“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”
~ David Attenborough
Some years ago, we took a fabulous six-week trip to explore beautiful Northern and Central Italy, meandering by car off the beaten path. Part of that trip involved a stay in a charming villa in Umbria, near the border of Tuscany. It was the perfect home base from which to explore the surrounding territory. The villa was a quaint, traditional small stone building, converted from what was once a tobacco drying shed. Quietly tucked away in the hills, it was ideally situated in the countryside at the far end of a long, winding, dirt road running up the hills through the forest, past occasional meadows of bright yellow sunflowers, olive groves and towering cypress trees. The villa itself was idyllic: peacefully and privately perched high on a hilltop. Nestled into a forest, it had an expansive, open west exposure, which afforded a beautiful view of staggered rolling hilltops, softly receding and fading one into the other with perfect tonal gradation. Bees buzzed in the fragrant purple lavender bushes dotting the yard, sensuously scenting the hot, dry summer air. Huge, heavy heads of vibrant red geraniums poked out of terracotta pots hung picturesquely from all the window sills. A cozy hammock called from the dappled shade of two lovely trees. Several tables and chairs were set up throughout the yard for outdoor dining, strategically placed to take advantage of the spectacular views. The blazing Tuscan-like sunsets were glorious to watch. It was perfect, utterly perfect. We’d stepped right into our idea of paradise. Or did we?