Snow still hasn’t arrived in sufficient quantities to completely whiten the Apennine ridges which close off the Val Fegana and I might have easily driven over the Foce a Giove pass. Perhaps we’ll have a late start to the snows which, the previous year lasted well into May!
I left the old grand ducal road to Modena at the point where there’s a branch to “Il Nido dell ‘Aquila” (eagle’s nest, or, more correctly, eyrie.) I didn’t see any eagles but a couple of majestic buzzards flew very close to me.
It’s from the Eagle’s nest that a path leads into that seductively frightening canyon, the Orrido di Botri which we’ve done a couple of times. At its entrance there was only a jeep from the forestry department and the little restaurant was firmly closed.
From here an unmade road ascends towards Montefegatesi. It can do in a car’s tyres as it’s so full of bumps, drainage channels and stones. With my scooter, however, I was able to circumvent most of these hazards.
At one particular point, however, I had to stop – not because of any mechanical failure but because what I saw around me was magical in a very tolkienesqe fashion.
I’d been travelling through a leafless chestnut forest and at this point the trees seemed to become even larger, even more contorted, even more transformed into weird shapes. It seemed as if I’d entered into a forest inhabited by Ents. Would I meet Treebeard, I wondered?
Let these trees speak for themselves (and many of them did seem to be able to speak as if it was true that the Middle-Earth Elves had taught them how to speak). Hundreds of years old, the trees provided subsistence in the form of chestnuts for countless generations of local inhabitant with flour ground from their fruits once supporting the population, (rather like Dr Johnson said oats had done for Scotland…).
I wandered in the forest, transfixed by these supremely beautiful and noble natural sculptures which assumed a Michelangeloesque pose here, a Dali-like metamorphosis there. Grotesque heads, tormented limbs, silent screams and arcane eyes surrounded me, and ancient spirits entered into my whole being. I remembered those legends of Middle-Earth and the ancient race of Ents called Onodrum by the elves. Created by Eru Lluvatar, and wished for by Yavanna when she learned that the dwarves, Aule’s children, wanted to chop down a forest, the Ents were appointed as tree-shepherds to protect millennial trees from Orcs and other extreme dangers. I felt their presence around me and wished fervently that they would continue to protect the magnificent trees surrounding me.