Back in Italy - this time largely on business, though that always includes pleasure there too. I flew to Naples on 29th, and stayed in Bacoli. Danilo Russo felt the earthquake in the Apennines at his Naples apartment the following morning. We went to Mount Vesuvius on 30th, and saw 2 peregrines. Photos with the Fujifilm X70, except for the wolves (1D) and the panoramas (iPhone).
Having moved into a new and highly efficient building rather lacking in character a couple of years ago, it was great to see Danilo Russo's department, housed in the Palace of Portici in Naples. Completed in 1757, the old palace has views over the Gulf of Naples to the west, and overlooks the botanic garden and woodland to Vesuvius in the east.
Then we travelled to the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise to teach a field course. Danilo has set up an education centre for bats in Barrea, with excellent support from the town mayor. A webcam streams footage of a nearby greater horseshoe bat roost in summer.
Danilo has a house in Civitella Alfedena, where a pack of captive wolves lives in semi-natural conditions.
One night we were meant to locate wolves by playback, but due to equipment failure fortuitously ended up bat detecting on the River Sangro. Lots of bats were flying, including 3 pipistrelle species, even though we were in the mountains in November. Kuhl's pipistrelles were abundant, though were rare when I visited around 18 years ago - they are expanding their range under climate change. I took a break from teaching to call Lucie, and as we were talking a big Marsican brown bear walked past me about 15m away! It looked very much like the orchard-raiding bear at Civitella (with its dark eye patches), which is close by. Photo from here - I watched this spot the night before, and the bear was there the night before that. I saw two bears very distantly in a wild area near Civitella in 2014, but this view was mind-blowing. There are only about 40 individuals of this subspecies left alive, and the effective population size is around 6. Beautiful animals.
Another afternoon we walked in the beech forest where I first worked 19 years ago, visiting the drinking trough where we caught barbastelles, then saw the tame red deer stag in Viletta Barrea. We did the (licensed) playbacks in the Park, and heard wolves howling under the Milky Way, watching the biggest and longest-lasting meteor I've ever seen. Magical.
At the end of the trip we enjoyed a weekend in Rome, listening to a soprano practising Ave Maria in the beautiful Chiesa Santa Prassede with its amazing mosaics.
We also visited the nearby Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.