Camping with Caterpillars

An old lady emerged from the trees and hobbled towards us at the barrier.
'Buona sera, Signora. E aperto?'
'Si, aperto.' She nodded with a grin. Surprisingly strong she raised the heavy barrier and waved us up a track through the gloomy woods.
Camping "Panoramico Colma" at Tagliolo Montferrato had been hard to locate. We'd found an old discarded Italian directory of Municipal campsites and looked forward to encounters with locals, rather
than with other Brits on commercial sites.
We drove past derelict shacks half buried in undergrowth and just before the track ended in a tangle of brambles found a small clearing. No sign of other campers.
'Hey!' my husband nudged away a rusted jerry can, 'relics of an army camp.'
He discovered the ablutions housed in a concrete blockhouse and shovelled debris out of the sink well under a hose.
He was enjoying this, I could tell. Gave him a sense of surviving in the wild.
When he wrenched a tap, icy water shot out to disturb colonies of beetles which scuttled into the cracked concrete walls.
'What do think happened to the old lady - those bruises?' I asked. My voice echoed. Awesome images from the film 'Misery' swept in.
A mad axe man? I was spooked, in a hurry to leave the site.
'Poor eyesight - walked into something.' He dismissed my remark. 'Old girl must live in one of the shacks.'
Somewhat eased, I stripped off, passed my clothes to the 'chambermaid' and took the quickest dip ever.
It was dark beneath the trees. Like a gothic horror, tiny caterpillars dangled on silken threads and brushed my face as I made it back to our van. I stopped and stared, taking a moment to focus. A large bunch of grapes and three tomatoes rested on the step.
Chiding myself for groundless fears, boosted by the lady's kindness together with a glass or two of Barola wine, we later set out to explore. Trampling down thorny brambles covering the track we came quite suddenly upon a high escarpment. The Liguria hills stretched away to the horizon. In silence we watched as within seconds the sky turned from vermillion to deepest mauve while a huge orange sun slid out of sight. Clearly a good vantage point for the troops once billeted here.
'"Panoramico" - justifies its name, eh?'
'A lucky find,' I replied and smiled. Tomorrow we would seek out the old lady. A feeling at the back of my mind suggested she'd have some interesting tales to tell.

B Mackenzie

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