strands of my approach to garden design in order to share them with my class focussed my mind very effectively on what I do and how I do it. It’s good to take stock from time to time. And it was a relief to discover that, yes, I do have some kind of method in my approach. You can lose sight of your underlying structure when you’re winging it on auto-pilot.

As I pulled together my lesson plans in a last-minute scramble (of course) and floundered about seeking illustrations to drive home my points, my big takeaways were (1) that garden/ing magazines are full of clever pictures of extremely uninspiring gardens and (2) my own garden served to a worryingly large extent to illustrate mistakes that you should avoid. Not exclusively, I hasten to add: I do love my messy, unstructured space. But it became more and more clear to me why many newcomers to my property react saying “oh, so, you’re, um, a garden designer you said. Um, really?” than with avalanches of admiration. So yes, time to tweak away.


Christmas seems an age ago. We had fun, just the three of us, wallowing in the pools of hot-spring water beneath the town of San Casciano dei Bagni and tramping the woods around the prehistoric site of Belverde, L and C wearing ridiculous wigs – a Yule tradition they invented a few years ago and show no sign of abandoning. (The few other Belverde visitors greeted us with a straight-faced buon Natale! with no allusion to the headgear. Were they keen not to engage too much with the mad people in the dark woods?)

C decamped to Lesvos and her refugee-spotting even before 2018 arrived, and we went back to our usual work, with the exciting addition of a full house up at Pieve Suites.

But there’s one bit of Christmas that is still to come, and that’s L’s main present – a DNA tester to discover his distant roots.

How on earth it can take from December 15 until January 9 to get a small spit-kit from the Netherlands to Italy, I don’t know. Did someone walk here with it? By the time it arrived I had cancelled that one and another is doing the same route, hopefully more swiftly.

During the wait, though, I heard a radio interview with a 79-year-old who had been given a similar kit recently and whose life had been all shook up by the results. He had always believed, he said, that he was English through and through. But the results came back showing he was over 25% Polynesian islander.

When he told his equally aged sister, her reaction was a laconic “oh, didn’t they tell you you were adopted? I thought you knew.” A very discombobulating thing to learn at 79. (His grandson, he said, had a very different risposte: “now you’ll have to learn to do the haka.”)

So what will we learn about L? The way the postal service is going, we may never learn anything.

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23 December 2017

1223AWe’ve had snow. It came at us out of the blue (literally), off the forecast and the radar – great big gentle flakes of the kind we haven’t really seen since the Big Snow of 2012.

C was due to go to Rome to see old school friends and I felt confident about taking her down to the station. It couldn’t last, I thought. But we only got as far as the new houses where the odd car was gliding erratically along the road, and I realised there was no way I was going to make it down the big bends towards Chiusi with the covering getting thicker every minute. So we abandoned the car up there on the metalled surface and walked back down our white road in what I’d call a magic world did it not seem so clichéd. Snow is not my favourite thing. But there’s something about the grisaille hush of a fresh fall which is mesmerising. It was quite quite lovely.

Returning on the train from a work meeting in Florence, L clearly thought I was being ridiculous. I was meant to hang about at the station, then bring him back up after depositing C. All along his route – almost to Chiusi – there was no sign of snow. I was obviously exaggerating.

I paid no heed to his doubts, however, and reasoned that it would stop; that salt would be spread; that snowploughs would be activated; that in the almost-hour between C’s non-departure and his arrival, the road would be cleared sufficiently for a taxi to get up. I miscalculated. The taxi driver ordered L and other miscellaneous car-sharing travellers out at the curve by the pig farm where the snowplough’s route was blocked by an array of marooned, splayed cars. Beyond the vehicle barrier, he found acquaintances struggling to mount a cheap set of ill-fitting snow tyres and stopped to help them, in exchange for a lift the rest of the way up the hill. It took him an hour and a half to do a trip that takes less than 20 minutes. In the end, he saw my point.

1223BC came back from her current home on Lesvos early, to become Italian. We have all applied for Italian citizenship. L and I applied early last year: we had decided to do so because we were sick of being disenfranchised but Brexit made the choice more rational and more urgent. Clara applied just after, but having been born here, she was ‘fast’-tracked (it’s all relative).

