100 days to fall in love with Italy
Immersing into and surfacing from the Tube in London has always made me feel like a character of Super Mario Land that descending into manholes in a point of the city is found in a underground world full of monsters, traps and mushrooms, then back up finds himself in a different place, totally disconnected from the previous one.
This illusion is really fascinating, the perception is that of a metropolis composed of many separate worlds distinguished by architectural styles, sounds, smells and different characters.
Continuity is missing however and is difficult to understand how a single city can accommodate so many different realities, some that we love and some that repel us.
I’ve never viscerally loved London and one of the reasons is because I had trouble understanding it to the end and I’ve never been able to catch sight of its soul.
One day I bought a motorcycle, not any motorcycle, a Harley, the legendary Sportster 883 and with it begun a new way of living in London; riding my hound along the arteries of this mutating body I began to follow the flow and to glimpse her soul. I started to perceive its nuances and to understand its changes, I could observe the urban transformation that occurs between a district and another, I could see how locals, tourists, businessmen, clochards and policemen form the lymph that runs inexorable night and day.
It all made sense finally.
The many differences, apparently isolated at first, separated by a tube station and another, they suddenly meet, creating a union between the cultures of the East and those of the West, between the north and south of the Thames where the spoken and written languages mingle blend.
I found myself every day crossing an infinity of social and cultural bridges that make this city the Babylon of the twenty-first century.
Thanks to my motorcycle I rediscovered London, and I started living it with much more serenity and indeed with more enthusiasm.
My name is Marco I’m an Italian and British citizen, until a few months ago I lived in London, my job is to dream and in my spare time I’m a computer engineer while I travel around the world.
In November (2014) I changed my lifestyle, I no longer have a fixed address and now I wander on the saddle of my beloved 883. I’m a Digital Nomad and I sustain myself with a part-time work for a British company.
My motherland is Italy and I’m really happy to be born in the Bel Paese.
Like many Italians I have a relationship of love and hate with my peninsula. I can’t stand the many issue on social, cultural and political levels which ruin the beauty and harmony of the people and the places they belong to.
At some point in my life, in 2008, as many young people have already done or are doing so today I made the decision to move to London.
Living abroad has led me to reorganise my priorities and make clear what are my dreams and desires. That’s how this new lifestyle that I have created for myself begun, giving birth to a project to which I name “The Journey Of Dreams” (translated to Italian as “Il Viaggio Dei Sogni”), which is taking me to achieve one of my greatest dreams, that is to accomplish a round-the-world trip, or better, to know the World rather than just tour around it.
The name comes not only from the fact that I am finally see my dream come true but also because it is the cradle for the realisation of many small projects, dreams and desires of mine and also by other people.
Before leaving the Albion lands I started wondering where I could begin “the conquest of the world” and immediately came to my mind the explorer’s great destinations such as Australia, America, India, Africa or Asia … I knew that sooner or later I would go everywhere and so I asked myself what is the place in the world that I really wanted to know well and that is really close to my heart. The answer was simple, my home, Italy.
As soon as he pronounced that name fire of passion flow through my veins.
I told myself that if I really wanted to know the world I should first have known my origins, know well who I am, where I come from and what are the defining traits of my culture.
If I really wanted to be an explorer then I should become an ambassador of Italy in the world.
I should have brought my country with me around the world, keep it close to me and share it with the people I would have known along the way.
How many times during your travels have you met people from all over the world which as soon as they find out that you are Italian they start telling you about their last trip to Italy and how much they were ecstatic by the beauty and taste of our people and territory? How many of these times did you realise that you only know a small portion of the nation you belong to? Above all how many times have you turned your nose up at the name of some southern capitals even though you might have never visited them or how many times have you made an unhelpful comment referring to the inhabitants of the northern regions where the most spoken language is German instead of Italian?
That happened to me many times and I realised it was time to stop it.
It had already happened with London before that I had this conflicting relationship to which I finally had found the remedy and so I was convinced that if I did it once I could have done it a second time.
Therefore the first of the thousand future projects of “The Journey of Dreams” start in form of “The Giro d’Italia in 100 days on a Harley”.
The idea is very simple: travel by land, riding my Liberty with the wind on the face and the asphalt under the wheels throughout the Italian territory, region by region (twenty in all for those who did not pay attention during the geography classes), breathing perfumes and listening to the sounds of my homeland, to discover how Calabria embraces Basilicata, how Apulia dives into the sea, how Umbria marries with the Marche or how the Aosta Valley meets with Lombardy; to see the differences fade, mingle and change, perceive flavours mixing and dialects evolve into different languages. The goal is to find the continuity and allows me and others to understand how Italy joins its internal borders, show my fellow citizens that we are a single people whose real borders are the misconceptions and wrong ideas, where the differences are the source of curiosity and union instead of the reason for separation.
The time has come to fall in love again with Italy. I told myself.
One hundred days to get to know Italy, one hundred because it is a catchy number and because there are a more or less a hundred days from the starting date of this trip and the date of the AC./DC concert that I will attend in Berlin at the end of June (2015).
