previous day back to the beginning
next day
Day 2 Rovinaglia...Borgo Val Di Taro

the cottage garden

We began, after getting up indecently late, by cleaning a basic space in the cottage, which hadn't been lived in for a couple of years — enough dust-and-cobweb free cupboard space for a week, enough clean cutlery and pots and pans and plates. We worked out how to use the hot water heater and the washing machine. We explored the garden and the cantina (cellar). The cantina is a bit like a little museum, appealing greatly to the archaeologist in Ralph.

We sat in the sun and sloughed off the residue of England and work. Lizards flickered out of sight wherever we walked. A long green and black snake slithered along the stone retaining wall beside us. Crickets chirped. Chickens clucked though the meadow below us. We wander around the village.

Rovinaglia sits more than 800 metres above sea level on the western flank of a steep-sided valley down which a stream called the Tarodine flows northwards to join the River Taro, one of those watercourses that for most of the year dawdles halfheartedly across a broad, pebble-strewn bed.

From our cottage's garden we looked across the valley towards Valdena on the opposite side, and nearer the valley floor, St Vincenzo, each village's tall campanile rising above the dense woodland that fills the valley. On the opposite horizon, Monte Cucco. The village is actually several clusters of houses, farms and smallholdings, almost separate hamlets, grouped along the road that becomes a stony mule track just after twisting round the church. There must be six or seven houses in the hamlet we were temporarily part of. While we were there (late May) the weather was mild, never hot, and the second half of the week was punctuated by thunder showers.

Our borrowed cottage had been, I guess, converted from a barn, and was at the southern end of the group of dwellings. It consisted of a main floor with kitchen, living room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Downstairs was a large cellar. Outside was a biggish garden in which one could sit and look over the valley. The meadows were full of chirping grasshoppers and crickets and cicadas, lizards darted beneath stones. The road from Rovinaglia winds downhill to Borgo Val Di Taro through hayfields, to arrive at an hair-raising crossroads just south of the river.

After siesta we drove down the hill to Borgo Val Di Taro and shopped for groceries.

Borgataro is a pleasant, unspectacular town, with a network of narrow central streets lined by fine old buildings and little shops, a wide avenue down which one can promenade on Saturday evening as the shadows lengthen. There are the usual industrial and business areas, the usual untidy suburbs. The railway marches across the valley floor on a long viaduct.

On its streets, slender young women wearing tight white trousers transparent enough to reveal tiny thongs, display their flat brown bellies as they make an eyelash-fluttering show of ignoring all nearby males. Much-gelled, well dressed young men joke in small, noisy groups around a couple of motor scooters, their eyes darting at passing femininity. The middle-aged sit or lounge in doorways and talk through passersby to those relaxing on the opposite side of the street. Old men squat in threes and fours on walls and stare at Lenore's legs. Old ladies gossip on park benches, surrounded by a crowd of small children being half-ignored by gossiping parents. Talk everywhere... There is a noticeable absence of British pale flabbiness, though it is obvious from the number of heavily-lent-on sticks that many of these people have led hard lives.

| top of page |