In Perugia we picked up her papers. Applications go right up to the office of the president of the republic for signatures. But the final act happens at municipal level. We rushed back to CdP to take the concessione to the anagrafe (records office), and book a slot for swearing allegiance.

The woman who runs the anagrafe is charming. But no way could the thing be done this year. There were no more ceremonies planned. Nothing for a couple of weeks. That was it. But, C explained, she was flying out again on December 28. No problem: you have six months to finalise after the concessione is granted. Now? Impossibile.

C looked skeptical but headed across the lobby to the office where her papers would be stamped and officialised en route to the final stage, resigned to having to return. But hang on a second, the anagrafe woman said to C’s retreating back. Do you have a minute now? Yes, of course she did. Well, it wasn’t really proper. No. But.

I was waiting outside in the car through all this. C called me, and told me to get there, immediately. When I arrived, the woman in the anagrafe had taken her tricolore sash from an iron filing cabinet. She was extracting thick A2-sized pages covered with official-looking type from a file. And the (impossibile) ceremony took place. There and then. It was slightly surreal and oddly moving.

Welcome to Italy. It’s how things are done.

Actually, that’s not 100% true. It is how small-town Italy works, though. And it’s why we love it. It’s all about people and interaction.

L, who lost his ID card on his Florence jaunt, rushed into the anagrafe as it closed a couple of days later and procured a new one in no time.

On a slightly different note, I’m still feeling the warmth of an article in the local rag about the fund set up by our terziere Borgo Dentro to pay the overdue bills and fill the empty larders of the local poor. It makes me feel I’ve been transported into an historic Venetian scuola – an autonomous self-help welfare organisation. Will they start funding apprenticeships for struggling stonemasons? Or paying dowries for orphan girls?

It’s one of those year-ends where work never seems to end, which is fun. Apart from the snow (which was still lying in patches today, a week after it fell) and a brief burst of cloudy gloom, we have had days of resplendent, icy blue.

I paid another visit to my project in northern Tuscany, where the clients were expected to arrive from England the next day to stay over Christmas but the water pipes inside the house had frozen solid, and where my nursery boys were hacking through frozen ground to get the final stage-one plants into the ground.

And I’ve been putting big trees and shrubs into a property just the other side of town. It never fails to amaze me the stark differences from one side of CdP to the other. Over here, we’re a little bit sand and lots of clay and stones everywhere: each spadeful is a battle with river-washed blocks. Rain turns our soil into a claggy mess. Over there, water runs straight through sand (the sea reached up here many millions of years ago, and the earth is full of fossilized shells); there’s not a stone anywhere. It’s like working in a child’s sandpit.


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10 December 2017


Mud, cold and a battle against the elements to make a garden.

Bleugh. I think this is the first time this season when I’ve looked out of the window and thought “what a miserable thing winter is.” (Yes yes I know: technically it’s still autumn, but you know what I mean.)

A gale is moving even rigid tree trunks and though it’s coming from the south, it chills your marrow. It’s grey, and a thin, mean rain is needling down in odd directions. The world is bleached of colour – the trees are almost leafless now – and spring seems like a dreamy option, far too far away.

The onset of grey has been accompanied by infrastructure failings: the phone and internet line which were down for more than a fortnight, thanks to the boys installing fibre optic cables in CdP, who unplugged our line then refused point blank to admit such a thing was possible; the boiler which is still delivering us ‘lukewarming’ rather than heating.

Part of the problem is that we haven’t been here to let technicians into the house: L has been swilling champagne at a luxury travel trade fair in Cannes; I’ve been trying not to lose my fleece-lined wellies in the mud on an icy mountainside way up where Tuscany meets Liguria which I’m trying, against the elements, to turn into a garden. (Sometimes I wonder whether we’ve drawn uneven straws, until I remember what fun I have creating gardens in unlikely places.)

