Hydra, my first Greek island

 CLICK HERE TO READ THE ITALIAN VERSION ⸎

“You can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island!”
How do you blame her? Celeste arrived in Agios Dimitrios three days after me. But she had already prepared every detail, so that her mother, grandmother, aunt and cousin would host me properly. And “proper” hospitality, in Greece, is just amazing. Breakfast ready on the table in the morning as soon as I wake up, bed made, lunch and dinner (and, oh my God, what lunches and dinners!) served, against all my attempts to help, to thank, to make myself useful. No way, in Greece the guest is a pasha, it works like that, because there will be other ways, other times and other trips to give back all this.

Agios Dimitrios is a small country village, a few kilometers from Livadeia, in central Greece. Just before arriving there, there is a tree in the middle of the road: it grew up there and the two lanes run along the sides. All around, like a valley, even if it is a plain, mountain ranges. In less than an hour, by car you can even reach the sea, and in an hour and a half you can reach Delphi, the infinite magic Delphi, the navel of the world, the Centre. Although not usual as a “tourist” destination – in fact, that’s exactly what I love – the holiday here is wonderful, the colors of light, landscapes, the friendly ways of the people, good energy and serenity.

But you can’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island! Mother advises us Hydra. To me, only its name is enough to convince me, even if it seems to be an expensive and very “touristy” place.

Agios Dimitrios – Athens – Piraeus – Hydra, train and ferry.
Piraeus is terrible. You can’t breathe, it’s a concrete casting on the sea. As soon as we arrive, we have to walk half an hour to find a bar. Shops of junk, hardware, low quality clothing, closed shops, sprinkled shops, decadence, dilapidation. Piraeus is a place of passage, the port of Athens. A chaotic and noisy comings and goings of travelers of all kinds pours into the streets, waiting for ferries, looking for ticket offices, and escaping the huge amount of beggars. The gypsies and homeless are no longer in the center of Athens, the Golden Dawn must have hunted them down, and so, on the sidewalks of the suburbs, including Piraeus, the rows of begging cans, makeshift mattresses, dirty rags and supplicating glances stretch out. We set off on the quay to avoid being swallowed up by the concrete and to look at the sea, even if it is more than an hour before the departure of our fast ferry. It will pass in a flash, as will the two hours of travel, drinking beer, eating chips and looking at the blue line of the horizon.

The fast ferry is a delight, a slow and relaxing cradle, even if outside the sea hurtles. The children sitting in front of us speak Greek and Spanish, and we study each other, attracted by the new languages.

I am curious to see this island where there are no motor vehicles, curious to see the sea of the Greek islands, curious and amazed by Greece and its continuous kidnapping me.

As soon as we dock we realize that we have made an unforgivable mistake: it is the end of July, in full season, the port is crowded and we have not booked any room to sleep. For a moment, total panic. We don’t even have sleeping bags, we wanted to travel lightly. But since I got here I’ve learned a beautiful expression – which, thinking about it, perhaps exists in all languages, something like hakuna matata in Swahili, I don’t give a fuck in English, ‘sti cazzi in Roman: the variesai. In short, WHATEVER, we’ll find a solution, the only free room in Hydra will fall from the sky, the universe will help us.

He who seeks, finds. Let’s enjoy a moment the view of this pearl on the sea, white perched houses, pebbles, narrow and intricate alleys. Let’s ask the first office. Nothing. They recommend a room rental nearby. Nothing, all full. A “taxi driver” of donkeys tells us to go up that road, to turn right, then left, then to go up that small ramp … the suitcases, although light, begin to weigh, it is an absurd heat and the climbs do not help. I leave Celeste sitting on a step with the suitcase and go up in random exploration, I’m away for at least half an hour, losing myself on purpose and finding myself again, because the atmosphere is magical and white and silent and I enjoy the walk. But nothing. There is no cot, the people I ask begin to send me back to structures that we have already seen without success. It must have been two hours now, searching in vain.

“Let’s go back to the port, maybe we missed something.” But we are quite resigned, and in the spirit of the variesai we sit at a tavern with a beautiful Alpha 66 ml, laughing at how unprovided we were and how much fun if uncomfortable will be looking for a sheltered corner and sleep on the beach.

