Life at the in-laws is slow-paced but pleasant. Their house is a few kilometres out of Sinagra, following the river inland. Taking a left turn up from the road parallel to the seasonal river bed brings you to a steep climb where the road turns left again abruptly on a terrifying hairpin curve.
The steering wheel has to be turned quickly; otherwise, the car will end up too close to the edge of the road. The roadway is only one car width, full of potholes and overgrown prickly vine bushes which threaten to overwhelm it.
I now understand why my husband is such a precise driver; undoubtedly, years of practice on these dangerous roads have paid off.
My husband is convinced I will manoeuvre without a problem here after seeing me drive in Australia.
Driving on the opposite side of the road, negotiating an unfamiliar gear stick on the tight streets surrounded by deranged Italian drivers convinces me otherwise.
I was shocked when I heard some statistics from a news report that announced the weekly death toll on the Italian roads as equivalent to that of an entire year in Australia.
Now I am pretty happy to be taxied around by my husband. And will walk to run my errands around town.
I gasp at every curve. The slimmest border of grass is the only thing that stops us from plummeting down into the valley. I worry about what would happen if we met another car coming in the opposite direction around a blind corner.
My husband casually says not to worry; if we meet another vehicle, someone has merely to back up and let the other pass. I sweat at the thought of having to reverse down this road and move the car closer to the precipice.
Looking up at the lush mountains across from me, I realise that the roads on our side of the valley mirror what we see on the opposite side. The valley is divided in half by a river at its floor.
I am suddenly terrified. The slopes are menacing, and a strange sensation of intimidation overcomes me. The rugged beauty of the endless vegetation and grandeur of the peaks should inspire awe, yet I feel absolute fear.
It frightens me to notice how the mountains can come tumbling down at any moment. They aren’t standing flat-footed on the earth but instead are going through a slow process of tumbling down upon themselves in the uneven erosion of a random decay.
Staring at them, they seem alive. I see them breathing, moving. The green cover of vegetation that camouflages them is living skin.
I imagine peeling away the layer of vegetation and dirt to disclose the raw under-skin, like a Renaissance anatomical study peeling away the layers to uncover the body’s different organs.
Under the first layer of earth, I imagine a bloody layer of flesh ready to be dissected. A metaphorical scalpel tunnelling through each vein pulsing with blood, water and decay.