Our intractable comms problems were magicked away yesterday by a cheery soul who spent five minutes expressing wonder at the incompetence of his colleagues and one minute plugging the disconnected line back into its socket in some hidden box between here and town.

When I called Telecom Italia on my newly reconnected phone to demand a rebate for the two weeks we had spent in the 19th century, a recorded message told me that my call was about to be answered from Romania. This was a first. I have had messages telling me that I was speaking to Albania, but never Romania.

On the other end I found a kindly, chatty lady. Behind her I could hear a fuzz of what sounded like similarly cheery female voices.

Romanian ladies are the mainstay of social care in much of Italy, looking after the old and the infirm. CdP’s palsied eld are often to be seen being wheeled and walked around town, then sat down on benches with gaggles of these carers who chatter among themselves endlessly, to the extent that I often find myself wondering whether there is now a whole generation of Italian nonni (grandfathers, and it more often than not is men: women seem to manage to keep themselves autonomous for longer) with a more or less fluent grasp of Romanian. If they haven’t picked up at least a smattering, they must be mighty bored.

Now I think I’ve stumbled across the answer to where these caring women end up when Italy palls or family business calls them home. They can employ their sweet-talking skills in Bucharest call centres, handling irate and/or incoherent telecoms clients in the same gently cajoling way they did their elderly charges. The woman I talked to sounded organised and efficient. Will this prove to be an illusion? So many of her Italian TI colleagues sound like they have everything under control, only to get absolutely nothing done. I wonder whether pulling the wool over clients’ eyes is part of the training…

And our heating? Well, let’s just say that the woodburners are working overtime and we’re mighty relieved we have them. Some hope for tomorrow maybe? Who knows what the new week will bring.

Another weekend, another display of how seriously pievesi take being pievesi . And when they’re not being pievesi per se, they’re cleaving fervently to their own terziere (‘third’, as opposed to quartiere: CdP is divided into three districts). Yesterday afternoon I ambled up to our lovely theatre, thinking that I’d better put in an appearance at the presentation of a book by a local amateur historian on Borgo Dentro, the terziere where Pieve Suites is located and which also encompasses our home, which lies along one of the country roads proceeding from the town gate on the Borgo side. The venue was large (by CdP standards) I thought: I didn’t want the author to feel she was rattling about.

How foolish of me. The whole population of Borgo Dentro was there. There wasn’t an empty box and there was constant traffic through all the corridors. When I left, an hour after the event had started, the presentation had just finished and the crowds were listening rapt to a Q&A session on the stage, with speakers going into minute detail on historical shennanigans by Medieval and Renaissance bigwigs and townspeople. There were small kids dressed up in Borgo colours – black and yellow – and teenagers showing the kind of enthusiasm generally reserved for much-shared memes or banned substances. Once again, I found it very moving.


Enquiries. Bookings. Result. Suddenly I’m looking at a scenario in which Pieve Suites may morph into a means for earning, rather than a townhouse-shaped black hole into which I throw my precious savings. It seems so strange after all this time.

Poor L will be hard pushed to come to terms with the idea that someone else might now occupy his ‘office’. With the prospect of paying guests looming, I’m noticing all those little final adjustments that I’ve put off, and off, and off. I need to get going once again.


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26 November 2017

Once again yesterday our field was full of men in hi-vis jackets carrying lethal weapons. Generally I treat them all with disdain, accosting the bored out-liers staring enviously towards the wild-boary activity down in the trees, telling them – with as much friendliness as I can muster – how unwelcome they are. But since the recent fatal incident in our valley, I’m feeling less confident around them.

Riding my bike back down the lane from town yesterday – dangerously well camouflaged in foliage green and bracken brown clothes – I tried to make them aware of my human-ness with as much noise as possible from my squealy brakes… until it occurred to me that squealy brakes might sound a little too much like squealy pig, and I adopted a completely illogical mix of stealthy creeping and angry glaring.