Our host hears us and probably understands that he can’t leave two young tourists without a roof at all. Gionis arrives walking slowly and sits at the table with us. He is about sixty, has white hair and an apartment that has just been freed. He gives it up for two nights and for a little money. We rejoice. The universe takes care of us, just ask! We are exhausted by the search and drunk for the second round of beer. We laugh and release, while Gionis tells us about his family, the museum where he works, he says we can go and see him there whenever we want. The last effort and we arrive in a WOW apartment, all made of stone, with an inner courtyard and a staircase that goes up to a terrace from where you can see the port. Paradise.
We place our things, swimsuit on, and go!

We find a place that goes down to the sea, with a small space to lie down, music a bit too “in” for us, travelers on the road. And this will be our beach for the whole weekend, apart from a small exploration and a boat trip around the island. Here everything is “touristy”, the luxurious restaurants, the terraces of the restaurants all busy, the very expensive souvenir shops, the huge yachts with the sliding doors and the tables set in silver and crystal on board.
But the sea is blue and fills my eyes, the pita gyros is the best I have ever tasted and for two days we turn off our brains and the only thing that remains is contemplation, of the sunset, swimming until we can’t feel our arms, of the boats docked in line, in front of an abundant breakfast, of the steep alleys, of the night, from the terrace, listening to suggestive songs from our mobile phone and watching the port that lights up.

Yes, I couldn’t come to Greece without seeing at least one island.

An umbrella in a cave

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“I thought about it for days and days, to find a way. The tube of the pen was not good, the shape was not good and the stones did not come as I wanted. Then, one day, I turned around and saw this broken umbrella, and the idea came to me like a flash in the head!”

The sun beats, the heatwave of eleven o’clock in the morning does not forgive, and the light dazzles overbearingly with white slamming on the stones of Matera. In the middle of the sidewalk there’s a small pedestal with a strange sculpture, its silhouette almost blinds in contrast with the narrow and dark entrance of the cave. It is the sculpture, despite the darkness, that seems to push you into it.

Vincenzo stands there at the back of the room, giving his back to the visitors, bending over his dusty work table. As soon as the eyes get used to the drastic change in light, white prevails in his workshop as well: in addition to the immaculate shirt, the tuff sculptures, which is actually calcarenite “but we call it that way because it is simpler”, fill each wall, placed on shelves and shelves, hung, leaning against each other, all on display. Ashtrays, vases, heart-shaped pendants, animals, frames. And cribs. Vincenzo gets whole blocks of tuff and sculpts them in the smallest details until they become glimpses of Matera, of its oldest and most enchanted part, and stages the nativity, populating it with tiny clay statuettes that bakes in an oven and paints by hand with tempera colors. “The comet star is very important, it must never be missing”, he underlines.

It’s fun for a world, Vincenzo, to make those who enter guess which are the tools he uses to sculpt this or that particular. Because no one guesses. He created the “chianche”, the slabs that pave the streets and neighborhoods of Matera’s stones, breaking the handle of an umbrella bag, using the two tubes obtained as a stamp on the stone. “And the window? You can open it, you see?”. A hidden switch, and all the cribs light up. In the cave, a miniature viewpoint of Matera’s stones landscape in the evening. He also makes the cribs inside the bread, or with papier-mâché. In his blue eyes, a leap of satisfaction, the joy to show his creations, like a child who has just finished his most beautiful drawing. His strong hands gesticulate, indicate, rub into a cloud of white powder left by the limestone. On display on a notice board, the photos of all the actors, directors, journalists and celebrities who have passed through Matera and honored him with a visit.

He remembers when he lived in one of those caves when he was a child: the chicken coop was under his bed and the donkey was part of his family; the last of four brothers used the worn-out clothes of the elders; the witch was carrying a toy gun that the next day disappeared mysteriously to reappear the following year, passed off as a new gift. “We didn’t even have money for soap,” he says. He began working as a coach builder at the age of 9 for 300 lire a month, then around Italy, blacksmith, carpenter, upholsterer, policeman, then official of the prefecture for 30 years. “I couldn’t stand still in the same place, after a while I always got tired! He met his wife in Rome and took her with him to Matera; now, at 61 and with grey hair, he has two daughters and four grandchildren of whom he is proud. He has always cultivated a passion for sculpture: since he was 11, he spent his free time working with white rock, the passion that after years has closed the circle and brought him back home, in the rocks of the underground city, where he continues to sculpt and create, “WITH HEART AND LOVE”, he wants to tell it, because that’s what counts.

Vincenzo gave me a heart as a present. A white heart from Matera ♡

Safari

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Safari.

In Swahili it means travel. It is also used as first name. It has to be beautiful to to be named “journey”.

