Above our house the ground slopes steeply upwards. It’s possible to find an old path which starts off being somewhat overgrown but then clears a little and climbs up between the heathers and rocks. Eventually, the path evens out and enters a magical chestnut forest.
This is our favourite land of heart’s delight, especially in autumn when it’s brimming with fallen marrons and mushrooms. We found our first porcini (ceps mushrooms) here and, although this year, they are later than usual the remarkably warm weather brought on by the ever-present high pressure area over Italy – a Saint Martin’s summer most extraordinarily extended – will ensure that the porcini be out in force again.
Occasionally, we have to be careful because the area is also a favourite for wild boars and, hence, of hunters but we’re told by the beaters if guns are present. No such warning, however, was given two days ago to the father and son in our nearby village of Vitiana (lived in by our handyperson) by a mysterious hunter who shot and seriously harmed the father (aged 49) and attempted to do the same to the son (aged 18).
Fortunately, because of eye-witness descriptions the 58-year old hunter was tracked down to someone in Ghivizzano (where we have our choir). In fact, he gave himself up less than 24 hours later to the carabinieri, not wishing to make life even more difficult for himself. Already, however, life had been made difficult for us since, to all purposes, a loose gunman was around for most of 9th November. Although in a serious condition and with no indication of when he’ll be dismissed, the father, after a delicate operation, is slowly recovering at Pisa’s high-tech Cisanello hospital, where he’d been transported by helicopter.
To-date no motive has been given for the gunman’s action but it is, rightly, being regarded as attempted homicide, probably sparked off by a rather violent argument over land rights.
Anyway, such sordid matters were far from our thoughts when we enjoyed the brilliant autumnal sunshine seeping through the ancient chestnut forest leaves. We were not alone, however. No bipedal hunters, this time but our own four-footed one, Carlotta, was with us! The intrepid cat had followed us all the precipitous way to the top of the hill and was enjoying her exploration of this beautiful area even more than we were.
…..The cat stretches itself into the lulled evening
and stares at unknown worlds beyond windows,
beyond the forests, beyond the meadows
while apples and olives perfèct sapped ripening….