It turns out that we have come to Italy during one of the most rainy springs in many years. A Perugian botanist tells us that it has rained 50% more this season than the average over the past two hundred years! Everything is shining: meadows are an incandescent green, poppies are bright as little flames, streams and waterfalls are roaring.
Every morning, the birds awaken us just before dawn. A few have been calling all night but as the sky begins to lighten, more and more add their trills, whistles, and songs. The roosters join in, too.
We have been staying at a relatively low elevation so far, exploring the northerly part of the province of Lazio. We walk whenever we can because that is how Francis traveled, seeking out ancient paths through forests and villages. The rolling hills of this landscape are a mosaic of leafy forest, olive groves, and pasture. Grapevines and vegetable gardens are tucked around the hilltop villages and there are little shrines adorned with flowers at crossroads.
This is still a purely Mediterranean environment, but today we’ll head north to Cortona. As we go farther north and higher in elevation, we expect the landscape to become more like that of continental Europe.
The peninsula of Italy is a bridge over the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe. The climate, plants, and animals of all three areas mingle here in central Italy to create an astonishing diversity and abundance of life.