The hills are alive….

A taste of what spring should really be like came yesterday and we started again on our orto, planting some bietola and insalata romana. Squelching through the muddy swamp large parts of our field had become because of the persistent rains of the last months, I reflected that this time last year I was doing the best thing that could possibly be done in this part of the world and that is to take to the footpaths of the higher hills. I look back at the photographs of a characteristic walk with friends. Starting from the rifugio Alto Matanna (with a memorial to that great nineteenth century Englishman, “the apostle of alpinism”, Richard Henry Budden, whose own path took him from London’s Stoke Newington, through the Apuans to the highest peaks of Aosta’s “Gran Paradiso”) we took path 5 (the paths here are well signposted with CAI red/white/red tricolor marks and the path number  and even the time it should take to get to a significant landmark) passing the Apuans’ version of the panettone (Monte Procinto), then paths 121 and 8 up to the foce delle Porchette with its gracious (and useful) Maestà (wayside shrine offering spiritual encouragement and temporal shelter from bad weather). Thence, path 109 through more woods than rocks back to Albergo Alto Matanna. The Procinto, with its spectacular grandstand views of the marble mountains, I had encircled before though never climbed up the via ferrata to the “giardino” at the top. Perhaps one day I will.

A walk through these splendid mountains (the only ones among the Apennines to be termed “alps” because of their rocky nature, flora and fauna) reveals the highest things one can ever enjoy in this life: not only the splendid views stretching on one side towards the Tyrrhenian and the other towards the main Apennine watershed, but, at different times of the year, the most exquisite flowers: peonies, primulas, violets, crocuses and orchids and frequent wild life: a deer, an eagle, a badger, perhaps one day a wolf.

And always the sense of complete freedom with just the sky above you and the path in front of you – how marvelous to be immersed in nature, the supreme moral teacher. And it’s all free!

Indeed, there is nothing better than a long walk to put life and its problems into perspective; the walks in the area where I live can be superb, on a par with anywhere else that is best on this earth.

Having spent most of my life in the megalopolis of London (albeit with more than its fair share of green spaces) I am constantly amazed how I can step outside my front door and immediately take to a mountain path which will lead me through every conceivable type of scenery from woodland, through pastures to rocky heights and, best of all, lead me to free my mind from those niggly daily preoccupations.

Anyway some photographs of last year’s walk to le porchette and back.Spot that panettone full of natural ingredients:


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