Yesterday morning we had a rare opportunity. Maria, our hostess at Politian, is a member of a trekking group, and she invited us to join them on a hike from La Foce to Montepulciano. The unique part is that we followed the same paths that Antonio and Iris Origo led the children war refugees on at the end of World War II. The Germans had taken over La Foce, but there were rumors the Allies were going to bomb it, so they escaped with the children to safety within Montepulciano, about 8 miles away.
We had to get up really early to meet the group at La Foce in order to avoid most of the heat. Everyone says this is the hottest June ever in Tuscany; however, the mornings and evenings are nice. As the group stood together for a photo, they started waving white handkerchiefs. I asked Alberto, my Italian teacher from four years ago (the one who led us astray on the hike to Montefollonico), why, and he said that the white scarves were in case they got lost to signal an airplane.
Before we began, one of the hikers read a section in Italian from Iris’s book on the flight to Montepulciano with the children. We began by taking a path through a beautiful meadow lined with cypress trees planted by Iris Origo (read her book, War in Val D’ Orcia). We soon hiked into the forest where we came upon a water tank with a dead deer (capriola morto). We kept hiking until we reached a roadside shrine for a pausa. Here the woman read another section of the book, a man read a beautiful poem, an eight-year-old girl recited an original poem about peace, another young girl played the violin, and another girl recited something from her phone. One woman shared caramelle (candy) with us: little pieces of dried ginger (zenzero). Delicious! (Look into it, Richard, if you get tired of pickling ginger).