Via Degli Dei – last stage
From Bivigliano (Fi) to Florence
Via Degli Dei signage
Saturday, 5 June 2021, eight o'clock in the morning: the melody of the alarm clock rings in my ears, knocking me out.
The infirmities of the previous day made themselves felt like never before, with lactic acid present in every single part of my body and the aches and pains that were added to every slightest stretch, but it was certainly not the moment to give up; this was the long-awaited moment: on that very day we would arrive in Florence!
In no particular order we emerged from our tents under a dim sun and a rather cloudy sky, but the emotions that were released inside me that morning were immense, so much so as to make me feel perky and cheerful just like when the sun is shining.
During the first hours of that day I treasured every little detail starting from the first moment I opened my eyes when I stopped to admire the tufts of grass just outside my tent, appreciating nature and the slowness of life.
In the end that was the biggest lesson that Via Degli Dei and walking in general had taught me: slow down and appreciate the small. I loved that feeling to bits!
After the first shy morning greetings to my companions I went into the bathroom to rinse my face and look into my eyes trying to realize what I was about to do. That was a special moment because that trip had voluntarily taken away any kind of comfort and I hadn't looked in the mirror since day one. This is one of those things that you don't notice in everyday life but when you do, you start to notice it and that too becomes a reason for gratitude.
I went back to my station and prepared and packed up my tent for the last time. I felt a particular regret and a certain melancholy in performing those small gestures that I had begun to "hate" in the previous days and yet at that moment I was enjoying them more than ever: it was the simplicity of performing small gestures that you don't normally do. It was life in total harmony with nature – ahh, how I was enjoying it!
I finished with the background of Andrea swearing at Simone for not having figured out how to close the damn curtain in a hurry (the truth is that Andrea hadn't figured it out either), and their Roman way of arguing always made me laugh my head off.
It was a very good morning that morning! Happiness and excitement was in the air; we all oscillated between a state of excitement in which we couldn't wait to get there and a state of melancholy in which we wished we could slow down the time because we were enjoying the walk too much and the emotions we were feeling were so many.
All ready to go, we headed to the campsite bar for a refreshing and tasty coffee - we needed it! Some of us even had some nice, warm, soft pastries; I of course had already devoured my little croissant, energy bar and the usual two pieces of chocolate but I decided to treat myself to a coffee!
We sat down at the table in a slight and brief moment of silence in which we could hear our relaxed breaths which, together with the happily singing birds, created a perfect harmony of sounds.
We could hear the spoons stirring the coffee and the infinite peace in the background; everyone was probably thinking and processing what was happening: we had really arrived at the last day of the walk, the last stage. At that point Simone decided to break the silence and delight us with some good music from his playlist; at first he went easy on us, choosing quiet and melancholic pieces, then he increased the intensity to give us some good energy to face that day. We smiled at each other and enjoyed the moment: I never wanted it to end.
To tell the truth, that morning I had a tremendously big and suffocating knot in my throat: the melancholy was already killing me, but I told myself that I had to enjoy those moments of total happiness and light-heartedness as much as possible.
We chatted for a while until Altea and Andrea started to "study" the route again (perhaps the word "study" is a bit excessive considering what happened later). I let the two of them discuss and compare, actually thinking how much I would have liked to get lost with them once again before finishing the route.
After a good handful of minutes the point had been made; we finished our coffees, went to pay and put our backpacks on our shoulders. Now we were seriously ready to set off, it was really time: the last departure together.
Camping "Bivigliano" – restart point
I took a long breath: that morning that sigh was not to give me courage, but to get rid of the knot of melancholy that was overpowering me faster and faster.
We gave each other the usual look of encouragement accompanied by a slight enthusiastic smile and then, slowly, we walked towards the exit of the campsite.
As soon as we crossed the threshold of the entrance, the first difficulty arose: we had no idea whether we should take the road to the right or to the left. When we saw a lady passing by, we took the opportunity to ask her for information.
Fortunately she, who was used to seeing wayfarers passing through the area, pointed us in the right direction and immediately showed us, with a slight smile of compassion, the steep slope of the hill behind us: “you have to climb this mountain and follow the path from above".
