That’s the name of our rented villa.¬† In Italian that means ‘The Trap’.
We wondered why, until we got here.¬† Then we realised that if it were icy or snowy, or even if it rained much and made the gravel road into mud, that’s exactly what you’d be in: a trap.
The road down to the villa from what passes for the main road (‘Strada stretta, procedere con cautela’) is a winding, steep, part gravel, part tarmac, part concrete¬† and part packed earth single track with passing places, and liberally rutted with deep diagonal gullies and three to four inch high ridges, plus potholes and the odd patch of fallen rocks.¬† At times, there is only a couple of feet between you and a long drop, and nothing to stop you taking it.¬† The track down to the beach is not only even steeper and more winding, but only seems to lead to a few rocks and no other way out than by boat.¬† Which we don’t have.¬† I’m not even sure there’d be room for a helicopter to land on the property … although it might manage it on the roof, if it didn’t collapse under the weight.¬†¬† To be fair, there might well be a beach at low tide, but since this is the last part of the journey down …
… and the path seems to completely disappear among a tangle of rocks, we stopped right here.
It is, however, completely peaceful and very beautiful, with a wide view of the ocean from the edge of the lawn and over the swimming pool, and absolutely no traffic noise at all, apart from the odd high, faint roar of a passing airliner on its way to Pisa or Rome, or … somewhere.¬† There is birdsong, and the somnolent hum of many insects.¬† At night, there is the chirping of crickets.
And the gentle grunts and snuffles of the wild boar, who, having managed to negotiate the electric fence which is meant to keep them out, are busy tearing up the lawn searching for fallen olives or figs and who knows what else. I begin to suspect there are truffles under them thar trees.
Yes, that is our front door mat.
The villa … well, we splashed out for a ‘hand-picked luxury villa’ because we’re too old to rough it.¬† We looked at all the pictures and read the information and the glowing reviews and thought, yep, for the wonderful view and the security of knowing that everything would be pristine and well-cared for, the price tag would be worth it.¬† And basically yes, it is a great place, though far from pristine.¬† And there were a few surprises, not all of them pleasant.
First of all, we couldn’t get hold of the caretaker to let him know we were coming, as we were required to do, an hour before arrival.¬† In the end, having tried the back-up caretaker as well, we phoned Tuscany Now who were extremely courteous and helpful and got the job done so that when we did arrive the caretaker was there and waiting.
But the instructions on how to arrive were interesting.¬† ‘Take the road to the left, and then take the left fork at the reeds’?¬† It’s bloody bamboo, for heaven’s sake, and about twenty foot tall!
And I think, for the sake of non-Italians, it would have been kind to say ‘take the rough track’ and not ‘take the road’, because it looks like the entrance to a farm which is going to a) lead to a gate behind which are several irate dogs and maybe a shotgun, or b) simply peter out in a field.¬† It’s roughly (haha) one kilometre long, and steeply angled down towards the sea in many places, and let me tell you, by the time you get to the villa you are convinced you are going the wrong way and will have to somehow try to turn around and go back.
This is a frame taken from a bit of rough video I shot on the way down one evening.¬† It might give you some idea of the feeling this road gives someone used to tarmac, street lights and road signs:
The wavy line you can see across the road in front of us is a solid ridge of uneven concrete, sprinkled with large stones.¬† The pink on the right is some kind of vegetation beyond which there is a drop.¬† This car has excellent headlights, by the way.¬† I’m planning to put a video up on You Tube and if I manage it, I’ll add the link here so you can follow a typical journey down.
So, anyway.¬† We arrived.
We arrived to find a smiling and helpful caretaker who showed us around the place and gave us towels and so on, and who explained that there was no phone, but there was a very good internet signal, and who invited us to call him any time if we needed anything.¬† He couldn’t, however, get the hot water working without several calls to the owner, and since it had been a dull, overcast couple of days, the solar panels weren’t cutting it.¬† He didn’t give up, though, and made sure we had hot water and heating if necessary before he left us for the night. Oh, and he explained about the electric fence so we didn’t walk into it, which was thoughtful.
