I've said before that Carmine Superiore stands on an outcrop of rock overlooking Lago Maggiore. It looks something like this.
What I didn't mention is that it is at about 300m above sea level. The lower village, Carmine Inferiore, is at about 200m above sea level.
And herein lies the piccola complicazione.
To get to Carmine Superiore you have to go up 100m, but there is no road for cars. Access is via the mulattiera - the mule track from Carmine Inferiore - or on the Via delle Genti, a hiking route from Cannero Riviera through the hillside woods to Carmine and then onwards to Cannobio and beyond.
The mulattiera is, shall we say, a stiff walk - sensible shoes recommended.
Think walking upstairs.
Think walking upstairs for 10 minutes.
Think 6 months pregnant with 10-kilo toddler in the carrier on the back, in the midday sun.
Think 9-kilo baby in the carrier on the back, and exhausted 12.5-kilo toddler in your arms (that was today).
Now think :
half an hour away from parturition with contractions coming every 2 minutes.
25-kilo sacks of chicken feed…
20 cases of Burgundy…
60 tonnes of granite for the new roof…
60 tonnes of granite from the old roof...
And now think :
doors, windows, toilets, the bath, bunk beds, wood burning stoves, sofas, sacks of cement, plaster, buckets of whitewash...
The walk up, and the steep and rocky terrain when you get here, informs almost everything we do. Nothing with wheels really works here : I have no pushchair here, and poor AJ has no bicycle, wheeled suitcases are liable to lose their wheels and wheeled trolleys or wheelbarrows are just liabilities.
Living in Carmine, one can understand those ancient civilisations that are known to have understood wheels and even to have made children's toys with wheels, but stubbornly insisted on carrying heavy loads on animals or on people's backs. Not backward stupidity. Just the dictates of necessity.
Is it any wonder then, that after five years the most precious of my possessions are still languishing in an attic in East London?
More than a thousand books.