As the weather has improved, I’ve been able to get a better sense of Bagnolo and its surroundings. It’s in the lee of the mountains, with clear mountain air. In the valley there are rice fields and vineyards and plantations of kiwi trees. As in all parts of Italy, but particularly northern Italy, the countryside has been devastated by lack of planning laws, so that one has to get a sense of an older Italy and of small-scale farming communities on the hillside. The snow is melting on the Alps, but there is always the sense of the mountains in the background. The local industry is quarrying and there are small stone cutting yards everywhere, employing Chinese as cheap labour. It’s not surprising that Piedmont is the home of Slow Food as everywhere there are signs of local food production – the specialist cheese shops, the food markets in every town, the bread still warm from the oven. As the Italian economy has collapsed, they have gone back to work on the land.