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Bridge over troubled waters

Green walk Marino Cesare Battisti

The Italians love to forage for wild greens. You see their bodies bent over on the lush roadsides and fields with a large packet in one hand. Down at the end of our cobbled road is a very interesting but neglected park. A stream of murky water – much less so since the lockdown – carves its way down the narrow valley through the volcanic rock. At siesta time I usually take a brisk walk down the steep road to the broken bridge and back. There is a lot of herb-harvesting going on there now. Many locals are feeling the pinch.

Mustard greens, crespigni, dandelion, hares ears, stinging nettle, thistle, borage…all grow in abundance. Others call them weeds. They are delicious in omelettes, as ravioli fillings or as a side dish fried in olive oil and garlic.

There is also a crumbling medieval tower, an abandoned wash-house, and some really weird grottos. Our three boys used to walk this route everyday to catch the train to school in Rome. Returning home through the dark-dank ravine on winter evenings wasn’t fun. Not to mention the pitbull terrier at Roberto’s house.

Roberto is a sculptor. His house is at the end of the ravine in the shade. It is decorated with his fascinating Greek style sculptures, behind which lurks a passion for secret archeological digs. The ravine is entirely man-made. Rome was built with the volcanic rock called PEPERINO which was mined here. It is now a protected Italian heritage site. You can do a guided tour of the enormous caves.

On my way back, two civil policemen were admonishing a couple and their two kids. Only one parent is allowed out with one child at a time. I dashed unseen around the corner.

I would like to sit and paint the scene, but it’s severely prohibited. This watercolour was painted from memory when I got home. The greens are not quite wild enough.