Common sense would suggest that these gun-toting countryside invaders should be more cautious since shooting one of their own number. But there was something about their defensive hunching that made me feel they were more nervy and edgy than before. They didn’t turn around, as they usually do, to wave cheerily to the crazy hunter-hating woman as I passed. They hadn’t, as they always do, planted their Vecchio Sorbo hunting fraternity sign at the top of the lane to signal their presence and their identity. I felt strongly that they were more likely than usual to be spooked into trigger-happiness. Or maybe I was just imagining it.

In any case, I wished them all (and their sinister sub-Kelly’s Heroes music wafting up from the valley, and their wild volleys of shots, and their howling, and their tinkling hounds, and the immobile out-lier who sat on the level just below my kitchen on his camp stool for about three hours pretending not to know that I was right there watching him) far, far away.

Of course I freely admit to occasional mixed feelings about the whole business, especially at times like this when, over the past two weeks or so, the porcine bastards have driven deep furrows through much of what I like to call my lawn, made the banks between house and field look like they’ve been hit by incessant mortar fire and destroyed tracts of the low drystone walls holding up my flower beds. One evening this week L cycled down from town in the dark and reported seeing at least 25 of them turning over the neighbour’s field just above our gate.

There are fleeting moments when I want them all dead, immediately. But I fight back my worst blood-thirsty instincts and focus on the damage done by the idiots who wanted this non-native species introduced for their entertainment in the first place.

Though I know and like many of the people who hunt – many of whom have fitted my bathrooms and laid my tiles and worked in my garden and sold me useful stuff in local shops – I loathe them all to a man (and naturally they are all men) as hunters.

Yesterday evening I crept into the cathedral crypt to listen to a man talking about his delve into the remarkable archives found in a hidey hole in the roof of Santa Maria dei Servi – centuries of registers, notaries’ contracts, wills, inventaries. He was talking about that church in particular and the town in general between 1400 and 1500 (when incidentally, the building now housing my Pieve Suites was already venerable, with a couple of centuries of history on its back) and it was fascinating.

I hadn’t realised (because I’d never thought about it) that the idea of ‘church marriage’ didn’t really exist until the Council of Trent (from 1545). Up to then, it was a hard-nosed contract with little or no involvement of the parties directly involved (ie the couple) and generally ending in a stipulation that the contract was fully in force only when he demanded that she consummate the thing… except for one exceptional contract is which she brought such a whacking great dowry with her that it was left up to the bride to decide when this act would take place. Money has always talked, even for medieval women.

He cited a contract in which a pievese man took a certain Catherine from Germany as his concubine, promising to marry her and make any children legitimate whenever his wife died. As there was a publicly registered contract, this can’t have been considered something clandestine or out of the ordinary.

There were contracts for buying and selling slaves, young women mostly, for domestic work. (As an aside, he reported that it’s estimated that 90% of foundlings abandoned in Florence’s hospitals in the 15th century were the children of slaves, so the term ‘domestic work’ was clearly interpreted very loosely.) Who knew that slavery persisted and indeed was common in Italy then?

There were house sales contracts between regular pievesi and Jews – Jews who until many centuries later were not legally entitled to own property. But here in CdP – with its large and shifting non-native population, as these records also make clear – that particular discriminatory law didn’t seem to be held in much consideration.

One inventory attached to a will (from 1483, if I remember correctly) that he found showed that among the dead man’s possessions were 80 parchment manuscripts – Greek and Latin classics mostly but also copies of Boccaccio’s Decameron (c. 1352) and Petrarch’s poems – an up-to-dateness which put him in the leading ranks of the avant-garde. He also had about 150 paper books. All of which, in 15th century terms, made him the owner of a vast library and a man of immense scholarship, in this tiny outpost in a frontier zone heavily fought over by Siena and Florence and Perugia and the pope.

Perhaps the most striking thing, though, were the participants at this convegno in the crypt. There must have been about 25 or 30 people there, all locals, some of whom I’m on greeting-in-the-street terms with, others whose faces I recognised, a few whom I’d never seen before. The involvement was remarkable, and by involvement I don’t mean passive interest in what was being said. I mean people questioning niggly details because they had read and researched and knew all about it, people thoroughly and deeply versed in the minutiae of CdP through the centuries. I found it hugely moving.

