Saturday night we stayed up in our wee cottage in Pieve di Monti di Villa. It was so beautiful. The silence was penetrating, going deep into our bones, so that after a full on week, we could feel the tiredness seeping through us, at last our bodies allowed to rest. It was so lovely to think of nothing but clipping back the geraniums, watering them, not speaking, just gently, almost floating, in another tranquil world.
In our amble around our ancient village, visiting the Church with its old cypress trees and magnificent view over mountains and pristine valleys, we find ourselves up at the little bar. A dear old couple run it. It used to have an alimentari but Oriano had a heart attack and it left him in a fragile way, perhaps more childlike with shiny watery blue eyes, and the sweetest joyful smile, like he is in constant contact with all things magical. He doesn’t do much work any more. Pina, his strong stoic wife, younger by ten years, keeps the bar running, looking after other aged relatives, a big garden, managing all their properties and is as practical and pragmatic as they come. We buy some wine and then ask on the off chance if she has any castagna flour (chestnut flour) to sell as we want to make Necci (castagna pancakes with ricotta cheese). She has. The sweetest chestnut flour in the district, she said, from Benabbio, where the farmer had a traditional process of picking and shelling that kept the sweetness of the nut. She was disappointed we would waste the experience by frying the pancakes on an ordinary pan, and insisted we borrow her old pancake paddles, two identical flat iron paddles that you heat and then squoosh the firm-ish pancake mix between, flipping the paddles to cook both sides. Just flour and water. Amazing. After cooking, the pancake is folded over ricotta cheese. We had the ricotta with some fresh local honey which was absolutely yummy, but she also said we could mix the ricotta with a bit of espresso coffee and a twinkle of sugar. So, so good.
That night was a full moon. We lay in bed with the breeze from the open windows washing over us, the curtains floating like shadowy ghosts in the darkness. Perfumes from all the surrounding gardens wafting in the sweet mountain air. We fell to sleep like innocent babes. Roar. Then a roar and another and another. We scramble upright, trembling, and the night is rent with screaming tyres and big throaty engines. It went all night. It was the big rally event for the year. The morning after, on our walk up the narrow perilous roads towards Montefegatesi, huge crane trucks are plucking the broken bodies of cars from the cliffs below, debris everywhere. The mountains can be wild in all ways.