Italy, that great love of mine.
My travel bug first began when I was 15 and decided that I wanted to go to Italy on an exchange program. My mother was all for most of this plan but suggested that perhaps I would prefer to go Ireland where we had friends and where I could speak the language. I gave in to her logic and put off my ideas of vespas and pizza for a while.
My first year out of university, having already visited Italy twice on short occasions, I knew that I wanted to go back to it’s engaging shores. I decided that I would work, at a hotel, a bar, wherever they would take me and attend Italian classes at the same time. And then there was widespread economic trouble throughout Europe and I thought that it would not be such a great time to go over looking for a job…
It was not too long after when I gained my job with Topdeck. I was thrilled. I didn’t even know yet that I would end up spending almost half my time within Italy’s boarders. With Topdeck alone I have spent about 6 months over the last 2 years in Italy and learning and seeing all I can in in the major cities. However fun spending all my time in tourist cities and with English speakers is, I was still longing for a glimpse of that real Italian living. Somewhere quiet, somewhere unknown.
Welcome to Monfumo. In the province of Treviso, in the region of Veneto, in Italy. Lets go through that the other way around. Italy you know. Veneto is the region up in the very top right-hand corner. It’s capital is Venice and other big cities in the region are Verona and Padova. Veneto is split in to seven provinces. The province of Treviso is just above Venice and Monfumo is in the top left hand corner of that (are you following?)
This town is tiny. The population is about 2,000 people and the centre of town consists of a church, post office, primary school, library, bank and 2 restaurants. That’s it.
|One of Monfumo’s Restaurants|
But it is beautiful. As part of the Veneto region it was privy to much of the wealth that came out of the republic of Venice for 1,000 year (ending in the 1700’s) and that fact is mirrored in the many villa’s that dot the landscape and the many great names of art and music that come from this region. It was also one of the worst hit areas of Italy during the world wars. So close to the boarder of Austria it was the front line of combat between those two countries.
The foothills that I live in rise beautifully and suddenly out of the flat plains around. They look like waves lapping at the foot of the dolomites. Each of these hills are deeply wooded, some are topped by ruins of churches or castles and they plunge suddenly and deeply in to green valleys cut out over years by the streams that still run through them.
Walking in these woods in the month of February (after a warm winter) already brings sights of wildflowers peeking their heads out. Most common at the moment is the primrose and the snowdrop but there are signs of the violets, wild strawberries and others that are still to come.
Many of the valleys are agricultural land. There isn’t much of Italy that is truly wild, they have been here too long and have to many people for anywhere to be undiscovered. Some valleys are lined with orderly grape vines, trimmed to perfection and seemingly up kept totally by hand. One day I saw a farmer training the vines to the wire using switches of supple twigs, his secateurs securely stored in a cow horn strapped to his hips.
I’ve watched the land around us change. From the most colourful autumn that I have ever seen. The reds and oranges blazed and swarmed over the hills, when the leaves fell it was the ground around the trees that became fiery and alive. In the winter I have woken to swirling mists in the valleys and brilliantly clear days. Each drive to school was exciting to see how the mountains would be changed today. One morning purple, one morning pinks and oranges, one morning the snow had crept all the way down to just 200 meters above the school and every day after it retreated just a little further up, creating contrasts with the dark woods. And now as I have said, spring is coming. Birds are out, we have lots of little wren/finch type of birds as well as birds of prey, I’m not sure if they are hawks or falcons. I saw my first squirrel in the garden and have been told that deer will be visible from my bedroom window when it is warmer and they return to the valleys.
At night I still find this area amazing. The stars are not the brightest I’ve seen but they are definitely the brightest I have seen in years (brightest awards go to Fiji and the Australian outback, hard to beat). One night when we went out for dinner and had a different view I exclaimed how low the constellations were at exactly the same moment that I realised that they were in fact the lights from houses dotted up the side of the mountain. They merged in to the stars so seamlessly that I was fooled for a second.
Something that I have realised from being in such a constantly changing landscape is that it doesn’t feel like staying still. When every drive to school pickups seems like a new discovery of the mountains and every morning the view from my window is different how can you get bored? And whilst it is easier in a place like this it got me thinking that if we took the time each day to notice something new about our drive to work or the change in the colour of the sun bouncing off buildings, your everyday world can become infinitely more interesting and less like being stuck in one place. Make every day a discovery.