Standing near Covent Garden tube station waiting for friends recently, I overheard some tourists discussing the clothing needed for a trip out that included a sweater and rain jacket as well as sunscreen. Then one said, “I am beginning to sound English, with all this talk of the weather!”. It is certainly true that Brits’ conversation often includes the vagaries of our climate (alongside travel routes, of course). However, coming to Villa Celiera has opened our eyes to whole new extremes. The tail end of the Apennines runs through the region but this fact can sometimes be disguised by the pretty villages sprinkling the beautiful, wild landscape or the lush, vineyard-covered valleys. We have been reminded on several occasions how foolish that approach can be, sometimes quite dramatically. Early in our exploration of the area we joined an organised walking tour of part of the Campo Imperatore. Our guide explained that we should always take with us layers including a fleece and waterproofs in the mountains, even on an apparently sunny day. She also warned that around midday was the time for weather change if it were to happen at all. So, on gorgeous spring day wearing t-shirts and sun hats our motley group set off along a valley admiring flowers and scenery as we went. Then at midday, as our guide had described, dark clouds began to develop on the horizon indicating oncoming turbulence. “Thunder and lightning can roll around up here for ages once it sets in”, said our guide and then, as spots of rain fell and it seemed as if dusk had arrived early, “I think I had better tell you the emergency procedure to adopt in a thunder storm”. We would need to discard any metal including jewellery and place it away from the group, take off our back-packs and sit on them whilst keeping our bodies as low as possible because, “out on the plain you are the highest point for the lightning to strike”. We quickly did a practice run of the sitting on back-pack routine as the drops fell more heavily: one of the group was scared because she could not take off her rings. “Never mind”, said my companion helpfully, “I am sure we can cut your finger off if necessary”. We then moved as fast as possible towards a nearby, small rifugio in the hope of shelter, arriving just as lightning began to crack. With relief we found it was unlocked and once inside we unpacked the lunch we all had helped to carry as the storm rattled and banged outside. The most recent guests at the rifugio appeared to have been sheep – and a lot of them judging by the droppings and general mayhem! We weren’t about to complain and, in any event, none of us had dressed for dinner. Eventually, of course, beautiful skies returned and we continued on our route. One part of the picnic was especially good: slice peeled and cored ripe pears, add walnut pieces and shavings of pecorino then toss ingredients in a honey and lemon dressing. Reminds me of our expedition every time I make it. Caroline Harris January 2015