The weekend off, after a week spent in the nursery school: we can choose between the golden beach of Malindi or the safari. The idea of a beach with golden sand is intriguing, but this is my first time in Africa, the first time in Kenya, and who knows when it will happen again. Safari, there is no discussion. A trip. Just the fact that the word has this meaning, for me, it’s enough to make up my mind.

“Now, get ready, you will see the real Africa. Fire Eater is our interpreter, and our contact to get us a good price for the trip. His real name is not known, he calls himself that way because once he traveled around Africa as a juggler, acrobat and, precisely, fire-eater. Now I know that he is one of the many beach boys who spend their days at the beach looking for business, jobs, and adventurous tourist ladies. He speaks an excellent Italian. He and Bianca already knew each other, she had been here on holiday last year and they became friends. He says he went to a sorcerer and asked him for a voodoo ritual to make her return to Kenya. Bianca, unaware, finally returned, this time as a volunteer, and they found themselves by chance, walking on the shore of Watamu a week ago. It seems that the sorcerer knew what he was doing.

A van with nine seats and 120 kilometers of dirt road. I’ve been sleeping very little for a week, and I’m taking antibiotics for sore throats, but I don’t close my eyes for a minute, I don’t want to lose anything. Red soil, so red, I didn’t think it existed.

“Here people have to walk up to 15 kilometers a day to get water from the wells,” explains Fire Eater. Even children. And this is an old story, everyone knows it already. The “real Africa” has been seen by everyone, in the photos, in the documentaries, in the advertisements of NGOs and associations. Everyone knows that a big part of Africa is still dying of thirst, but seeing it here, with my own eyes, it’s not the same. Commonplace, banality, but it is so. The “real Africa” arrives without filters, this way, direct, it slaps you in the face, and if all the skirmishes work great from afar, here it’s different. You’re just disarmed, and that’s it.

The very warm red of the dirt road and the yellow and burnt scrub that extends to the horizon, endless. The road proceeds without the slightest hint of curve, just a few ups and downs. And these intermittent silhouettes, dusty and very slow, along the way, pressed by the tanks full of water, which lean in balance on the head. While in every village you find, there is a beautiful kiosk of Coca-Cola, with a glittering inscription “One billion reasons to believe in Africa”. But that’s another story.

We stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, where in a huge warehouse are crammed thousands of souvenirs, vases, canvases, figurines, musical instruments, bags, sandals, jewelry, “today discount”, they tell us. In the bathrooms the writings are in English and Italian. One of the shopkeepers starts chatting with the group while we smoke a cigarette, and he wants to buy one of my bracelets. If I wasn’t so fond of it, I’d leave it with them.

Finally you can see the two rhinoceroses, the metal shapes on the entrance gate of Tsavo Est. In more than 21,000 km² there are only two rhinos left, and they are not easy for man to see.

The tended field is a blast. In a tent like this I could live for years: the shower, the toilets, the veranda, two soft beds, scented sheets, mosquito net. They warn us to always close the lock, because the baboons enter and steal everything. Already five or six wander around curious, they are used to man, as if they were cats. There are no fences here, we are in the middle of the savannah, and tonight only a tent will part us from the outside.

The guide is ready. A squat little man with a sly smile and his eyes ajar, he is silent, he is not very promising. But, as soon as he begins to explain the history of the park, to tell us about every species we’ll meet, to see in the distance the animals to chase and approach, we understand that we couldn’t have better guide. Through a radio communicates with the other jeeps to keep up to date with the sightings.

They tell us that we need to be very lucky to meet the lions, but after less than an hour, a lioness is lying on the side of the road, under a low hedge. It’s huge, majestic. Nonchalant, she stares at us, as if she thought “what are these looking at?”. It’s yawning. Amazement. Let’s leave before she can get upset.

Zebras are small and very sweet. They cross the road slowly and we have to wait for them to get tired of looking at us, to continue.

I can see a crocodile while we are on the ground, just over a meter away. Thinking that it can swallow animals much bigger than me tells me that I should move away.

The giraffes’ heads overlook the trees, they’re funny and they ruminate all day long.

The size of each species is the first thing that strikes me. In my imagination it was something else. Seeing it with my own eyes, without filters, it’s completely different. I can’t fully comprehend it: in less than twelve hours I saw most of the African species, all there, one after the other, one landscape after another, crossing grassy plains, dense forests, burnt steppes, rivers in flood, hills and mountains.