We finally managed to get to this year’s art Biennale, scrambling up to Venice a week before the last day (today). Venice was splendid, under blue skies and shining with jewel-like colours. It wasn’t even particularly cold. We rented a tiny apartment up in Santa Croce, not far from San Pantalon, which is and area I like a lot.

I stayed just two nights (L stayed on another to mop up some work-related things). So now I’m asking myself: how did I manage to squash so much in?

The afternoon we arrived we saw the magnificent Intuition show at lovely Palazzo Fortuny – but only after we had stopped in at the Frari with a guide whom L had to talk to (again, work) who gave us her tour of the basilica and stood with us in front of Titian’s newly restored Pesaro Madonna, marvelling. En route from there we dropped in to ChiaraStella Cattana whose shop of textiles and houseware is as gorgeous as ever, little changed since it moved across the campo. She now has some beautiful (and chillingly expensive) coats, designed by an architect and made of textiles produced in a tiny factory way up in the hills where – she was telling us – they have recently unearthed company registers showing that in the 1920s they had a Spanish woman called Paloma on the payroll. The company’s samples archive shows that during Paloma’s stay there, they supplemented their usual sombre greys, blacks and browns with fabrics in startling pink with pea green spots, eye-grabbing stripy mauves… completely out-of-character extravaganzas of all hues. The woman was given no surname: in fact, she wasn’t even credited with this multi-coloured hiccough. But it started with her arrival and ended with her departure. What a marvellous mystery.

Intuition, also closing today, was a mesmerising show curated by Axel Vervoordt, an art-collecting interior designer really, who added a wunderkammer of his own selection to the treasure trove interior of Palazzo Fortuny. As I went around, synapses snapping in an effort to get my brain around the pairings and juxtapositions and anachronisms, I kept thinking of the Damien Hirst show we saw so many months ago, which I experienced as a slap in the face, and detested. In his extravaganza, DH created something (IMHO) which, once you’d grasped the the ruse – which took about 30 seconds – was utterly dull; he clerly didn’t care at all if the contents raised questions: he was just too busy trying to overwhelm you with scale.

Intuition was diametrically opposed, with mostly unknown works on an approachable scale each of which lobbed a maelstom of questions at you. A very satisfying show.

The following day, we took in Cima da Conigliano’s restored Baptism of Christ in San Giovanni in Bragora and the lovely Bellini altarpiece in San Zaccaria as we made our way to the Arsenale, where I thought the curation was not bad, but not exceptional. But it’s just so huge, the Biennale, that there’s always something that stops you in your tracks.

There was a lot of video art, something which, after a while, I find rather arrogant because there’s no way an artist can reasonably expect a visitor with acres of Biennale to cover to stand still in the dark for 27 minutes while s/he works through his/her artistic vision.

One video grabbed me though: of a group of people (perhaps in south American somewhere? can’t remember) standing in a stream up to their hips and making wonderful rhythmical music using the water as an instrument.

I think the one piece which most spoke to me was a big site-specific work in the Italian pavilion – odd because that’s a place you can usually write off, packed as it generally is with mediocre works by friends-of-friends of someone with the ear of a politician or a bigwig in the incestuous art world.

In Giorgio Andreotta Calò’s (very un-photographable) installation, you walked into a large room which was a forest of thin, very regular, scaffolding poles holding up a ceiling which felt quite low because it stretched away into the distance. So far, so unremarkable. At the narrower end of the rectangular room were steps which, as I was dropping from my trek around the Arsenale, I considered not even bothering to climb. But thankfully I did. Up there, the already-large space spread infinitely further into the unlit semi-darkness, and the beautiful bulking triangular beams holding up the tiled roof were perfectly reflected in what seemed to be the largest, most flawless mirror imaginable. It wasn’t until we manoeuvred ourselves to a point where we could touch the thing (and be shouted at by the guard for our pains) that we could confirm my suspicions. The scaffolding below was holding up a thin room-sized basin of water; a mirror occupied the far wall. These reflecting surfaces turned your concept of space completely topsy turvy. It was magnificent.


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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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