Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Torrente Pescia

There’s a mad Bengali man in our B and B with weird staring eyes. He cooks us breakfast in the morning and stands by the cooker whilst we eat it, making us feel deeply uncomfortable. He never smiles. I think he’s suspicious of my vegetarianism. Sometimes his face suddenly appears at a window or in a doorway. He watches us, almost as though he wants to kill us.

We opted for breakfast in Pescia this morning, which may have triggered some wrath from our Bengali friend who probably felt a little snubbed. I think we’re the only people staying here, so he may have stood by the cooker for a long time. We went to the cafe where they squeeze orange juice in front of you and sat on one of their communal tables eating croissants.

I worked for about an hour before we set off for a little walk along the river bank. The river is somewhat romantically called “Il Torrente Pescia” (the Torrent of Pescia) and it cuts a fine swathe through the middle of the town. Various bridges, some pedestrian-only, link the two halves of the town together. I’m told the area was badly bombed in the Second World War. One assumes that the paper factories along the river were a legitimate target, or maybe that they were converted for other, more sinister, uses during the war. Whatever the case, the charming town square in Pescia mercifully avoided being bombed, but the buildings by the river weren’t so lucky. Their replacements are lacking in old-worldly charm.

It’s obviously a river which goes nuts in the spring when the snow melts on the nearby mountains. There’s a large area of flood plain covered in scrubby grass and a few hardy-looking trees, and this is where we were walking. At one point a bird flew past which must have been some sort of kingfisher. It was almost entirely turquoise. Its feathers literally shimmered in the sun.

The “other” side of Pescia is a little more ramshackle, but all the more charming for it. Back from the river, the buildings are ancient. Inviting little roof terraces perch shambolically on the sides and tops of houses which look like they might fall down any moment. The idea of sitting with a cup of tea in the morning, staring out at the Apennines is a rather lovely one!

The sun was setting and winter mists were descending on the valley below us when we returned to the B and B, so we took ourselves for a walk through the olive groves and around the little streams which are all part of this estate. The colours around here are majestic. The trees have not yet shed their leaves so there are plenty of autumnal colours. Many are still bearing fruit as well. There are both orange and lemon trees outside the house where we’re staying, with piles of windfalls on the ground. The olive trees are a silvery sage colour which intensifies and darkens as the sun lowers in the sky.

And what a fine sunset we had. A bank of cloud was sitting on the mountains to the west of us, and, as the sun vanished behind it everything became rather murky and still. There was open sky below the cloud, however, so we knew there would be one last, glorious hurrah as the sun dropped towards the horizon. We could see an arc of orange light slowly moving towards us, glinting in the windows of the buildings of Luca, and then suddenly the sun was with us again, fiery orange and warming our faces. Smoke from chimneys in the mountains behind us was whisked into the thermals and corkscrewed its way up the mountain in white ribbons. And just like that, it was dark again. The sun, nothing but a memory for another twelve hours, off to wake someone else up in the world.

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