The sky is now beginning to blush, the shadows are stretching on the dry grass that sways in the wind of the sunset.

Dots on the horizon. Silence. A herd of elephants approaching a pool of water. One after the other, in an Indian line, perfect order, hierarchies that I can’t grasp. As soon as they stand out more closely, there appears a gray bundle, hidden between the huge, wrinkled legs: a puppy. Clinging to a tail, it proceeds learning to walk, just opening its eyes, seeing colors that are as new to it as they are to me. All of them in a circle, as if unaware of our presence, begin to drink at the pool, to wash up, to play. Maybe we are too close. With phlegm and slowness, but in a moment the oldest elephant is one meter away from us. You can look her right in the eyes. A trumpet. And away, the jeep leaves again. Laws of the savannah. Maternal protection. Unrepeatable moment, yet eternal. A shiver.

At the camp we have dinner, Swahili lessons with Fire Eater, and a bonfire around which to sit and listen to the stories told by the masai, who at night watch over the tents, very tall, in red clothes, armed with spears.

Tonight, however, no stories: there are checks underway in all the tented camps, government officials decide that the lights will go out later than usual, and take over all the good places around the fire. Tomorrow we have to wake up at dawn, and we are all too tired to wait to see the starry sky of the savannah. Disappointment.

At four o’clock I wake up to go to the bathroom. I’m about to go back to bed, but from a window I can see, through the net, a small triangle of sky. I can’t resist, I roll a cigarette and decide to go out. The darkness is total, liquid, it swallows everything. Not even a breeze, but every now and then I hear the rustle of the grass. I remain paralyzed in front of the tent: it could be a monkey, but also an elephant, even a lion. Or just the wind. I don’t know. It could smell my fear or see the spark of the lighter. It might be hungry. But I finally raise my eyes to the sky. All the muscles stretched and the hearing sharpened in silence. I get lost. This sky takes my breath away, a shower of stars that seems to start falling on me. The constellations cannot be distinguished. If I could count them now, I could bet that this is the sum of all the stars I’ve seen since I was born. The time to finish the cigarette, and I’ve already seen five of them falling.

Strange noise on my right. The heart now bursts. The tent neighbor turns on the light: it was him.

The next day I tell Fire Eater how beautiful the night sky is in the savannah: eyes wide open, he shouts: “You are crazy! It’s very dangerous”. And judging by the size of the excrement around the tents, it’s not just baboons that have to wander around at night.

I took a big risk, but it had to be done, I had no choice. I had to see a show like this with my own eyes and take it inside of me. Until next time, at least.

I gave a day to the sea

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9:30 pm, all set. Or maybe not, maybe you’re forgetting something. Every time you pack your suitcase, it’s like that. Even though you’ve checked your mental list a thousand times, there’ s always that feeling: “yet I’m about to forget something fundamental and I don’t know what now”. Then it will come to your mind as soon as you get on the bus to the station, but you can’t go back, because even if you left an hour early, you can’t make it, with Rome’s public transport.
In the end, then, nothing was missing. The one who forgets things is Laura. She’s forgotten all the documents, she’ll come back to retrieve them and take the train later. We agreed to meet at Ancona station: me, from Rome, her, from Venice, with a few minutes difference. Not bad, I’ll take a look at the city while I wait. Never seen it before. And we’ll be able to catch the ferry in time. I hope.

Rome – Ancona, Intercity, place corridor. A little boy, elegant dressed, blocks the entrance of the passengers looking for his place. At a certain point, feeling the pressure, he decides to sit next to me and tell me the story of his life, asking me the favor to wake him up before Fabriano, if he falls asleep: he has an important job interview, the only one he managed to get after months he was looking for it, in fact.

In the meantime, the railway approaches the sea, touches the coast, it almost seems to be already on the boat. There’s nothing to do: when you grew up on the Po delta and until you were twenty years old you saw only brownish and murky water, the color blue of the sea is an explosive emotion, every time. Emotion which doubles, now, with the adrenaline of the journey that is about to begin.

I eat in some seconds a very spicy mega kebab in one of the squalid bars in front of every holy station in every holy city. Inside there is only one gypsy family, indifferent and busy, devouring sandwiches and slices of greasy pizza. I ask the guy in the restaurant for directions to a supermarket, but he helps me very little, stammering and looking down. Backpack and suitcase weigh on me, but an oxygenated lady full of wrinkles and with reddish and smiling lips, the only soul at this crazy time of summer, finally shows me a giant Coop supermarket along a tree-lined avenue lined with anonymous buildings, and I can buy something (too little) to eat during the crossing.

