The Oasis of Alviano is a wetland managed by the World Wildlife Fund. We had tried to visit the oasis early in our travels, but it is only open on Sundays and holidays.
Later, we pass it again on our way to Rome, but it is a Tuesday. We decide to walk around its wooded perimeter anyway, and peer through the trees. We hope to catch at least a glimpse of it.
At the entrance, we bump into a WWF naturalist. She is preparing to take a group of schoolchildren on a field trip through the oasis in hour or so.
Tom asks her about the net she is carrying to scoop up wetland creatures to show the children.
She looks us up and down — sunhats, notebook, camera, boots — and reaches in her pocket.
“Take my keys and let yourselves through,” she says. “You can leave them for me at the bar down the road.”
The oasis is one of the high points of our travels, a place where we experience the bottomlands of central Italy as they were when Saint Francis crossed them on foot, in all their soggy glory.