We had our first guests of the year at the Farm with a View last month, when Matt and Nat came over from Wales. They brought their weather with them, as while we visited relatives in a sunny UK, they fed the cats between welsh-style rain showers. Needless to say, the hot weather we had enjoyed just before their arrival resumed as soon as they left. It’s been hot ever since, climbing to 28 degrees yesterday.
They seem to have had a good time though. They managed a day in Rome by train, and bravely took the car into Siena without major incident. We had a few days with them too, covering some of the local walks, including a stroll down to our swimming spot on the river. While down there we saw what I think was a weasel – bobbing up for a couple of seconds from behind the tall grass. They had a lot of luck with the local fauna. I’ve known Tuscany for twenty years, and lived here for four. I think I’ve glimpsed wild boar two or three times, and always at a distance. Yet Matt and Nat almost bumped into one, late at night on the track back from the pizzeria.
There are quite a lot of beasts around here which you see signs of, but would be lucky to spot in the flesh. The boar dig up patches of ground, rummaging for tubers. They also have selected spots which they use as communal toilets. My non-scientific surveys suggest there must be loads of them about this year. Indeed, Franco the barber tells me they have come down from the mountain in search of food, as their favourite chestnut crop failed last autumn. Who knows.
It’s not what you’re thinking. I got this from Getty Images.
We also have resident porcupines, as evidenced by the odd spine which you find when wandering across the farm. One of our guests found a dead one a few years back; and we saw two of them cross the road in front of the car not long after we bought the place. They are not keen on posing for photography though. This may have something to do with the fact that some of the locals still eat them. Though a protected species, we have been told how the traps are set and how tasty they are. This is not a delicacy I will be indulging in, although the species was originally introduced from Africa by the Romans, for precisely that reason. As far as I am concerned, the ones that live up in my wood are entirely welcome. And for the record: no, they don’t have the ability to shoot their spines at passers by. I suppose that’s what one would call a rural myth. It can be safely filed under BS.
Of all the wildlife up here on the Amiata, one species always invokes strong sentiments. The apennine wolf is back, it seems. I would just love to catch sight of one of these top predators, hunted to extinction round here in the 1930’s, but hopefully now re-established on the mountain. I say hopefully, because different people tell you different things. There are certainly wolves in two or three locations in Tuscany, including one of the nature reserves in the far north, and in the Uccelina park down on the coast. The warden at the wildlife centre up here told me there was definitely a local wild pack; and he’s likely to know what he’s talking about. Yet they are controversial. A headline in one of the local papers a few years ago ran “Wolves: 200 businesses threatened”. I think we can tuck that one away in the BS file too.
So, unable to bring you pictures of wild boar or wolves, I have to resort to flowers, and the inevitable cats. This place does look gorgeous at this time of year. Lia and I stroll around, she trying to persuade me not to cut it all down with my highly entertaining sit-on mower. We reach an uneasy compromise.