I’ll visit Ancona another time: in the meantime Laura has arrived, I haven’t seen her in three months, my joy, cosmic embrace to my tested trip companion, real and mental.

The port is a concrete casting, the queue begins to form to get on the ferry, composed mostly of screaming and very excited groups of young people leaving for the trendy holidays in Corfu, and some Greek family, elegant and posed, returning home. Couples and lonely travelers silently blend into the noise of the departure.

After an endless half hour of waiting under the sun, we are finally on board. Red carpet, super kitsch, we don’t have the “cabin ticket”, so straight on to the deck. The turquoise floor is wet and slimy, the chairs sticky, the air heavy. It doesn’t look very promising, but it’s precisely to live the whole crossing that we chose to have our first ferry trip, and not to take the plane. So, let’s enjoy it. We dry out two beers and devour the sandwiches I bought at the supermarket – what was supposed to be dinner becomes an afternoon snack – when the ship sets sail. The Conero mount fades slowly.

Here we go. Time now stands still. The vibration of the engines, at first intrusive, is already a habit for ears and feet, almost to the point of not being noticed. People are scattered on the deck, some people have dinner (or lunch? – I’ll understand later that Greek meals have no time), the powerful smell of pita gyros and souvlaki, and Laura and I move to the upper deck and sit down on the ground to chat and doodle on our notebooks.

Blue. I can’t get my eyes off the waves, and I would take a dive, here, now. The sky begins to blush; everyone leaning against the parapet to admire this great ball of light that is slowly swallowed by the sea, bathing the floor, clothes, skin, faces in contemplation with hot reflections until puf! See you tomorrow at dawn. And this is another of those moments of splendor that every time enchant me.

We enter in search of a dinner, in a huge hall used as a self-service. Usual red carpet, golden tables and chairs. For an unbelievable price that I prefer not to remember, they serve us a salad full of pink sauce and a woody stew. Disappearance appeased only by the idea that in a short time, yes, that we will eat real Greek meals.

We are tired, dead, but the discotheque is in the middle of the dances, with impossible volumes and with unplayable songs. We wait at the bar with a hot tea, speechless, in front of two televisions that broadcast two different channels, and try to familiarize ourselves with the Greek alphabet by studying the price list.

I go out on deck to smoke my last cigarette. Some brave people have camped with sleeping bags: despite an exaggerated humidity some are already stuffed in some corner of the bridge. All black, the line between the sea and the sky is gone, I look for some stars as usual. The first travelers were orienting themselves in this way, I don’t know how to do it, but I enjoy the stars the same way, always.

It’s time to look for a place where we can go to sleep, I find a secluded and quiet one, but at that moment a steward arrives and shows me the sleeping area for those who don’t have a cabin: he takes us to a room that looks like a cinema, blue velvet seats all facing a TV that passes football matches, all taken. Even on the ground, to pass, you have to climb over the sleeping bags. Laura slips into a shelf for luggage, me behind the last row of armchairs, near a door that will open a thousand times waking me up, a light pointed straight into the eyes and the air conditioning nozzle above the head. I have to use all my concentration and self-control skills to be able to close my eyes, and at six in the morning I’m already pretty perky and hungry.

Enea, the bartender, the same one who was there yesterday until late at night, is already at his place to serve breakfast, with an air of sad resignation to a job that seems to taste like captivity. But I rejoice in cheering him up, when I ask him, unaware, to try the Greek coffee without sugar. “Are you sure?” he asks me, at least five times. Yes, I’m sure, I’ll have to try it ‘this coffee! And while he’s making it, he laughs at me. The taste of coffee is very strange, unpleasant, metallic, but I finish it, almost out of pride now, and Enea gives me a brioche when I go to ask for an encore, probably out of pity.

I decide that, up until Patras, I will stay on the deckchair and sunbathe on the deck, while Laura does not hold it for more than ten minutes and goes to sit in the shade. I sink into the sleep that I had missed the night before, with the ipod in random, waking up sometimes, when the ship stops at Corfu and Gomenizza. All confused, I do not distinguish the dimension of time, the eyes open to take blurred photographs. I can’t wait to touch the ground, but at the same time the torpor crushes me, while the passengers, even if reduced after the stopovers, start again to speak and eat pita gyros.