After a quick check, I realised that I had an average of just five days for visiting each region and that would not allow me to know all the single places of excellence for which Italy is famous therefore I decided that I would only visit the authentic side of Italy and skip the purely touristic one and that I would let the path I would follow to defined itself picking the advice of whom I would have met in my journey and going in those places where someone is willing to accommodate me.
This way of traveling proved to be very beneficial immediately, I knew that I would have visited places out of the most known circuits and would be more authentic and not necessarily less fascinating, I would have discovered how the people of the villages spend their days, how Italians really live and survive the difficulties of today’s times.
I went through my contacts searching for friends and acquaintances who could help me with advices or for a place to sleep.
I begun scrolling the names of old schoolmates and colleagues of the past and I realised that this trip through Italy was taking already a larger meaning and so after sending messages on social networks and phone numbers, I was given the opportunity to rebound with people who I did not hear of or see for fifteen years or so. I rediscovered friendships I thought lost, I learned how life did catch up with the people that once were my mentors or playmates.
I find out that there were memories and emotions that still tied us together. Creating new ones was also a joy.
Where I had no friends I made intense use of CouchSurfing that allowed me to make new ones, some of which, I’m sure, will last for a long time.
The most interesting and treasurable discovery was about the bikers community who welcomed me, hosted and helped with endless generosity just to have a moment to dream together and exchange emotions.
Wherever I did not have a specific place to visit I took part to rallies and parties organised by bikers where I could find a place to spend the night and an opportunity to make friends and create connections. I met people who fixed my bike at their own expenses without asking anything in return only to make sure that I could keep riding, a lot of them also did welcome me at home as a member of their family. I have witnessed exemplary gestures of solidarity and friendship. I have found confirmation that we are people with a golden heart, generous and full of love.
To this day, as I write these lines (April 2015) 85 days have passed since my departure from Forlì (my hometown), I have
Crossed 17 regions and rode about 16,000 km. The tour of Italy is not over yet but has already brought me a lot, it has already contributed to a major evolution of my travel plans for the coming months, building the foundation for new projects and collaborations. A book will be made out of this challenge and perhaps future incomes derived by its first edition will be donated to charity in Nepal and in the future to others solidarity initiatives.
I am convinced that you will be curious to know how this trip went, to learn about stories and anecdotes. All this is told in the daily posts that I posted on the Facebook page dedicated to The Journey Of Dreams https://facebook.com/thejourneyofdreams.org.
To the most curious of you I give some information about the equipment and gadgets which I bring with me:
A 2013 Harley-Davidson XL883N Iron equipped with three waterproof soft travel bags.
A helmet for the pillion passenger, since occasionally I get some company by people who wants to share my journey.
I took the following clothing with me: a sweater for the colder evenings, five pieces of underwear, two Hawaiian shirts representing my travel uniform, two jeans, microfibre t-shirt and tights, three t-shirts, a pair of shorts that works both as a pyjamas and garment for the hottest days, one swimsuit and a bathing cap to swim in pools or to wear under a diving wetsuit, a pair of boots and a pair of rock-shoes to use at the beach or as a home slippers.
I got a two-seat igloo tent for camping, one microfibre towel, a summer sleeping bag and an inflatable mattress.
For my own entertainment I carry a Rubik cube, a harmonica which I hope to learn to play soon, a portable backgammon board and playing cards. I have never used anything of this to be honest, but I know that sooner or later I will use them.
I also have a reflex camera with tripod (which I used it only twice), a waterproof video camera to use in the water or with the rain and the computer from which I am writing to you.
The most useful thing so far has been the coffeepot given to me by my grandmother. My friends challenged me to carry it around on all my travels and I do make coffee to anyone who hosts me. I find this to be the most useful of all things because that’s what most of all helped me to start a conversation about my projects and begin to dream together with the people I meet.
I have a large collection of photos of my Grandma’s Coffe Pot published on my site
At present, for now, there is nothing I miss.
All I have is something useful, there are things that would be useful but unfortunately I cannot carry with me because are things I do not have enough space for, for instance I have no spare parts for my bike.
This journey is really giving me so much, I am much more rich in love, knowledge and understanding for my country and now I’m fully aware that there is so much desire for friendship and happiness and dreams all around us.
Among the many things I’ve done I was able to dive in the deepest of the pools in the world, called the Y-40 (near Padua), I had the chance to share a house with students, I slept in an old Volkswagen van, I stayed at the base of the volcano Etna, I crossed Basilicata coast-to-coast, I run up and down along the Salento coast (Apulia), I discovered hidden villages in the Tuscan mountains, and I did what I would never have expected to do, practicing Yoga for breakfast and plant salads in the garden just before dinner.
The extraordinary thing about this trip is that I can now say that I consider Italy as my home at whole, I know it much better now, and I know the people and their uses. The day I will have children and I’ll take them around there will always be a place for which daddy has a story to tell and a friend to introduce.
If you are interested in more details about this project please visit the page Giro d’Italia in 100 days