Got up early this morning, six thirty, and slipped out for an hour’s walk. The sun was already pretty high but still veiled in mist. I walked past vineyards and olive groves toward a farmhouse until yapping guard dogs made me turn on my heel, and then I left the road.
The area is heavily altered by agriculture, but still there is quite a lot of woodland and brush. I descended into the valley of a little stream, dodged bushes and a large spider web, and found water trickling at the bottom of a deep-cut little channel, like a ditch among the bushes. Stepping over, I entered untouched greenery. Little recent pits got me thinking of foraging boars. Some ways up the other side of the valley a long yellow-and-black viper was sunning itself. It lay still for a long moment and then made itself scarce when I started fiddling with my camera.
I couldn’t find a way over the lip of the valley that wouldn’t involve using a machete, so I returned the way I’d come, brambles clawing at the back of my hand. A brief spell of fieldwalking in the red earth of a field garnered me only some modern tile. Home for breakfast and reading. Photographs soon, including some pretty good flower close-ups in morning sunlight, on a Flickr stream near you.
Swam with the kids, daughter dog-paddling happily with her arm pontoons, then cooked tortellini for lunch. The afternoon’s outing took us to the lovely Romanesque abbey church of Saint
Antimus (never heard of him, gotta read up), whence much of the area was once controlled. Very good sculpture and bas-reliefs. Then alley-haunting in tiny nearby picturesque-overload Castelnuovo dell’ Abate, and ice cream in the village bar while the septuagenarian proprietress played cards with her regulars. Finally back to Montalcino and the diocesan museum of church art, with a remarkable collection of fine Late Medieval and Renaissance paintings and sculpture of the Sienese school. (Though I doubt that any of the sculpture retains its original paintwork — it’s largely lurid ottocento refinishings, with one particularly unfortunate John the Baptist looking as if the painter were usually employed to finish cult statues of Ronald McDonald.) One thing I’d never seen before was 14th century statuary in white-glaze terracotta, looking a lot like bathroom furnishings.
What otherwise occupies the thoughts of my family is our ant infestation. Tiny black ones beyond all tally. My wife had the idea that salt might drive them off. Didn’t work, got really messy. Then the landlady gave us perfumed talcum powder, for some placebo reason, and it didn’t work either. Quite fascinating to study the long busy ant road across the white wall from one of the rafters to the kitchenette.