Grappa Frisbee, Deportment, and the Eighty Year Old Shepherd

Day Six. 26 June 2006

Monday. Up early on a Monday morning to be ready for the night’s adventure, we pack a variety of packs and sleeping apparatus along with our normal work clothes. At the restaurant at the bottom of the hill we park up the ‘rust bucket’ vn and move all our gear – loosely packed so that it seems to take up more space than our original arrival – to a variety of cars and Desirée’s father’s plush silver off-roader. Whilst some walk, some of us take the more relaxed vehicular route up the mountain.

By the time we have arrived on site, the eighty year old former shepherd Ernesto and his friends Gianni (The Tractor) and Benito (The Chainsaw) have already cut back the grass and nettles and started work on reconstructing the walls. We begin work immediately, working with bars and mattocks and our bare hands to get out the from the ground, the rocks that have fallen, over the years, from the walls of the sheep fold.

Ast he morning progresses we build the wall up, being joined eventually by Andy, Jenny, Carol and Sarah (who have walked), trying to make use of the faces of the stone and arranging the stones securely. Ernesto though, remembering the sheep fold from when he started coming here, aged 19, has a more haphazard approach, and some parts of the wall are decidedly disordered. Ernesto is eighty though and shifting bigger rocks than I can manage, so who are we to argue?

By one o’clock we have worked hard and reconstructed the sheep fold to how Ernesto remember it from the days when he would be up here to milk the sheep 60 years ago. Satisfied of a job well done, he leaves us for his lunch and his siesta.

Lunch in the mountains, made al fresco within sight of the sheep fold is of fresh bread and cheese and delicious ham with salad and fruit. Then a short couple of tasks follow; adjusting the top layer of the wall to the sheep fold and sweeping out the old cobbled shelter-barn. Then it is time to say goodbye and buona notte to Janet and Pidi, and Emi and Desirée; John too grabs a lift back to the nursery school, as the rest of us settle into tonight’s accommodation of the mountain hut. The sun lingers long on the mountainside with a coolness that is refreshing and we lounge about and read, and look at maps, write our journals and chat.

We take a short walk further up the hillside to catch an evening view for returning to prepare a simple but delicious pasta meal and red wine. It is the most enchanting of settings and we feel truly separated from the rest of the world in our mountain retreat.

A relaxed, after dinner game of Frisbee quickly morphs into a game of Grappa Frisbee Challenge. A bad throw, or a bad catch results in a capful of Grappa – a threat that seems to do wonders for my accuracy on both counts. Then in a bizarre and surprising twist, as fading light stops (Frisbee) play, one of the 5 litre bottles of mineral water generates to a game of deportment. Again, something which, on this occasion at least, I am surprisingly good at.

Fresh from watching Italy beat Australia in the football World Cup, Emi returns to us just as we are busy lighting a fire, around which, we drink wine, eat cake, and watch the stars come out. A little before midnight I retire to bed, on the wooden sleeping platform in the roof of the mountain hut.

Day Seven: Fireflies and prosecco…