A voice announces that in a few minutes we will arrive to our destination. We rush towards the exit, and while waiting, we meet the most singular character of the whole ferry: Michal, a vagabond-artist-artisan, born in Israel but based in India, who weighs much less than her suitcase and travels around the world selling photos of insects and T-shirts on which she prints them. We help her carry her luggage down and she asks me for tobacco even though ten minutes before she had said she didn’t smoke, and while she chases a taxi driver to negotiate on the price, we find ourselves in the middle of another concrete casting, the port of Patras.

Thanos, our friend who is to pick us up, has not yet arrived. We wait for him while we drink a beer sitting on the sidewalk. When we hear him scream, together with Nikos, for a moment it’s like coming home: he speaks Italian and in Italy he lived many years. Welcome hugs. The journey has not yet begun, even if we have been traveling for a whole day, twenty-two and a half hours, to be precise.

One day to the sea, twenty-two and a half hours in his honor, given to it, in an indolent and hypnotic wait. Some find it boring. But all that is needed is to let go and enjoy the journey… I am already ecstatic with this. Just imagine what awaits me.

Manual of the Warrior of Light – Epilogue

After more than two years, my project is finished, and I illustrated the whole book! I’m excited, and now I’ll try to contact Paulo Coelho and see if he likes it

Thanks for following, liking and supporting! :) It’s been quite a journey!

Ho regalato un giorno al mare

“Non avevo mai veduto il mare.
Molte altre cose avevo visto, forse troppe.
Uomini avevo visto, forse troppi. Ma il mare mai.
E perciò non avevo ancora compreso nulla, non avevo capito assolutamente nulla.
Come si può capire qualcosa della vita, e capire a fondo se stessi, se non lo si è imparato dal mare?
Come si può comprendere gli uomini e la loro vita, il loro vano sforzarsi e il loro inseguire mete bizzarre, prima di aver spaziato con lo sguardo sul mare, che è sconfinato e basta a se stesso?”

Federico Garcia Lorca

Le nove e mezza, tutto pronto. O forse no, forse ti stai dimenticando qualcosa. Tutte le volte che fai la valigia è così, pur avendo ricontrollato mille e mille volte la lista mentale, sempre quella sensazione: “eppure mi sto per scordare qualcosa di fondamentale che adesso proprio non so cosa”. Poi ti verrà in mente appena sali sull’autobus per andare in stazione, ma non puoi mica tornare indietro, perché anche se sei partita con un’ora di anticipo, non te lo puoi permettere, coi mezzi pubblici di Roma. Alla fine poi non mancava niente. Quella che si dimentica le cose è Laura. S’è scordata tutti i documenti, tornerà a recuperarli e prenderà il treno più tardi. Eravamo d’accordo di incontrarci alla stazione di Ancona, io da Roma, lei da Venezia, con pochi minuti di differenza. Poco male, darò un’occhiatina alla città mentre aspetto. Mai vista prima. E riusciremo a prendere il traghetto in tempo. Spero.

Roma – Ancona, Intercity, posto corridoio. Un ragazzetto vestito di tutto punto blocca l’entrata dei passeggeri cercando il suo posto. Ad un certo punto, avvertendo la pressione, decide di sedersi di fianco a me e di raccontarmi la storia della sua vita, chiedendomi il favore di svegliarlo prima di  Fabriano, se si addormenta, ha un colloquio di lavoro importante, l’unico che è riuscito ad ottenere dopo mesi che cercava, in effetti.

La ferrovia nel frattempo s’avvicina al mare, sfiora la costa, sembra quasi d’esser già in barca, e, niente da fare, quando sei cresciuta sul delta del Po e fino a vent’anni hai visto solo acqua marroncina e torbida, l’azzurro è un’emozione esplosiva, tutte le sante volte, che raddoppia, adesso, con l’adrenalina del viaggio che sta per cominciare.

Mi sparo un mega kebab piccantissimo in uno degli squallidi bar che ci sono di fronte ad ogni santa stazione di ogni santa città. Dentro c’è solo una famiglia di zingari, indifferenti e indaffarati a divorare panini e fette di pizza unta. Chiedo indicazioni al tizio del locale per un supermercato, ma m’aiuta gran poco, balbettando e guardando basso. Zaino e valigia mi pesano, ma un’ossigenata signora piena di rughe e dalle labbra rossissime e sorridenti, l’unica anima a quest’ora di matti d’estate, mi indica finalmente una gigantesca Coop lungo un viale alberato costeggiato da anonimi palazzoni, e riesco a comprare qualcosa (troppo poco) da mangiare durante la traversata.

