Saturday, May 18, 2013

Wildlife, coffee, picnicking and Gino (Letter #13 from Italy: April 30, 2013)

It’s day two with the car, and once again I’m in the navigator’s seat. I am becoming slightly more comfortable with the role, although cautious of becoming too cocky (Judith says I deserve a navigator’s badge, and I have to tell you, the thought of it has started to go to my head).
With a few brief wrong turns, we make it to our intended destinations largely unscathed (it helps that neither of us is bothered if we happen to get on the “wrong” road. We’ve seen some amazing things by taking routes we didn’t plan on taking – today that included a baby sheep eating from her mother).
Our first destination is Orichiella (Or-ick-ee-ella), a nature reserve. We head up, up, up an old, winding road (all of the roads around here appear to be winding; this one is old and not as well kept as the others we’ve driven). When we reach the top, we get out to wander around. It would appear there’s not much happening; we suspect we’ve arrived just before the beginning of the official season, so the information centre is closed.We do manage to see a few deer (in an enclosed area). 

And as we wander an open area of the park, we also come across several large, fresh piles of animal waste, and see that the ground has been torn up in several places by an animal. From what we know of the wildlife that inhabit this area, we think these may be the evidence of wild boars (cinghialle, who dig up the ground in search of truffles). We are content to make it back to the car without actually seeing any face to face.
We also spot another rare breed – a coffee shop in the mountains that is actually open. It is almost lunchtime, but we opt instead for coffee and chocolate and pear pie (divine). Lunch will wait.
We spend the next couple of hours driving the rural roads of Tuscany, stopping along the way for photo stops (although we know they will not do the mountaintop view justice), a picnic lunch (we packed fresh bread, cheese, olives and fruit before we left this morning) and a walk around the town of Castiglione.

Our last stop is Castel Nuevo, where we return the car. We call Gino, the Scottish/Italian who arranged our car rental, and he meets us at the train station so we can follow him back to the shop. From there, he drives us back to the station. Tomorrow (May 1) will be a rare holiday for Gino. He will spend it with his family (his kids are 5 and 7). 
We are grateful for Gino’s kindness, and tell him so as he pulls up to the station and helps us get our bags out of the trunk. He says he always tries to do these things for people because he’d like to think someone would do it for him if the roles were reversed. “It’s just the way it should be,” he says. That it should. I ask him if we can take his picture, and he agrees, although insists he’s not photogenic and won’t look at the camera. In the picture, he is clearly uncomfortable. Part of me feels I shouldn’t have asked, and another part feels the photo captures him perfectly as he is. Grazie, Gino.

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