14 Apr Massimo
“We are made for walking. If you are 5 feet 6 inches tall your legs are 2 feet 8 inches. In the other half of your body there’s everything else: heart, lungs, kidneys, head. But the rest is legs. We are made for walking.
For me, airplanes, those things there, could disappear tomorrow. When you leave on foot, the journey begins as soon as you close the front door. St. Francis used to call his feet “my horses.” When you arrive somewhere after a long walk, you feel good in a way that you’ve never felt before.
I started walking in 2009, after an argument.
I went up to the sanctuary of Reggio. Usually if I fight with someone I don’t talk to them for at least a week. But that day just three hours later I went back and said to my wife, “I’m sorry.” She replied, “Come on, it was my fault.”
After walking for a while it’s a terrible feeling to have to turn back. What I really wanted to do was keep going. The first long walk was to Gottero mountain, it takes three days to get there. I’ve been there three times already. It wasn’t long before I developed a taste for it. I walked the Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome, then to Foggia, up to a place called Troia, which means “Troy” but also “whore” in Italian. I used to mispronounce it on purpose, for fear of sounding rude. One day I was swimming in a river, I hear someone yelling at me from a window: “Pilgrim! What are you doing? If you want it there’s a plate of pasta here for you.” I sat down at the table at 2pm and finished eating at 7pm.
I cried twice while walking. The first time was in Varazze when I saw the whole of Liguria from Mount Beigua. The second time was when I arrived to Spain, my daughter was born there but she has passed away. The border between Spain and France is a stone blade, it’s physical and you feel it in your skin. A couple of years ago I also started hitchhiking. I used to do that when I was a teenager, of course, but doing it at 60 is extraordinary. The unknown is one of the best raw materials in the world.
This is the only virus we’ve seen in the Cinque Terre, I installed it on the beach during the quarantine. There were these trunks, I tied them together and then piece by piece I added red fabric that I found around the village. People were afraid to touch it, they were afraid of getting sick. When the sea brought in this magnificent 50-foot long trunk nobody else wanted to bring it in, but I was determined to shore it. We put a yellow flag on top of it, the flag of the pirate quarantine. The mayor, who is an expert in knots, also helped us. While dragging it, the trunk made a semicircle on the beach, so I made a giant hammer and sickle. The hammer was a bit disproportionate, but overall I think it’s fine. During the quarantine I perfected my ability to play the piano — mostly Bach. A customer gave me this piano as a gift, as I lost my first one in the flood in 2011. It took me… look, I don’t know how long it took me to learn how to play it.
Every evening I used to close the shutter of the bar and play for hours.
The first time I managed to play the whole first Sonata I couldn’t believe it. The next day a lady from the village said to me, ‘Damn it, you made me cry. I’d been hearing you pluck at the keys from behind the shutter for months, and yesterday when I heard that you finally did it I was moved’. I miss that first phase of the Covid-19 outbreak. I have never felt so free in my life.”