How too much pasta and vino will not stop me making early morning Tuscan photos!

Capella di Vitaleta, Val d'Orcia

I recently blogged about the dangers of wildlife in France, but Italy can be pretty perilous too! Especially when stuck in the backwaters of Tuscany, up a dirt track in a flimsy car, searching for our villa, and completely and utterly lost. But when we finally found our villa we realised we had stumbled on paradise. A beautiful converted farmhouse, overlooking a valley. The only building in sight was a castle on the opposite side of the hills. No sounds, no artificial lights, no cars. A wonderful, deserted paradise. And heaven for a photographer!

The farmhouse villa

The view over the valley

I like my early morning photo runs, and the Val D’Orcia is one of the most photogenic places I have ever been to. The following pix show some of the typical scenes of the rolling countryside.

Track from Pienza into the Val d'Orcia

Rolling countryside

The road to Montichiello

But back to the wildlife adventures. Did you know that porcupines still exist in Italy? Indeed they do, and we found their quills all over the place around the farmhouse, proving that they weren’t at all afraid of having a good sniff around at these odd human intruders, as long as it was under the cover of darkness. We only saw one, shuffling across our dirt-track road as we surprised it coming around the bend. Great big black and white jobby, quills a-bristling. Very impressive. The quills are extremely sharp. Great for ink pens, but be careful you don’t rub your eyes by mistake. These things will spike and prick. Clearly the porcupine is a well defended animal.

Capella di vitaleta

However, slightly more scary than the porcupines were the bats, one of which decided to take up residence in Imogen’s bedroom. Immy went to bed one night, and then suddenly shot out her room! “There’s something in there!” she screamed. Flitting around and around in the twilight was a pipistrelle. Not very large, but bats being bats, with a slightly fanged and disease carrying reputation, we weren’t at all keen on our only daughter taking up residence in a battery… So, how do you catch a bat? Answer,,,,, you don’t. You turn on all the lights, open the windows, close the door and hope the vampire makes a dash for the woods. Which it did. What amazed me was that as soon as Immy thought the bat had gone she happily went back to her bed and slept on as if nothing had happened. No fear at all. Quite tough for a 6 year old…

Il Belvedere - the quintessential Tuscan villa. Recognise it from 'Gladiator?'

Capella di Vitaletta at sunset

A wonderful spot. Beautiful on the eye, delightful for the stomach (Ciacci la Piccolomini, 2001, Brunello di Montalcino, unbelievable) and ruinous on the wallet. Everything a holiday should be. Ciao!

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