A couple of nights later, it rained heavily.¬† Thunder and lightning – really blue lightning, the like of which I don’t remember seeing – and the caretaker, following instructions from the owner, turned off the power.¬† The gouged lawn shown above is what we woke up to, because since there was nothing to keep them out, the wild boar came in to dine.
Unfortunately, we also woke up to a sizeable puddle in the dining area, where the roof had been leaking all night, and continued to leak through the next day.
Luckily I hadn’t left my computer on that corner of the table, because the table was wet, too.
Did I mention the wildlife?¬† We have plenty of insects and other arthropods, which as you know, I do love.¬† Luckily.¬† Millipedes grow large here, as do centipedes, which live in the house feeding on spiders, mosquitoes etc. There are huge black beetles – gorgeous things! – and dozens of wasps of various types, flies, bugs and snails, little jumping spiders and crickets, and praying mantises which feed on the crickets.
This little guy – about two inches long without his ‘whiskers’ – was on the wall above the toilet cistern and gave OH a bit of a surprise one day.
I’ve posted a number of pictures on Facebook over the last few days, but I must admit that the praying mantis was a favourite find, even if he was eating his lunch at the time and pointedly turned his back on me after a couple of shots.
There is no phone.¬† Did I mention that?¬† Not that I mind being incommunicado, not at all, but in view of the isolated nature of the place, and the aforementioned lack of accessibility by road, helicopter or boat, I felt it might have been useful, not to mention reassuring!¬† There is, however, an old hand-cranked ship’s radio telephone, though I have no idea if it actually works!
There is a cooker, a kettle, a toaster and a fridge/freezer.¬† There is crockery and cutlery, and wineglasses (but no wine stopper).¬† There are full bathroom facilities including bidets.¬† There is a TV and DVD player and a hairdryer and a mosquito net for the bed.¬† There are candles and a lighter for the power cuts (yes, we had a couple during the week).¬† There are insect screens – in excellent order – at all the windows and most of the doors, and there are solidly bolting wooden shutters outside.¬† There is a washing machine here, which works just fine despite living outdoors.
There no dryer here, because electricity is expensive.¬† There is no air conditioning for the same reason.¬† The water comes from a well, which means it’s safe for washing and cooking but not drinking, so you need to bring your own bottled water, and I wish they’d told us that, since we arrived in the evening, but there’s a supermarket just outside of Porto Santo Stefano which is open late.¬† It’s about fifteen minutes away, and it’s important to know that it’s not open on Sundays.
There are low-wattage lights which you can turn on at the top of the three flights of steps and must remember to turn off again at the bottom, but apart from that there is no lighting outside and on a moonless night it is pitch black.¬† Pitch.¬† Black.¬† Absolutely dark.¬† It’s kind of nice, in a way, but I’m not used to it.
So, the bottom line:¬† would I recommend this place to friends?
You may be surprised to hear that I would.¬† Even with the leaking roof and the faulty cistern and the cracks in the tiling.¬† Even with the lack of any kind of curtain up at the bathroom window with the steps to the villa right outside.¬† Even with the electric socket fallen off the wall in the dining area and the lack of a kitchen bin or laundry basket, or anywhere safe to store non-fridge food items (despite the instruction to ‘put food away or the ants will come in’).¬† No cupboard, no bread bin, no tupperware or even plastic food bags.¬† *Sigh*¬† But we managed, of course we did!
The bottom line is that it is incredibly beautiful, and just SO peaceful.¬† A place to unwind, do nothing, and let yourself relax completely – a balm to the soul.
And look – on rainy days, there is a whole bookshelf full of entertainment!
Quite a lot of these books are in Italian, German or French but there is a good selection in English, both fiction and non-fiction. The only things missing, to my mind were a couple of identification guides to Italian flora and fauna.¬† Those would have been useful.
So come along and have fun – but don’t do what we did and hire a nice comfortable saloon car to get you here.¬† Get something with four-wheel drive.
That poor Mercedes will never be the same again!