“A little unsteady.”

Our last week in Italy was full of fine food, lots of animal cuddles and the occasional earthquake. Pete and I were watching TV one evening when the sofa we were sitting on started juddering. I looked over to Pete and asked “was that an earthquake?!” Our host, in his usual enthusiasm replied “nooo, of course not, I didn’t feel anything so it can’t have been an earthquake.” After several minutes our host received several texts and phone calls in a row, after which he asked us if we could put the news on as there had indeed been an earthquake!

This first quake measured 5.4 on the Richter scale and the Italian news was instantly full of stories, statistics and videos of the worst affected areas. The epicentre was fairly near but due to our height on the mountain we were unaffected. Our host, however did insist on detailing the emergency plan should we need it. This involved getting all animals out of the house as fast as possible, grabbing our beloved 1kg jar of Nutella and heading for the camper van. Thankfully where we were was never too badly affected but lower down the valleys there was devastation, particularly for several churches (although this could be due to the news always reporting on churches before anything else).

We felt a few small aftershocks throughout the rest of the night but the next morning a bigger one hit. I was mucking out the two Shetland ponies (who contentedly munched on their hay throughout the entire episode) and heard a rumble approaching quickly. As it got stronger the large doors to the barn started rattling too but I couldn’t feel much movement through my feet. The epicentre had been very close to us and the shocks were getting stronger but again, we and all the animals were fine. The strongest, however was further away from us but caused a mass of devastation in the local towns. The news was reporting that most people had evacuated what was left of the towns apart from the farmers (who off course could not leave their animals).

We all knew how serious it could be and just a few weeks before we started on our adventure a huge quake had hit Perugia which prompted us to message our hosts and check that everything was OK before we arrived. Our hosts dealt with earthquakes with their usual humour. As long as the animals and humans were all ok we could happily carry on with our work and joke about whether a 1kg jar of Nutella would be enough between 4 of us, especially if I managed to rescue the pancake batter I had prepared in the fridge and bring that with us too. Laughter was very often heard in that household.

We had gotten into a rhythm whilst in Italy. Days could be quiet as most of the work was usually completed by 10am so I usually had plenty of time to go on walks with Peter, track wildlife and, of course, to read (my favourite thing). It was a hugely relaxing stay apart from the 2 or 3 times a week Peter insisted on being beaten up. Despite the earthquakes the karate club was still meeting, with Pete it’s ever enthusiastic English counterpart. I usually went along to watch, mainly for the potential wildlife spotting opportunities on the drive back up the mountain at the end of the session. One evening however I had decided to stay behind and chat with one of our hosts (for which we spent most of it trading animal photos). The boys returned with huge grins on their faces and Pete told me they had seen a Porcupine! I was hugely jealous, we had been tracking them all month to no avail. All credit to the wonderfully understanding Peter who didn’t gloat or even post the video on Facebook as he knew how much I wanted to see one too.

Well I was not going to miss that opportunity again so for the last karate session before we left I went along. After a few photos with Peter grinning inanely amongst gi clad Italians we headed back up the mountain with our host declaring that he would find us a Porcupine! We drove slower than normal, all eyes fixed on the road ahead and occasionally pulling into the side of the narrow road to focus the headlights on the undergrowth. We were getting higher up, closer to the house and further from the possibility of seeing one. We went past the spot they had seen one before and past the ideal Porcupine territory section of the journey without seeing anything. I had lost all hope of seeing one until we rounded a corner, practically on our hosts property and out popped a Porcupine! His quills were all spiked up and he was in a hurry to get away, seeming like a gliding crown of quills floating across the road in front of us. He then buried his way into the undergrowth with disgruntled determination and all that was left was the sound of rustling. We all cheered and I was ecstatic that I had finally seen one. It was Halloween so I named him Jack.

On our last evening we got taken out for truly gigantic pizzas and got an even bigger and gruntier surprise on the way back. Driving along the highway just outside of Umbertide two Wild Boar ran across the road in front of us! Actually one ran, the other, having seen that the car had stopped, simply trundled across the road to meet his friend without a care in the world. They were absolutely massive and all of us in the car were rather gobsmacked but very happy to see them.

And so we had come to the end of our Italian adventure. We got the train back to Rome, spent a very frantic few hours trying to cram as much as we could into the short space of time and then it was on to our next destination. We were heading north, and I mean NORTH! The temperature for our destination was a measly two degrees Celsius and it was raining according to my weather app. However we were hopefully as prepared for this as we could be as this was the only winter weather we would experience this year. During the month of November we would be living in Norway.

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