The view all around us here is unbelievably breathtaking. The photo here doesn’t capture it in the slightest. The feeling is like being in a set from a movie - I keep half expecting the animated horse ‘Spirit’ to run over the nearest hill neighing in unadulterated pleasure at being so free. It’s timeless here. It’s magnificent. It’s miles away from the now tired and deeply unstimulating experience of life in Italy’s beachside chocker campsites where we’ve been forced to frequent after our gas ran out a few days ago. Now, refilled with gas, we’re 10k from the nearest paese, in between Morano Calabro and Mormanno, slap in the middle of the Pollino national mountain park in the north of Calabria, Italy’s southern most state. Staying at another agrotourism place – a summer bolt hole of an elderly couple from Tuscany who themselves just arrived yesterday - they’ve put in water and electricity so campers can stay in their fields and revel in such resplendent views. We’re the only people here, which sweetens the idyllic experience.
We crossed the ferry from Sicily last week and have been meandering our way up the eastern side of the sole of Italy’s boot. Stopping over on the sea promenade at Brancaleone; lunching at an hearty family trattoria in the thousand year old georgeous hillside town of Gerace; resting a day on the beach at a campsite near Stilo; getting ripped off at a pretentious seaside seafood restaurant past Soverato, then doing an early morning runner to avoid paying the remainder of the €110 for 2 course meal; and eventually ending up at a huge city of a campsite in woods next to the beach in Sibari. We fled the mundane and took a tour of yet another extraordinary Calabrian mountain town called Civita, which proudly overlooks an impressive gorge to a gushing river a few thousand feet below. Unfortunately our motorhome was a touch too big for its tiny streets (fit only for cars the size of those nifty little Fiat 500s) and after the kind help of 8 locals including 4 pushing on one side to avoid scrapping the bottom of the coach, we manoeuvred our way to a safe parking space on a hill next to a house from which an old bearded pastor emerged to offer us his home made white wine and a bag full of large nectarines, which he implored us to consume together. Peaches dipped in plonc. If you’ve not tried it, you must. Superb combination. Go on. Buy some today.
Back to the appreciation of now thing. The day is nearing when our children will enter the phenomenon of teenagedom. It might not be as an horrific rite of passage for us as it usually is for most (thank you Potts for being such an exemplary inspiration to the contrary), but nevertheless change is afoot. I sense it. I sniff it in the air. It is the smell of inevitability. What we have now, with the kids as delightful as they are, in these precious moments, in these days that we cannot relive, in these dramatic mountainous landscapes, on this irrefutably enchanting episode, I know will not last forever. They will all disappear in a twinkling. Children into adventurous adults. Effervescent swimming puppy into prolific stately sire. This watchless travelling, musing and dreaming will morph one day soon in its right time into planning, building and engaging once again with people in some shape or form somewhere or the other. But today there is only really one thing to do. Cherish. To treasure this outstanding family of mine. To bask in their sunshine and simply to play. For on occasions like these, when all is quiet (except for their surprisingly harmonious little snores) I hear with exceptional clarity a voice speaking to me from the future. The voice is recognisable and it is mine. It is my 70 year old self once again urging me to waste no more time on the futility of life’s busyness but simply to “walk more, listen more, kiss more”. Obediently I proceed. After my nap I’ll attempt to master another of Jamie Oliver’s Italian recipes for our supper this evening. But first I might just have to nip into town for some more peaches and plonc. As it’s a tip from a pastor, it might just become the first religious habit I’ve practiced in a while.