'Oh yes,' she cried. 'We're all scoundrels'

It started as an ordinary evening excursion, such as anyone on holiday in Italy might make. Having lazed and swum in the sea all day, we hired four mopeds and proposed to ride up into the hills for a beer at some bar up in a mountain village.

All went well as we clawed our way through a dozen hairpin bends, pausing now and then to gawp at the sea far beneath us. At the top we skirted the village of Castellabate, with its splendid medieval centre, and headed inland along a ridge, our target the hamlet of Perdifumo.

It was a perfect evening for scooting. The sun slanted low from behind us, and the wind of our passage brought refreshing relief from the heat. On either side, olive trees clung to slopes which tumbled steeply away; the verges of the road were bright with flowers, and tall, feathery wild grasses hung out over the tarmac.

Then - pssssssch . Down went one of the back tyres. None of the bikes carried any tools. Grounded, miles from anywhere. What to do? Abandon the casualty and proceed with two people on the single seat of one of the other mopeds?

By a miracle, we had just passed the one establishment which looked capable of giving help: some kind of industrial enterprise, with a fork-lift truck outside. Back-tracking, we found the place was an olive-oil pressing and canning factory. A man produced an air-line, and blew up the flat tyre, but it went straight down again, and obviously needed repairing.

As we dithered, there burst upon the scene a ministering angel with raven hair, flashing eyes and a powerful American accent. Cindy, wife of the factory owner, is American, she told us. Her parents came from the area we were in, but they had emigrated and settled in New Jersey, where she had been brought up. In the 1980s, returning to the family's native haunts, she had met and married her husband, owner of the olive oil business.

Speaking at machine-gun speed in either language, she bade us welcome in American, then in Italian phoned a mechanic in Perdifumo, ordering him to come down at once. As we waited, her three daughters, aged eight to 18 months, squawked and capered round us.

When I asked about the business, we entered another world. Suddenly we were inside a hall full of gleaming, stainless-steel machinery for processing olives: washers, grinders, conveyor-belts, centrifuges. It was clear that the equipment had cost several hundred thousand pounds.

The harvest, Cindy told us, lasts from October to March. Last year's was a cracker. Most owners spread big, fine-mesh nets under the trees and simply collect the fruit as it falls; but the finest oil, the green- tinged extra-virgin brand, comes from olives picked fresh from the branches.

Her own family own extensive groves, but they also press tons of fruit for other growers, and themselves bring in big lorry-loads from Bari, on the far side of the country, to augment their home-grown raw material. So well known is their brand that it sells all over the world. Potential buyers come from far and wide to attend tastings, rolling samples round their mouths and spitting them out, like wine, and other samples are despatched by post for tasting on the spot.

As information poured out, I began to be troubled by the name of the family firm, printed on all the cans and bottles: Malandrino. Does the word not mean "rogue" or "ruffian"? From Don Giovanni I remembered Masetto cursing Zerlina, his wayward bride, with the words, "Brigonaccia, malandrina, foste ognor la mia ruina" ("Little brigand, rascal, you always were my ruin"). Delicately, I raised the matter with Cindy. "Oh yes!" she cried with a merry laugh. "We're all scoundrels!"

By then we were sitting under a tree laden with ripe lemons eight or nine inches long. Perhaps alerted by news that strangers had appeared, people kept coming and going. In due course the mechanic arrived by car and dismantled the punctured wheel, but had to go home to mend the tube. Again, chat flowed agreeably. Why was Perdifumo so named? What had lost smoke to do with it?

"Nothing!" bellowed Cindy's husband, who was beginning to enjoy the conversation. "Perdifumo - basta!'

At last the mechanic returned, reassembled the wheel, and charged the derisory amount of 5,000 lire (less than pounds 2.50) for his services. Once more our party was mobile.

Too late, by then, for any mountain beers. But as we wound down through the hairpins in the hot dusk, we felt as happy as if we had lowered several pints, exhilarated by the kindness and good nature of our scoundrel-hosts.

Suggested Topics
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
Passing on: George Washington died alert, aware and in his own bed. This is the kind of of death most people would like to have
health
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Brendan Rodgers as a manager, writes Paul Scholes
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Arts and Entertainment
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Business Services-£70,000 OTE

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + OTE £70,000 + car + pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A wel...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Receptionist / Warranty Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...

    Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

    £39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game