Beppino’s family have lived in this Tuscan valley for centuries. He was standing on the terrace above us surveying the valley. I thought, ‘Leonardo da Vinci once stood here to draw his map of the then malarial valley, now in the collection of Queen Elizabeth. He commented, ‘Luna piena,’ full moon, adding that there would be turbulence soon, storms, hail perhaps. ANY sort of rain would be gulped by plants and humans alike. The stream below us is long dry and the wild boars have followed the dry bed into the valley, glimpsed even in the ditches along the main road. Two weeks ago antlers were seen by our guests moving towards the gulley below the terrace in front of the house. Then came the smell. A call to the carabinieri in the fire station below us brought the response: ‘If the stag has died on your or your neighbour’s land, then it’s your responsibility. Get some lime from the hardware store and throw it over the corpse. We are only responsible for what happens on public property.’ Scrabbling around in the undergrowth we couldn’t find the remains of the unfortunate animal, though the smell still came in occasional wafts depending on the direction of the breeze.
Wild boars and deer are descending the mountains in search of food. We, like so many others, have had to wire fence our land or the wild boars dig holes along the terraces to find roots to eat. It’s easy to twist an ankle.
The poplars along the dry stream are almost bare. They have spread a carpet of creamy green leaves deep over the ground. ‘No rain since November last year,’ continued Beppino, ‘A few drops in April. Then May came. The olive flowers are tiny and pale yellow – nothing special but abundant this year.’ Like froth, others told me. Then came relentless sunshine and they dried off before starting to form olives. No harvest to speak of this November.
‘Luna calente…’ waning moon, Beppino said looking up at the unrelentingly cloudless sky, brings turbulence. He would be thinking of thunderstorms – desperately needed – or hail storms which could knock the remaining olives and grapes to the ground. Strange. The vine and olive leaves are the only ones that are not drooping. A landscape from Biblical times?