“mixed mode practices ‘themselves’ better theorise. . . than do expert or explanatory registers of writing” (Melrose, 2006, p. 122)

0km - Sottochiesa: The intrepid trio fasten sturdy shoes, collect cameras and water bottles and embark on the quest to locate acqua rosso (red water). The path from Soggiorno Mazzoleni climbs the shaft of a valley mountain, emerging through overhanging foliage into the light. Having recovered breath in the body, the expectant trio seek direction to the town of Vedeseta. With hopeful steps, each one strides purposefully along the strada (street) and falls into step with an Italian couple exploring the Val Taleggio. Laughter accompanies halting exchanges in languages which taste unfamiliar on the tongue. 

“Dove fromaggi?” asks the Australian.

“Cheese?” responds the Italian.

“Si! Fromaggi path?” 

“Si, very nice cheese: this building, there is the cheese factory”, responds the smiling eyes.

2km - Cooperative San Antonio (cheese factory): Strachitunt is a type of gorgonzola from the region and each naïve Aussie tilts a head in respect for the tipico Cheese of the Valley. However, unable to linger, the cheese is farewelled in favour of the quest for acqua rosso. The road meanders through the heart of vibrant green mountains laced with misty rainclouds. Delicate apple trees dip towards sunlit vines; walls of stacked timber and bound hay bales frame the boundaries of farmlands. The trio pause as one snaps a photo of soaring mountains beyond honking geese and crowing roosters.

“Ciao! Ciao”, laughs the farmer, pointing at his goats and geese and gesturing to the camera.

“Non, non: bellissimo vista!” defends the photographer.

“Si, si! Molto bello!” he nods, as he calls to his goats, clucking in the gap where his teeth used to be.

4km - Vedeseta: Around the bend, a tiny village appears, nestled in the crevice of elegant stonework and floral beauty. A tall church tower with ancient bells rises from the centre and the thought of an espresso in the bustling town spurs on the adventurous three. Down the cobbled streets, past the sacre water fountain and directly to the café, coffees are gratefully consumed and the darkening sky carefully noted.

“Which way to the acqua rosso, perfavore?” is the inquiry, as the cups are collected.

“Turn right at the statue and follow the sign to Sorgente del Enna. But it is going to rain soon”, warns the wise Veronica.

8km - acqua rossa: Undeterred by the warning signs, energised by espresso, the quest for acqua rosso leads further down, and deeper in, to the Valle Brembano. The 30 minute walk lengthens to over an hour, as clouds bank up beyond the sheer rock faces over-looking winding pathways treacherous for the drop to the Enna River below. A sudden howl alerts the companions of angry yellow wasps, now disturbed and vigorously attacking two of the three walkers. 

“Are you okay?”

“Don’t touch anything!”

“Is it much further, do you think?”

“My arm stings and is tingling up across my back now!”

“Maybe we missed the turn-off . . .”

Determination fuels the weary travellers. The winding path sees the three descend towards cascading waters, desperately seeking the elusive acqua rosso. Two bridges span waterfalls endlessly singing as droplets are tossed across glistening stones. Gently, the path leads the explorers further up and alongside the endless river and the moment before they agree to turn back, there it is: the acqua rosso drizzling from a pipe wedged in rock stained rusty-orange. The red water mingles with the Enna streams and is swept into the Valley, leaving traces of iron ore on rock and leaves. The adventurers drink the metallic red water, thick with taste of chilled iron filaments. 

12km - Vedeseta: Triumphant, they turn to retrace steps to Vedeseta. Uneasy shadows gather as the darkening paths, suddenly sinister, echo with thunder rumbling above. The first rain-drops are light, caressing the skin. Then lightening explodes in tandem with thunder; a rolling crescendo puncturing sky-lights. The delicate drops begin slapping the skin, re-bounding from mud-puddles along slippery pathways. Darkness descends as the rain sheets from heavens ripped open and icy, relentless and cold. Wet-through, they stumble, licking rainwater from lips and swiping back hair sticking to eyelashes. The hail is swift, like a barrage of pebbles and the bedraggled forms suddenly cease to look human. Immersed in the downpour, each dancing shape soaks up the rain. There is no alternative but to succumb: to be liquid, and light, in the cold rainy night.  


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 * Photos of Val Taleggio, Italy, taken by Ellen Avery & Lucinda Coleman. Reprinted wiith permission, 2018. 


Melrose, S. (2006). ‘Constitutive ambiguities’: writing professional or expert performance practices, and the Théâtre du Soleil, Paris. In J. Kelleher & N. Ridout (Eds.), Contemporary Theatres in Europe A critical companion(pp. 120-135). London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.