When it comes to pilgrimage route, I immediately think at the Camino de Santiago de Compostela: at the end of October 2009 I did my first steps on an itinerary that literally changed my life.
It was one of the most emotional and intensive trips I ever done and when, few weeks ago, they proposed to me to tread a part of the southern Via Francigena, between Lecce and Otranto, I accepted with enthusiasm, even if I didn’t think to live something similar to Santiago's experience. Then, starting to walk, the time expands – sometimes not too much luckily!! – with space and emotions.
As soon as I left, I had that pedantic look of someone who has already tried kilometers and miles of road on his own skin. The attitude of who believe to know everything and that never let himself be surprised. Luckily the tramontana wind helped me. That north wind blew away the thoughts. And then I started to appreciate the sun that caresses my cheeks, – taken by poetry, I realized just the night that the union between tramontane and sun sometimes implies a roast instead of a caress – the green of the wheat, the olive trees, meadows dotted with colorful flowers; the incredible flavor of a sandwich with tomato and mozzarella for the lunch; the last kilometers leave you feel every fiber of the body, even when it is firm.
And right at the end of the first stop, I remembered what the Route taught me and why it was wonderful for me. It wasn’t the place, people, neither the fatigue. It was me. How I take things and how I let myself carried away by things. Sometimes we do not understand how our life is influenced by others’ choices and lifestyles. In this way, we are immersed in a society we don’t even recognize, where we feel to be completely strangers, but from where we can not escape, we need simple things as walk, meet people and talk to them without prejudices, only for the pleasure to share an experience; to struggle to reclaim the goodness of an easy sandwich instead of complex dishes of the chefs more in vogue; and the sensation of remove the backpack and the hiking boots and then to relax in the hot water.
In some days I relished the most beautiful moments of the route and at the end of the day, even if I had a staggering amount of blisters on my feet, because I had wrong shoes and socks (…myself, yes) I sang happy. Happy and satisfied of remember how it is easy to feel good, very good.
Marco Ferriero, owner and travel designer of SlowActiveTours