Here’s what can happen when you leave a place closed up for much of the summer in the countryside: nature colonizes it in your absence. We keep a small apartment near Godzillavilla, so we have someplace to stay whenever we need it. When we arrived the other day the rooms were dim because the protective blinds were down on the windows, and as I went through the kitchen to open them, something crunched underfoot. That’s when I looked down and saw masses of wasp bodies on the floor, killed by autumn’s cold. The creatures were huge by Canadian standards, but then every bug is bigger in Italy.

When did the terrazzo turn crunchy?

They were also littered about the living room and in the small bedroom, oddly amassed on the pink rug (did they mistake it for a huge flower?) but mercifully not on the beds. Our landlord Gino was coming up the stairs so I called him in to inspect.

“Hmm,” he said, advancing through the apartment, “they must have made a nest.” Crunch, crunch, crunch. Nichola and I had been gingerly stepping around them to avoid the extremely creepy sound of large, desiccated bug bodies popping underfoot. Gino was unfazed. “Well they’re all dead,” he observed cheerfully. Crunch. The hair was standing up on the back of my neck by now. I was trying not to look like a city wimp, but I winced every time he took a step. Crunch. “In the spring we’ll be able to find the nest,” he concluded, “but they won’t bother you now.” Indeed. Crunch, crunch as he made his way back out the door.

Off to that giant flower in the sky

We spent the next hour vacuuming them up. They rattled their way up the vacuum’s long tube, ricocheting noisily off the plastic along with a hundred or so dazed flies that had congregated in the relative warmth of the window sashes – these we discovered on opening up the windows to air the place out, whereupon they spilled onto the floor, milling around in startled huddles.

In many years of reopening the apartment after a long absence, we’ve only ever encountered a few spiders and a minor number of flies. Could this revolting influx be because we didn’t stay as long as usual this past summer? Now I have my excuse to make sure I’m around for longer during the next warm season.