Ancona la guardo un’altra volta: nel frattempo Laura è arrivata, non la vedo da tre mesi, gioia mia, abbraccio cosmico alla mia collaudata compagna di viaggi, reali e mentali.

Il porto è una colata di cemento, inizia formarsi la fila per salire sul traghetto, composta per lo più da gruppi urlanti e gasatissimi di ragazzi che partono per le vacanze trendy a Corfù, e qualche famiglia greca, elegante e posata, che torna a casa. Coppiette e viaggiatori solitari si confondono in silenzio negli schiamazzi della partenza.

Dopo un’interminabile mezz’ora d’attesa sotto al sole, finalmente siamo a bordo. Moquette rossa, super kitsch, noi non abbiamo il “biglietto cabina”, quindi dritte sul ponte. Il pavimento turchese è bagnato e viscido, le sedie appiccicose, l’aria pesante. Non promette proprio bene, ma è proprio per vivere la traversata fino in fondo che abbiamo scelto di fare così, il nostro primo viaggio in traghetto, e non di prendere l’aereo. Quindi, godiamocelo. Ci secchiamo due birre e spazzoliamo la spesa che avevo fatto alla Coop – quella che doveva essere la cena diventa lo spuntino pomeridiano – quando la nave prende il largo. Il Conero sbiadisce piano.

Ecco. Il tempo ora si ferma. La vibrazione dei motori, all’inizio invadente, ha già abituato le orecchie e i piedi, fin quasi a non farsi notare. La gente si è sparsa sul ponte, alcuni cenano (o pranzano? – capirò più tardi che i pasti greci non hanno orari), odore potente di pita gyros e souvlaki, e io e Laura ci spostiamo sul ponte superiore e ci spiaggiamo per terra a chiacchierare e scarabocchiare sui taccuini.

Blu. Non riesco a staccare gli occhi dalle onde, e mi farei un tuffo, qui, adesso. Il cielo inizia ad arrossire, tutti appoggiati al parapetto ad ammirare questa grande palla di luce che lentamente viene inghiottita dal mare, bagnando di riflessi caldissimi il pavimento, i vestiti, la pelle, i volti in contemplazione finché puf! Ci vediamo domani all’alba. E questo è un altro di quei momenti di splendore che ogni volta mi rapiscono, no way.

Entriamo in cerca di una cena, in un salone enorme adibito a self service, solita moquette rossa, tavoli e sedie dorati, dove per una cifra spaventosa che preferisco non ricordare ci danno un’insalata piena di salsa rosa e uno spezzatino legnoso. Disappunto placato solo dall’idea che fra non molto sì, che consumeremo dei pasti come dio comanda.

Siamo stanche morte, ma la discoteca è nel pieno delle danze, a volumi improponibili e con pezzi improponibili. Aspettiamo sedute al bar con un the caldo, inebetite davanti a due televisori che trasmettono due canali diversi, e cerchiamo di familiarizzare con l’alfabeto greco studiandoci il listino prezzi.

Esco sul ponte a fumare l’ultima sigaretta. Qualche coraggioso s’è accampato coi sacchi a pelo, nonostante un’umidità esagerata alcuni sono già infagottati in qualche angolo del ponte. Tutto nero, la linea tra il mare e il cielo è sparita, cerco qualche stella come consuetudine. I primi viaggiatori si orientavano così, io non lo so fare, ma le stelle me le godo lo stesso, sempre.

Arriva il momento di cercare un posto dove buttarci a dormire, ne trovo uno appartato e tranquillo, ma in quel momento arriva uno steward che mi indica la zona notte per chi non ha la cabina: ci accompagna in una sala che sembra un cinema, sedili di velluto blu tutti rivolti verso una tv che passa partite di calcio, e tutti occupati. Anche per terra, per passare, bisogna scavalcare i sacchi a pelo. Laura si infila in uno scaffale per i bagagli, io dietro l’ultima fila di poltrone, vicino a una porta che si aprirà mille volte svegliandomi, una luce puntata dritta negli occhi e il bocchettone dell’aria condizionata sopra la testa. Devo ricorrere a tutte le mie capacità di concentrazione e autocontrollo per riuscire a chiudere occhio, e alle sei di mattina sono già bella pimpante e affamata.

