We've been here for eight months now and had been convinced that Italy was perfect. Put simply, 'perfect' meant snake free.
But our dream has been shattered.
Yesterday I saw a snake!
Yes, I saw a snake behind the house at the top of the stairs near the pizza oven.
I was bounding up the stairs in order to get to the second level of the fienale when out of the corner of my eye I saw a 'stick'.
Now, a stick wouldn't normally attract attention in this place of many sticks, but I had only been up the stairs the day before and this stick hadn't been there then!
I was immediately suspicious, turned to look at it and realised approximately 20 minutes later that it was a snake. Okay, so it wasn't 20 minutes. It just felt like 20 minutes.
Time stood still. It might be fair to say that this little Australian, who should be used to snakes, freaked.
Somehow I got back down the stairs, walked casually over to Stu and mentioned that I'd seen a snake.
He came immediately and sneaked up the stairs but it had already disappeared.
We did the only thing we could do. We stopped all work. Tools down. Gloves off. Silence descended as we both privately wondered how we could tackle the land if there were snakes in the vicinity. PROVEN snakes in the vicinity.
Then we did the next best thing we could. We told everyone we know.
We told our Italian teacher, Graziella. We told our neighbours, Renzo and Maria. We even told a poor unsuspecting lady at a book launch.
Each of them seemed agitated. They initially waved their arms around and made diamond shapes with their hands, all the while pointing to their heads. Then they seemed to calm down and repeat the word 'acqua' (water). Finally, they smiled. We wondered if they'd had a dose of anti-venom at some stage in their lives.
Later that evening, Stu surfed the internet and found that the only dangerous snake in Italy is a viper which has a colourful diamond shape on its head. Luckily, vipers do not make this area of Italy their home. But harmless water snakes do. Apparently, the water snake is 'a European non-venomous snake that is often found near water and feeds almost exclusively on amphibians' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_Snake).
Locals are a blessing. So are water snakes.