Our neighbours live in Canelli but come to their second house, which shares a wall with our house, every afternoon in Spring and Summer.
We enjoy the solitude when they're not here but we also enjoy the company when they are. We exchange a buon giorno or a buona sera, then make our way to our shared fence where we have an extended chat about the clarity of the air or the beauty of the forest and the birdsong.
Our private road, which is shared by five residences, extends one kilometre from the public road.
Three of the residences are located along the first five hundred metres of the road. We share the last five hundred metres with our neighbours.
The gravel road takes a meandering route up our valley. It hides like a snake under the heavy forest foliage of Spring. The bends are sometimes sharp and the vegetation growing on the shoulders can make it difficult to see too far ahead.
In wet weather, it develops puddles, one being so big that the car has all four wheels in it as it travels through it, the water reaching the rims of our wheels. In a few areas it has landslides where the road threatens to drop into the creek.
In dry weather, the puddles are potholes. The stretch that is shared by the first four residences is potholed through use. The vineyard at the beginning of the road has been responsible for much of this; they have been clearing their land as well as replacing their old vines with young vines.
The road is single lane but there are several places where vehicles can pass each other. This normally requires one of the drivers to back up but it is rare to meet another vehicle so our travels in and out of our property tend to be non-eventful.
In the late afternoon last Wednesday we set off for our Italian lesson.
As we were trundling down our little track in second gear, another vehicle suddenly appeared, sliding and skidding in front of us.
Stuart responded quickly, hitting our brakes and veering to the left.
We watched helplessly as we seemed to skid in slow motion towards the other vehicle.
When we finally came to a halt, the drivers and passengers of both cars stared open-mouthed at the inches of space between the vehicles.
Only then did we register recognition.
As Stu moved to the left to allow our neighbours to squeeze past, we shared nervous smiles and giggles before continuing on our respective ways.
Since then, we haven't met at the fence for our usual chats.
Embarrassment is a powerful thing that hopefully lessens with time.