I’ll start with the good news (although actually it’s all good news): the problems with the back wall of the house are not as bad as first feared. It’s still going to cost the price of a small car to put it right, but it was looking more like a Range Rover at one point, so we have to be happy with that!
Two engineers came over to have a look and both settled on the same plan of action; dig down behind the wall in one-metre sections (so as not to cause the whole house to collapse) to see exactly what’s there and then gradually build a concrete foundation and back-fill the hole with a special type of non-shrinking concrete.
However, the digging has revealed that we have a bit more wall than we first thought. It’s messy and has more than a few large holes in it, but there is at least a nod to a wall there. Which means, it doesn’t have to be repaired in tiny, expensive sections as there is no danger the house will come crashing down (I really hope I haven’t just jinxed anything there) if it’s all uncovered at once.
So, with diggers and cement mixers doing their thing, I decided to make myself scarce for a couple days – I also figured 48 hours without discussing floor levels, door positions and window sills might be just what the doctor ordered – and headed up to the mountains with two friends.
I’d noticed a couple of weeks ago during a short walk above Limone Piemonte that it should be possible to go over the ridge from Limone into the Valle Pesio, a huge area of national park dotted with hiking trails and small rifugi. Paradise, basically.
We started our walk in the town of Limone (any excuse for a coffee and a croissant) and headed upwards, meandering our way through bright red and orange forests and across open fields until we reached the ridge line. While autumn is just getting started in the Langhe, it’s already in full flow in the mountains. New England in the fall? You can keep it. Check out Limone Piemonte in the fall!
From the ridge, we dropped down the other side into the Valle Pesio. It’s a much tighter valley, more wooded and steeper-sided, and almost completely untouched. Not a road or building in sight.
We had two maps with us, though they provided more comedy value than navigational help, disagreeing entirely on where the footpaths were supposed to be. Thankfully we had the signposts to fall back on. Except being Italy, they were largely useless too. My personal favourite was a large red arrow pointing to the left. We followed it and were nearly dead within 100 metres. So we quickly retraced our steps, did the opposite of what it said and ended up back on the path.
Despite Italy’s best efforts, we managed, eventually, to find our way to our home for the night – the Rifugio Pian delle Gorre – where we drank Dolcetto, talked rubbish and played dice until far too late.
The following day we headed out early, and with slightly fuzzy heads, to make a circuit of the first part of the Valle Pesio. It was mind-blowingly beautiful. I’m not one to get overly caught up in this sort of thing, but the peace, the emptiness, the colours, the landscape, everything just blew me away. Even the signposts were largely accurate!
But renovating waits for no man, and after two days of peace and tranquility it was time to head down and get back to reality. But when reality looks like this, I suppose it’s not so bad really!