The Old Man and the Drone on Etna

By 06/06/2015December 12th, 2017Tales

It was the last Saturday of October and maybe it was time for the last harvest on Mount Etna –maybe in the entire Sicily. All grapes of Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Caricante had been gathered from the vines we can see along the streets and Etna wines were already coming to life deep in the cellars – just the craziness of a vineyard located at more than 1100 meters above sea level could push someone to such a late harvest. It had been a wonderful year on Etna, especially for white wines, while in the rest of Italy it had been a very difficult year for harvesting. That day the weather was cool, after the muggy weather of last week. At dawn I went with Sonia to Contrada Nave, where we could find our wonderful grapes, our clusters of Grecanico Dorato and Albanello: sweet and golden with pink hues, untouched.

During the last weeks, we had decided to take some footages in order to provide documentary evidence of the industriousness of our manual harvest. We take it for granted – we could never image a machine collecting our grapes, but after talking with many winelovers around the world, one can understand that a manual harvesting is sheer luxury.

We got ourselves a small drone in order to take footages above the harvest: only from above it is possible to gain a comprehensive overview and give to other people an actual idea of what we are doing.

Sonia asked me a spontaneous and legitimate question: “Have you ever driven a drone?” My answer, just as much spontaneous as her question, was “No, but I have done many more difficult things in my life.” To tell the truth, I felt confident because we were in the open countryside and we couldn’t cause harm to anyone. At the first take off, the vehicle started moving very fast towards the sky, then I managed to stabilize it at a quote of 30-40 meters above the ground but, in the end, it pointed hysterically towards the North and disappeared from sight. I panicked and gave the remote control to Sonia who, admirably cool headed, managed to bring it back. At the second take off, we were able to control the drone with more attention but, at some point, the little vehicle went crazy, getting away from us and falling down hundreds of meters away.

The last shooting showed a rural Etna house and a chestnut tree. We began searching for the drone, going towards the direction we had seen it going the last time.

After around an hour of pointless wanderings, I noticed that there was an old local farmer hoeing not far away from the area we were searching. I moved close to his land, thinking how I could ask that man if he had seen “a falling down drone”. I asked him, in a heavy Sicilian dialect, if he had seen a small helicopter falling down somewhere near him; he denied it with a typical “nzzz!”, a dry sound produced inhaling while holding the tongue on the palate, almost a smack, that in Sicilian means “not at all!”. I kept pressing him: “Are you sure? I have seen your house and that tree with our video camera.” He replied, “How big was it?”, and I explained, “Approximately so”, mimicking its dimension with my hands. He started answering: “Oh yes, I have seen it passing by, but it was far from here.” I started noticing some inconsistencies and said, “Listen, let me come in. Maybe it has fallen in here.” The old farmer finally let me come in, noticing my determination, and told me, always speaking in Sicilian: “Come in, I am sorry to do you wrong, you seem a good caruso (boy)”. He gestured to me to follow him to his house, an old building made of lava stone and with a roof covered with terracotta tiles. I entered and looked around: my drone was there, well hidden under some hemp sacks! The old farmer had removed its battery and hidden it with care. I took it, thanking him with a bit of irritation because he had tried to fool me, but also happy because I had found what belonged to me and because, after all, the old man had retraced its steps and had regretted his attempted theft just in time.

In the following hours, we made other take-offs and got some shooting that you can see here. We closed the day with a wonderful harvesting and some decent videos, but I have still an unresolved question: what would that old man have possibly done with the drone?

Vendemmia Etna

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