Enea, il barista, lo stesso che era lì ieri fino a notte fonda, è già in postazione a servire colazioni, con un’aria di triste rassegnazione a un lavoro che sembra saper di prigionia. Ma mi rallegro nel rallegrarlo, quando gli chiedo, ignara, di voler provare il caffè greco senza zucchero. “Are you sure?”, mi chiede, almeno cinque volte. Sì che son sicura, dovrò pur provarlo ‘sto caffè! E mentre lo prepara se la ride di gusto. Il gusto, del caffè, è stranissimo, sgradevole, metallico, ma lo finisco, quasi per orgoglio ormai, e Enea mi regala una brioche quando vado a chiedere il bis, probabilmente per pietà.

Decido che fino a Patrasso me ne starò sulla sdraio a prendere il sole sul ponte, mentre Laura non lo regge per più di dieci minuti e si va a sedere all’ombra. Affondo nel sonno che mi era mancato la notte prima, con l’ipod in casuale, svegliandomi a tratti, quando la nave si ferma a Corfù e Gomenizza. Tutto confuso, non distinguo la dimensione del tempo, gli occhi si aprono per scattare fotografie sfuocate. Non vedo l’ora di toccare terra, ma allo stesso tempo il torpore mi schiaccia, mentre i passeggeri, anche se ridotti dopo gli scali, ricominciano a vociare e mangiare pita gyros.

Una voce annuncia che fra pochi minuti arriveremo a destinazione. Ci accalchiamo verso l’uscita, e nell’attesa conosciamo il personaggio più singolare di tutto traghetto: Michal, una vagabonda-artista-artigiana, nata in Israele ma con base in India, che pesa molto meno della sua valigia e gira le piazze del mondo vendendo foto di insetti e magliette su cui li stampa. La aiutiamo a portar giù il bagaglio e mi chiede del tabacco anche se dieci minuti prima aveva detto di non fumare, e mentre rincorre un tassista per trattare sul prezzo, noi ci ritroviamo in mezzo ad un’altra colata di cemento, il porto di Patrasso.

Thanos, l’amico che ci deve venire a prendere, non è ancora arrivato. Lo aspettiamo bevendoci una birra sedute sul marciapiede. Quando lo sentiamo urlare, assieme a Nikos, per un attimo è come tornare a casa: lui parla italiano e in Italia ha vissuto tanti anni. Abbracci di benvenuto. Il viaggio non è ancora iniziato, anche se in viaggio ci siamo state un giorno intero, ventidue ore e mezza, per la precisione.

Un giorno nel mare, ventidue ore e mezza in suo onore, regalate a lui, in un’ attesa indolente e ipnotica. Alcuni lo trovano noioso. Ma basta lasciarsi andare e godersi il tragitto…Io sono già estasiata con questo. Figuriamoci per quello che m’aspetta.

Star(t)

Il primo post è sempre il più difficile, perchè uno non sa mai da dove cominciare. Ma si comincia sempre, il mondo comincia ogni giorno, appena ti svegli, e c’è sempre tanta di quella roba da fare, da immaginare, da creare, da vedere, da conoscere, da leggere, da imparare che il tempo per scrivere è sempre troppo poco. Anyway, ci provo.

Ho finito da due mesi un Master in Reportage di Viaggio. Sono stata in Grecia per il mio progetto personale di fine Master, e ci sto lavorando duro per vedere se poi ne viene fuori una pubblicazione. Ora sono a Roma e collaboro con lo staff per l’organizzazione del Festival della Letteratura di Viaggio. Scrittori, giornalisti, fotografi, disegnatori, tutti lì, in quattro giorni di stimoli e meraviglie.

E Roma continua ad essere sempre un viaggio, da maggio, quando sono arrivata, da quando alzo la persiana della stanza che si affaccia su un cortile della Prenestina, a quando chiudo la porta ogni sera. In mezzo ci stanno autobus che non passano mai o che non si fermano alle fermate, gente che viene da tutto, e dico tutto, il mondo, per un motivo o per un altro, scorci spettacolari, decadenti, pittoreschi, sporchi, sfavillanti, antichità più o meno valorizzate e modernità più o meno avanzate (voglio la metro C, ragazzi!), pazzi che parlano da soli, barboni, turisti, burini, intellettuali, amici e maestri.

“Roma è la capitale del mondo! In questo luogo si riallaccia l’intera storia del mondo, e io conto di essere nato una seconda volta, d’essere davvero risorto, il giorno in cui ho messo piede a Roma.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Da qui, comincio. Continue reading “Star(t)”