t was the year one thousand..., (and) someone, some time ago, had said: ¨a thousand years and no more!¨... when suddenly the year one thousand came and went, until our present day.
But,back in those days, with the year one thousand came many other things... even legends! One of these legends tells of dragons that journeyed, or, rather, found themselves flying across the sky over the ancient lands of the Monferrato... and who knows where they came from.
It seems that a couple of these dragons stopped in these lands to find a den and raise a family; after some time they had a small dragon named Casimiro..!
People were afraid of these dragons and drove them away with guns and cries, under the influence of the terrible tales of these monsters. Contrary to what other legends said about them feeding on humans, they only ate fruit, vegetables, poultry and cattle that had the misfortune to come into view while they were circling the sky at sunset.
The young dragon Casimiro, meanwhile, was growing up without realizing there was incompatibility between dragons and humans. This worried his parents since his scaly greenish skin with his crest shaded in red along with his neck, back and tail, and large powerful claws together with two big baby blue eyes, which were more appropriate for a child than a dragon. One day, whilst learning to fly at sunset, the young and inexperienced dragon, took a bad fall, crashing through an inn-window. The poor and unfortunate dragon broke its horn and fell unconscious on the inn-floor, amidst the broken glass.
The inn-keeper and his customers together with their pets fled in terror.
Casimiro soon recovered and looked around, touching his wings and his sore horn, realizing that he was completely alone. The tables were lit by candles with many bottles, containers and tankards full of wine. Driven by the smell of the wine, he began to taste it, and delighting himself continued to drink till he drank himself to sleep!
Fortunately for him, he woke up before dawn, and the men had not yet come back to the inn, otherwise they would have certainly done him serious harm. Luckily he was able to return home safely. Casimiro tried many times, since his bad accident, to come closer to men, wishing only for their good company, and a taste of their delicious wine!
However, each time he tried, the panick-striken men would hurle abuse and try to hurt him by firing stones, arrows and all they could find to strike him. As time went on Casimiro resigned to his solitary dragon life and neither he nor his family ever saw another dragon.
As he soared above the vineyards on a clear, windy day, Casimiro could admire the mountains in the distance.
On the hills, the cold and bitter winters, the wet and promising springs, the hot and muggy summers and the cool and gentle autumns protected and nurtured the grapes. From then on, to this present day, the expertise and the know-how of the local wine-makers have provided and still provide one of the world's finest wines. Going back to our dragon-friend, as Casimiro was flying late one evening he saw, nestling among the vineyards, a solitary farm house with thick, ancient walls and a low roof. There the house stood, in the gloom with its one window dimly lit reminding Casimiro more of a dragon's den than a cosy man's abode. In this farmhouse, surrounded by beautiful vineyards, lived a lonely old farmer with no children, named Jerome. He was totally committed to the care of his vineyards which were perhaps his only real interest and comfort in his solitary life. Seldom was he seen by the other inhabitants of the area. Perhaps out of envy given the better quality of his wine than many others in the area, along with his grumpiness and mysterious lifestyle, bad rumours spread implying that he was a friend of the devil and so nobody would visit him.
Meanwhile, Casimiro had perched himself on a old log, a few steps away from Jerome's home. Casimiro chose simply to browse without being seen so as not to risk the usual attack which could possibly descale him. He did not realize that the rising moon cast her rising shadow slowly towards the lit window and inside the dimly lit room, projecting his ominous shadow on the floor. Jerome sat on his chair, quietly contemplating, enjoying a glass of his excellent wine after dinner, stroking his white beard and his parched old face that had been carved and burnt by the scorching sun in his vineyard. While staring aimlessly at the floor, he suddenly saw the moving shadows of whom we are all aware.
Drawn by a strange shaped shadow, Jerome slowly rose and walked toward the window to investigate the origin of the shadow, but the reflection of the moon hindered the sight, so he slowly moved to the door and opened it, finding himself suddenly face to face with the monster.
The two stared in amazement at each other, neither knowing what to do.
Knowing about men´s fear of dragons, Casimiro took the initiative. Surmising the terrified farmer would flee back into his home, he approached him.
To the dragon´s surprise, Jerome didn't step back, but, instead stared right into Casimiro´s big blue eyes. The baffled dragon dragon suddenly said: ¨how come you are not afraid of me?¨ … Jerome replied that he was old and could not care less about the dangers and fears of his earthly life, totally unperturbed by the dragon´s blue-eyed gaze. Casimiro then quenched Jerome´s curiosity with his sad and tragic story and when he finished , Jerome stood silent for a while, before blurting out: ¨I have no reason to be afraid of you. You just want some company and a drop of good wine and I will happily be your host!¨
So the grumpy old farmer, found himself at ease with the dragon. Together they sat and talked about each other all evening whilst enjoying Jerome's favourite dish, “fritto misto alla monferrina”: a local dish made with various parts of fried offal beef, served with semolina, macaroons and with fried fruit like apples; all is garnished with fried season's vegetables and accompanied by typical sauces from the area. Needless to say, this hearty meal was accompanied by Jerome's excellent wine.
Casimiro often visited Jerome since then, reciprocating the farmer's hospitality with delicious and aromatic black and white truffles which, when in season, Casimiro who had a fine sense of smell, would detect and dig up. To this day, truffles and vineyards abound in the vales and hills of the Monferrato.
Thanks to his frequent visits, not only did Casimiro learn to taste and appreciate good wine, he also acquired the techniques and secrets of growing grapes and producing fine wines.
Indeed, it is also said that since Jerome's death, because the farmer had no heirs, the farm and its vineyards laid abandoned for several years. To everyone's surprise, the vineyards were well kept and in excellent condition. At harvest time, the vines were rich with lovely, delicious grapes, which then, as if by magic, disappeared overnight.
No one ever dared to approach the house and vineyards, and from their windows at night they swore they saw strange flashes and dazzling lights, like those that came from the jaws of dragons. Even now, if you happen to cross those lands, and talk of them with one of its oldest inhabitants, it is not unlikely that there will be mention of the name: ¨The Lands of the Dragon's Vineyards¨.
UNPUBLISHED LITERARY WORK DEPOSITED
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