High in the Alpi Apuane, above where we rent our ‘little house in the olive grove’ is La Grotta dell’Onda. The ancient rock face of the mountain has been eroded by wind and water into a long flowing shape like the curling crest of a wave. Under it, where surfers might shoot the tunnel, is a large cave where pre-historic people and animals once lived. It's the perfect destination for an Italian spring day.
Excavations have found human remains and the bones of bears as they dug down through accumulated debris on the cave floor. This is old limestone and water has found its way through the rock, spouting down like a natural shower faucet. Our ancestors had running water and even en suite showers!
The weather is warm for spring - 23 degrees the other day, despite a strong easterly wind shivering down the backs of our necks. The wild cherry trees are exploding into blossom, and the alpine meadows are bright with flowers. The yellow heads of arnica, wild narcissi, bugloss, anemones, lace caps, primroses, hellebore, violets - the list is endless.
The one thing lacking is spring birdsong. This is an area of Italy where songbirds are regularly eaten. Occasional survivors flit nervously between bushes - a flash of feathers and they’re gone.
|At the mouth of the cave|
But now it's time to pack my suitcase again and head back to England for another term. Neil, on the other hand, is waist deep in packing cases for marble sculptures. He has two exhibitions this year, both in the UK - one at the Garden Gallery in Hampshire and the other at Asthall Manor in Oxfordshire. Hard work - but still time for a cuppa!