Although I was born and brought up in North London, South Tyrol was in some ways also my home. Summer holidays spent with my grandparents in the genteel spa town of Meran were idyllic in comparison to staying in London.
We would spend day after day at the Lido in the baking sun with our cousins, until we were dragged under protest (hence my sulky expression) into the mountains for walks finding pfifferling (chanterelles), steinpilze (cep or boletus) and wild blueberries. My mother took us wild camping, pitching tents in the forest on the Ritten and in Vinschgau and walking to the local farmers to buy fresh, cow-warm milk.
Of course, now, I barely remember the lido. Instead my memories are full of playing hide and seek in the woods, darting from tree to tree, and digging up ants’ nests with a twig and breathing in the heady resiny aroma that our excavations released, and eating blueberry pancakes made with the harvest of that morning’s foraging.
The mountains, the valleys and the flower meadows of South Tyrol gave me a sense of space, light and the majesty of nature that is deep in my bones and still lures me back whenever I can find the excuse to go.