Sometimes life throws you some tough decisions:
Do I order the chicken or the steak?
Do I go to the gym or to the pub?
Do I stay safely in Milan or let the Italian man I just met at a bar drive me to GOD-KNOWS-WHERE-HE-JUST-SAID?
Of course most of us aren’t a big boring pair of old socks, so we always choose the steak, the pub and the prospect of being murdered.
But I PROMISE the guy was NICE; my colleague and I sparked conversation with him when we noticed he was enjoying his red red wine solo. Turned out that one of his many good attributes included his expertise in wine: BLOODY GOOD CONVERSATION STARTER IN MY BOOKS.
So realistically we didn’t know the guy from a bar of soap, did we? So while I was up for the adventure, I couldn’t help but be a little cautious…OK, paranoid. He may have studied wine science, but perhaps he had studied human dissection too? He may have a holiday house in the La Spezia region…but who’s to say it doesn’t have bodies buried underneath it?
Heck – who knows, but if I hadn’t put my life on the line like that then I would never have ended up in the beautiful Italian coastal town of Portovenere.
Portovenere was 234km south of my comfort zone (Hostel Ostello Bello, which had given me instant security via a complimentary glass of wine upon my 9am arrival) and 150km north of Tuscany.
The potential serial killer, my colleague and I arrived (without any serious crimes being committed) at around 5pm and the unfairly good-looking Italian people were still soaking the sun’s UV rays. It was hard not to observe how perfect the people were and wonder if any of them were capable of being accomplices to murder.
I took a few minutes by the waterside to admire the shimmering blue water, ogle the overly-and-publicly-affectionate couples and scout out good escape routes.
I was distracted by my own internal laughter when this hairless piece of muscle in budgie smugglers caught both my eyes. For some reason I don’t think I was his type, but he definitely gave me a 360 degree rotation to reveal every angle of his engine. And I’m about 95% sure he did some clenches.
It was at the point when I started snapping secret shots of him to send to my homosexual besties that I considered myself to maybe be the perverted criminal.
The old village town is believed to date back to “at least the middle of the 1st century BC” and has lots of history for you to read about on the large visitor signs (you know, interesting things about erections…of castles and churches and walls). It’s full of wonderful old stone, interesting angles, colourful buildings and beautifully narrow entrances to homes.
I wonder how many people have been assassinated whilst surrounded by such beauty.
THERE WERE EVEN PSYCHOPATHIC CATS MONITORING THE TOWN FROM WINDOWS HIGH ABOVE!
This one particular house-pet made ferocious eyeballs at me when we walked past; I suspected he was probably a bit of a bigwig in town….approved all the murders.
Even the wild birds had a cackle at my vulnerability.
I’ll admit, it was hard to remember that I was perhaps going to be murdered when we did something as cool as climb through the walls that contained the historic centre to watch the sun set.
But then I overheard someone mention the word ‘medieval’, and all I could think about was beheadings as I watched the MAGNIFICENT serenity; the sun set slowly…. over the cliff faces…. as waves crashed against them… and Doria Castle sat peacefully on top. A perfect murder.
So anyway, luckily I still hadn’t died by dinner time because we ate at a traditional Italian restaurant called Antica Osteria Del Carugio. I had the Mes-ciùa (traditional soup with a lot of bloody beans). And then I dined on the anchovies AND stuffed in some stuffed mussels. And I certainly didn’t hold back on the carafe of delicious regional wine either.
I thought it was my last supper…
…but, an after-dinner Italian coffee, a bit more wine drinking, some complimentary fish balls, some funny conversation and a free jazz performance later, it was time to go back to our potentially-psychotic Italian man’s GIANT country home.
It was located in a place so small and rural that I can’t seem to find it on Google Maps… or I didn’t write it down correctly – ‘Castagnedoli’ is what I put, what did you put?
The name does not matter anyway because you will probably never go there. The village was so tiny and untouched that during the warmer months the population would reach 50… but during winter…12! 12 permanent residents, one church and one drinking fountain.
“But what do people do there?” you ask.
DER! They gather mushrooms and chestnuts of course.
I ended up waking up alive in the bed of my new Italian friend’s elderly mother; she wasn’t there, silly, it’s a holiday home and that’s why we had Nutella on biscuits for breakfast. But the point is – how would I have ever gone on such an adventure and seen such amazing things if I hadn’t trusted Massimo – the nicest guy in the world – to decide not to kill me?
Well I wouldn’t have. Comfort is for wimps.