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We made it up into the mountains after crossing the region of Emilia-Romagna. This is where Italy becomes unbearably flat, foggy/hazy, and boring. What the region lacks in natural beauty, it makes up for in an incredible agricultural area full of amazing foods that the world has come to know. Parmesan cheese? Balsamic Vinegar? All from this place. We decided to hold off on lunch in Modena until we were heading back home, and just grabbed lunch at the rest stop so we could get up north faster.

We tunneled through the mountains past thousands of trucks on precariously narrow roads and ended up in Vestone, a small industrial town (which is apparently the “uninviting” area according to locals we met later in the town by the lake nearby) tucked into the mountains. Instead of staying in town, however, we took a right at the one stoplight in town and crossed over the river onto the mountain road only wide enough for one (Italian-sized) car at a time, and took a few switchbacks turns to get to the farmhouse perched overlooking the valley.

Even in the middle of winter, the area was beautiful and jarringly steep, yet there were houses perched precariously around the mountainside, and now we were on one of them. The farmhouse was a big two-story rectangle – the barn built right into the middle of it with hay spilling out the door with the dogs that came to greet us. Daniella and her family lived on the left-hand side – a wide open porch looked out over the view of the mountains. Chicken coops were on the right, holding a healthy flock and two geese that immediately hissed at Luna and explained extremely pointedly they would try and eat her if there was no fence. The dogs, thankfully, were much less vicious.

We were handed a few flashlights and headed up the back hill following the little wooden signs that led to our Casetta del Bosco – our little house nestled against the woods and surrounded by raspberry bushes. Daniella swung open the big wooden door on groaning hinges and led us inside.

An open fireplace was in the front right corner next to the door. The heavy wooden mantle held a row of tea lights and an iron metal skillet for chesnuts sat in the hearth. To our right, a little table was set up with a guest book and information about the area on a corkboard. A little window just large enough for a candle had glass set right into the stone – a natural frame looking out to the mountains. There was a little couch layered with blankets and pillows. A dark, heavy wooden table with four chairs to match that sat just in front of the ladder that led upstairs to the bedroom loft. With the open fireplace, there was also a woodstove that Daniella started to relight, after having prepped the house earlier for us. It was already warm inside and was certainly one of the coziest places we’ve stayed in. No electricity, just firelight, and battery-lit lanterns if needed.

A double gas burner sat next to the sink that brought in fresh water from the stream outside. Upstairs there was an indoor bathroom, though no shower. Yet a bidet was necessary, because we are in Italy, after all. Luna immediately claimed a big white chair in front of the woodstove as her perch. From there, we could look out the inner glass door onto the pathway down the hill, the valley spread out below, and the mountains rising up in the distance, peaked with a dusting of snow. The only sounds were birds in the trees and the fire crackling and popping in the stove. Daniella left us to our quiet and headed back down the hill. The fire crackled a warm heat that I hadn’t felt in so long, and the mountain water tasted just as fresh as the air outside the door.

While there we met interesting people and learned about another area of Italy that we hadn’t visited before – at least not in this depth. I wrote a few short pieces by the fire and I’ll be sharing them as soon as I can find the time to transcribe my silly chickenscratch and put it up on here while also keeping up with writing daily. 🙂