So, catching up from where we left off last time, the tail end of the visit from Sheila and Ben saw a visit to Pistoia, where Stuart took them to the fascinating Pistoia Underground museum, some last-minute catching of sun rays for Ben, and some more Reggie-Ben bonding time - the two of them really do make a great pair of friends.
Sheila and Ben left towards the end of the week, and our incumbent guests, David & Carol, left a couple of days after that - but not before we'd spent a very enjoyable leisurely morning chatting and drinking coffee with them on our patio. The departure of this set of guests was the only one this year in which we've had a same-day turnaround, with new guests arriving that evening, so after an early lunch we swung into action to turn the apartment round ready for new visitors - this time a French couple, who arrived in the early evening.
We always make sure that we are around to "manage" Reggie when guests first arrive, as he can be particuarly vocal when there are new faces downstairs. We thought we had done a fairly good job of things, and our guests were happily enjoying a peaceful evening under the guest pergola... until we had our next visit from our resident boar.
At around 10:30pm, Reggie started kicking off and making a lot of noise looking up towards the terraces. This in itself is nothing unusual as he often hears/sees/smells deer passing through, which usually make a fairly swift exit after being barked at by him. This time, though, I heard a distinct rustling sound quite close to the house, and on shining the torch up the terraces (which is usually a futile exercise), was stunned to see an enormous wild boar staring back at me from about 3 terraces above the house. I called Stuart to come quickly and have a look - not that "quickly" was really necessary as these beasts don't seem to be startled by anything much and it didn't move, just stared back at us then carried on what it was doing.
This episode only served to underline how important the fencing of the terraces project is for us - we are still awaiting materials (the company that supplies the materials to the builders' merchant is still on summer holidays until the start of next week, but as soon as they reopen, our order will go in).
After the noisy dramas of Saturday night, we were reluctant to go out on Sunday, leaving Reggie home alone while guests were still in, enjoying a quiet first day of their holidays. However, we had commited to (and really wanted to) go to a commemoration afternoon up in the village of San Quirico, marking the 74th anniversary of the San Quirico massacre - a tragic episode during the second world war when, in retaliation for the shooting of two German soldiers by partisans, the village was set alight and 20 civilians were rounded up and shot by German officers.
We met a small group of people in the main square of the village, along with our friends Danilo, who is a walking guide (and was to be the guide for a short walk around the village), and Massimo, who has just produced a book about the event. After a bit of a wait we then set off on the short walk, in which we were taken to the house in which, on the fateful night, a dinner took place involving 6 people, 4 of whom were German soldiers. We then followed the route that two of the soldiers took after having been called upon at the house and asked for assistance. It was somewhere between the two houses that the two Germans were shot. The tour was fascinating - we had commentary from both Danilo and a historian who is an expert in the WWII history of our valley, and while it was at times a little difficult to keep up with all the twists and turns of the story (the complication being that there are now accounts of events from survivors/witnesses that don't corroborate the 'official' report), we were pleased to manage to understand most of it.
At the end of the short walk, we returned to the village square, where a procession set off - including the Mayor of Pescia, representatives of the Red Cross, the misericordia, and other local organisations - to the area just outside the village cemetery, which was set out ready for a commemorative mass to be held. We stayed through about half of the mass before deciding that we really ought to head back home to check that Reggie wasn't making too much noise and our guests weren't wondering what crazy noisy sort of place they had booked for the week! We needn't have worried, though, as all was quiet when we got home.
And then it was time for the working week - this time of year is busy for me with my Virus Bulletin work, and Stuart spent some time up the valley this week, helping out with some jobs that need doing at the house of an acquaintance just outside San Quirico. We each taught an English lesson this week - although, with our village Circolo closed to give its owners (managers) Emanuele and Betti a much deserved holiday, our lessons had to be held at our house. It was a bit of an experiment finding out how Reggie would react - my lesson with Michela went well, as Stuart took Reggie outside with him and all was nice and quiet. Stuart's lesson with Emanuele was a little more difficult though, as Reggie was _very_ upset about the arrival (and entry into the house) of a complete stranger (and a male one at that). Unfortunately I was out at the supermarket for the first half hour of their lesson, so for the first half hour Stuart and Emanuele battled to hear each other over the sound of barking outside the front door. Once I got back home I was able to sit in the garden with Reggie and keep him more or less quiet for the rest of the time - so, with a bit of a team effort, we managed!
We spent a delightful hour or so having a pre-dinner drink with our French guests on Friday evening - we had held back a little over the course of the week, whereas we would usually invite our guests to join us for a drink and a chance to meet Reggie, we had been unsure of the correct protocol given the (apparent) language barrier, and had left them to their own devices, in (relative) peace. It turned out, though, that their English was excellent and it was an absolute pleasure to get to know them a little better - we were thankful to know that they had had a good week and really enjoyed both the apartment and the area.
There's not much else to report from the rest of the week/fortnight - this evening we will be heading up the valley to Sorana for their annual Sorana bean festival. The Sorana bean is a much prized delicacy: basically a white cannelini bean with a very thin and easily digestible skin. These beans are grown only in a small area over a few hectares along the Pescia River (the land having been drained by the Medici between the 16th and 17th centuries), with the local farmers passing down the seeds through the generations for centuries. The bean has PGI (Protected Geographical Identification) status, meaning that "Sorana beans" can only come from this small area. Anyway, following the harvest of beans each year a festival is held in the village to celebrate the harvest, raise money for the local voluntary ambulance station, and taste the newly harvested beans - all of which is a good enough excuse for us to go and meet up with our friends for a couple of hours.
|Our one sunflower this year - but bright and cheery as ever.
|I'm the king of the castle?
|Our little fig tree has been more productive this year than ever before.
|Good boy treats.