Babes in the Wood

Every third week-end of the month a second-hand market with over two hundred stalls spreads itself out from Lucca’s centre around Piazza del Giglio, and Piazza Napoleone There are special sections dedicated to furniture, books, clothes etc. and there is something to found for every taste and every pocket.

While perusing the market with a friend I picked up a print displaying the county of Surrey to the south –west of London. Nothing remarkable, perhaps, in that except to find it in Lucca. Did it belong to an anglophile or was it the bequest of some former English resident? Two features captured my attention from this map engraved by Thomas Moule and dating back to 1830. First, the depiction of railway lines which must then have been as new as the M1 was in 1960. (I suspect that some of the lines hadn’t been built as yet since the world’s first major passenger line, the Liverpool and Manchester, had only been inaugurated the previous year). Second, on the top left corner was a view of my old school, Dulwich College. But it wasn’t the college I remember built by the son of the Houses of Parliament architect and inaugurated in 1870; it was the original college founded by actor-manager Edward Alleyn, friend of William Shakespeare, in 1619.


That building can be viewed to this day in College Road opposite the west entrance to Dulwich Park.

The old school tie still wields its furtive force even in the by-ways of Italy. As a result of this blog I was not only re-united with a school contemporary but also with my former English master there! I’m sure there will be several others OA’s (term given to former pupils at the school and short for Old Alleynians) who, while maybe not living permanently in Italy, have property there where they spend a considerable part of the year. I receive the OA newsletter regularly and note there are annual meetings and dinners in all part so the globe – from the USA through Singapore to Australia so why not have a get-together in Italy?

Graduating from school to university I have at least one contemporary I keep in touch with. His house is near the magnificent monastery of Subiaco, an easy journey from Rome and its eternal wonders.

Recently, a story has been grabbing the attention of Italy regarding the Subiaco area. It relates how a mother was out on a walk with her two children, aged 4 and 5, in the wooded hills above the monastery when she lost her way. It was getting dark and the mother had no idea of how to get back so she left her children in the shelter of a cave and attempted to locate the return route  which she didn’t find until the following morning. Meanwhile, the children had been suffering through the night in sub-zero temperatures, surviving by hugging each other with their bodies’ warmth. Although the mother was not able to indicate the exact whereabouts of her children to the rescue authorities they were eventually found. “A miracle” said one of the rescuers.

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The mother has since complained that she is being accused of child-neglect, cruelty and even an attack of insanity. True, there are many questions to be answered. Why did she go on this walk with her two children in an unfamiliar area? Why did she go unprepared – even her mobile was out-of-charge. Why did she leave her children in the cave alone – she could have spent the night with them and then tried to find a way back the following day?

The husband, however, has given his wife the benefit of the doubt and I am inclined to opine that, although the woman was rather irresponsible, there was no ulterior dark motive in the children’s abandonment in a lonely cave in the woods and at the mercy of wolves and bears. It’s very easy to get lost in the Apennines (read my post at for something similar that happened to us). Just walking during the day and with a good map it’s remarkably easy to take the wrong path and have to double-back on one’s route.

Today, we shall certainly not be going for a walk. It’s easy just to get lost in our garden what with the heavy fog and drizzle! How long do we have to put up with living in the middle of a cloud, I wonder?



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