A few weeks ago, we were driving up our little valley when we came across a length of thick white tape that had been strung across a line of temporary posts on one side of the road. On closer inspection, we found that the tape was electrified and that it made a complete circuit around a section of land.
Someone had installed a temporary fence.
We'd never seen anyone in this block so we didn't know who owned it, if anyone owned it at all! It couldn't really be called a paddock; it wasn't the most agriculturally useful piece of land because of its narrow shape, its steep sides and the shadows it received all day.
When we stopped to peer through the scrub along the fence, we found a white horse and a donkey!
We watched our new neighbours for several weeks. It didn't take long for the grass in the fenced area to disappear and the foliage along the temporary fence to flatten.
One Sunday, a young man drove his small white sedan up our driveway and parked outside our house. We were working upstairs in the casa grande and looked out of the library window in order to see our visitor. The man was short and skinny, perhaps 20 years old. He wore a tidy collared shirt, old jeans and boots.
As we watched the man walk towards us, I heard Stuart's brain clunk as it prepared the necessary words to explain that we couldn't speak much Italian. But before he could get any words out, the man had positioned himself under our window.
As his enthusiastic face beamed up at us, he launched into a torrent of words.
I felt like Rapunzel.
I caught 'cavallo biano' (white horse) and 'mangiare qui' (eat here) amongst them. When he pointed down the valley, I quickly figured out that he was the owner of the horse and donkey and that he was looking for another agistment location. Our large grassy paddocks must have seemed perfect to him. From their now muddy patch, the horse and donkey could probably even smell our grass!
As with everything we do, we wanted to make sure that we followed any traditions or expectations in the region. Luckily our neighbour Renzo was visiting his property at the time, so we walked the man across to Renzo where I explained what was being suggested.
Renzo talked to the man and eventually confirmed that my translation had been accurate. The man had a horse and a donkey that he wanted to agist on our land.
We asked for his advice. He explained that the man wasn't offering a contract and therefore agistment may not be advisable. If the animals took fright for any reason (e.g. a cinghiale) they could pose a potential risk to the walkers, cyclists and horseriders who pass through our property to enjoy the tranquillity of the valley.
We had to make a decision and we wanted to make one that was right for all of us.
We decided not to be too enthusiastic about the idea.
Renzo kindly explained our quandary to the man and it was agreed that he would seek alternative agistment but that he should feel welcome to return if he couldn't find any.
The horse and donkey have remained in the same section of land along the road and we have not seen the man since.
But we've often wondered how he faired finding alternative agistment.
This week, we were driving up our little valley when we noticed that the thick white tape had been moved to the opposite side of the road.
When we stopped to peer through the scrub along the fence, we found a white horse and a donkey...