Driving in a small village of Villetta Barrea in The Abruzzo National Park I saw a large deer standing beside the road and graciously accepting gentle strokes and pats from two adults and a child. I drove past and thought I was imagining things. When I told about the vision to my boyfriend, who is born and raised in Abruzzo, he laughed and said that it wasn’t a hallucination. It was Oreste, the stag that frequents Villetta Barrea in search of cuddles and treats. The first time he arrived to the village after a heavy snowfall in the mountains in 2012.
Last year Oreste caused some commotion in the village: he jumped on a police car and tried to chase someone. After the incident, he ran to the village park in hope to sit it out munching on juicy grass. However, local authorities, concerned about public safety, surrounded and apprehended the troublemaker. Oreste was placed in a fenced area nearby to make sure that nothing like that happened again. However, the locals immediately organised a protest: they painted a sign on the fence where the deer was kept that read “Oreste captured: he was only returning home”; a petition was signed by every villager demanding to liberate the animal. They won, Oreste was returned to the woods in the mountains.
The magnificent 200 kilos animal with a splendid rack of horns visits Villetta Barrea on a regular basis. He walks the streets, chews leaves here and there and the locals absolutely love it. They think of him as the village mascot and an honorary citizen. A few times he stopped by the post office and everyone laughed joking that the deer came to pay the bills for the services rendered. The villagers say that seeing him walking around the village before Christmas makes the atmosphere especially magic.
I love this short video of Oreste clopping on peacefully past cars in the village centre.