The Wrong Way Can Sometimes be Better than the Right Way

by Nana Smith (United Kingdom (Great Britain))

A leap into the unknown Italy


"Mi scusi, ma possiamo passare qua?" We had reached a split in our path by a rustic restaurant, one carrying on upwards and turning a sharp corner, the other I was indicating with my left hand towards the path covered in the tall shady trees of Mount Epomeo. The old and plump woman was leaning out a window, observing the vineyards below. "Ma, si' si'!" She reassures me, clarifying that the sign was old: "ZONA MILITARE, VIETATO DI ACCESSO, MILITARY ZONE, FORBIDDEN ACCESS.” Bullet marks had dented the sign all over. How ominous, I observe to my friends. But, we trust the signora, and walk our way up the path on our left. No traffic, no people, no ambulance sirens; the tweeting of birds, the soft rustle of trees, the distant moos of cows, the crumbling noise of our steps along the dry mudded path was all that we could hear: leaving the chaos of Rome for this, it's enough. Soon afterwards, Jelle’s curiosity draws him off the road onto the left. Keeping his back to us he leaps up a steep gap between the high, prickled bushes. “Let’s check out what this path leads to,” he beckons to us, and before we even have a chance to answer back he disappears into the wilderness. We follow on, trusting his instinct. Miranda climbs up swiftly after Jelle like a hopping rabbit; Hanna and I on the other hand make use of the branches to heave ourselves up. Once through the thorns and nettles, a beautiful surprise slams us in our faces. We burst into the open on the mountain-edge, facing what defines Ischia: forests covering the lowly mountains like a blanket; white, pink, orange houses dotted over the plains; then the sea, still as the air around us. The sky a soft blue, gradually blending into the sea to form one mist; No wind, no people, we are alone. “CIAOOOOO! ,” we bellow out to Ischia, our voices resounding through air. We are standing on the edge, taking care not to step further through the wild plants and drop into the unknown. Jelle and the others disappear into the forest on the left, turning their backs to the view; nervous for exploring the unknown, I stay put, gazing at the beauty around me, and hope the others return soon. And sure enough they do. I hear rustling of the bushes, footsteps crumbling the dry earth. I turn around to find Jelle appearing from the woods. He stretches out his hand towards me: “Come and try find the others with me.” I find taking a risk difficult, but trusting people easy. I take his hand, and he leads me through the unstable parts of the ground into the forest. The light dims, the foliage off the slender trees shades us from the October warmth, but the rugged paths are steep. The treacherous climb brings us to a distant chatter. I look up through the branches and glimpse Hanna and Miranda with a man, bald and tanned, leaning on a branch with his right hand, his left carrying a basket of mushrooms. We strain ourselves to reach them, panting from the incline. “è pericoloso qua, it’s not safe here,” the forager calmly warns us. The basket of mushrooms tells us we should trust him: he knows where to forage, so he knows where to go. We follow him down, careful not to slip onto the thorns or on the dry mud, grabbing any branch for support. Back into the open, we remain in awe at the stillness, the view, thinking: mountains and sea, the best of both worlds. The italian softly chats with Jelle about the view, pointing with his arm around various parts to show off his knowledge about his island. He too is proud of his home. We make our way back onto the main track and the forager jumps onto his scooter, placing his basket between his feet: “Andate dritto, poi a destra,” he clarifies to us one last time, then zooms off into the same direction. We walk back to where we started at that split of the path, noticing a clear sign: “MOUNT EPOMEO”. It was there all along.