This news made our hearts ache a little - we were going to have to work hard on the last day too, and the beginning was proof of that; but we plucked up courage and started to climb the hill (hoping it was the right one).
It took us a good forty minutes just to reach the top, under the clouds of that grayish day.
It was a winding and steep path, but quite amusing, being accompanied by Andrea and Simone's usual jokes, which made us laugh our heads off.
When we got to the top, we found ourselves on a clearing that looked like total nothingness: the vegetation was rich and lush, there were trees cut on the ground and there was no trace of a real path.
The point where we got lost at the top of the mountain
Andrea and the ace in the hole
We tried different directions in vain, so Andrea decided to pull out his ace up his sleeve and delight us with endless laughter: he pulled out his map, compass and pencil.
Andrea with map and compass
We didn't expect to see Andrea looking so professional, let alone showing us his compass! Seeing him concentrated on the ground, handling that instrument and making marks on the map with his pencil made us laugh out loud and reminded us, at least vaguely, of the famous adventurer Bear Grylls.
I don't know if Andrea really knew how to read and use that compass, but the fact is that, after grinning at us to no end, we decided to trust him and continued on our way: it turned out to be the right direction!
The rich vegetation
We continued on that path once again surrounded by those tall, beautiful, extremely green trees on both sides. The path was magical and enchanting, the dark green colors of the trees contrasting with the brownish trunks created a truly surreal and incredibly pleasant atmosphere.
Walking through the magical forest
Walking along this kind of path gave me infinite peace, I felt aligned with myself and with life. Nature was making me feel extremely good, relaxing and calming me down. All of this was accompanied by the wonderful company of Elena, Andrea, Altea and Simone, who surprisingly, even though it was the fifth day together, were still putting up with me.
“Monte Senario” convent
We continued walking for several minutes at a slow and rather relaxed but steady pace: we were beginning to get an adrenaline rush.
Following a slight upward slope, we found ourselves in front of an open gate with the background of a convent: it was the direction to take.
Andrea and Simone, right at that moment, took the opportunity to do the usual daily Facebook live to update their followers on the situation and the path, obviously it was yet another opportunity to make us smile to death.
Continuing on, I noticed a crowd of people right around the sanctuary: it was all the walkers we had met during the previous days on the path; it was an amazing moment! We met up with the various young people with whom I had shared much of the first part of the journey during the first stage, plus the various young people I had met at the various campsites.
Some of the travellers relaxing at the convent
We were all there at the same time: we had all followed that path and we all felt more or less the same emotions and to be able to see them all again sharing a sweet local liqueur was an extreme joy. I have a very good memory of that moment.
We relaxed a little, even though we actually needed it less. Most of those guys had woken up at dawn to do the 'big stage' on the last day, whereas we had voluntarily shortened it by taking on the almost forty-five kilometers the day before, so we had been on the road for just over an hour and a half.
The beauty of the forest, tranquility and life
We only went on after asking the various walkers for information about the route, because for us the sense of direction just didn't exist, and we ventured along this marvelous path, which once again amazed me, where nature was the protagonist. What beautiful sensations it left me with! I was enjoying everything about that path, absolutely everything!
All of us, smiling and happy
We voluntarily lost ourselves in conversation, getting to know the new travelers we had met at the monastery, and we strolled peacefully and carefree along this magical, sloping, winding dirt path, surrounded by wonderful green and brown shrubs whose colors once again drove me crazy.
Trying to find the right path
On that day, there was a never-ending mood of excitement to get there – we were all excited! And we were all extremely smiley.
Yet I had that knot in my throat all the time, that feeling of melancholy was struggling to go away and was even increasing with each step. I must admit, however, that nature was helping me enormously – those colors and that atmosphere were truly magical!
It was on Via Degli Dei that I rediscovered my extreme love of nature: the feelings it left me with were endless and extremely warm and embracing.
The most absolute nature
We continued on that enchanted path for several kilometers, which passed rather quickly. Nature was always the protagonist and the gray sky above us made way for a shy sun that penetrated silently through the clouds.
A few stretches of concrete alternated with nature but then we were always back in the green and it was a real pleasure. In the direction of “Fiesole”, in fact, we entered this enormous green spot that gave us a sense of infinite peace and joy.
I remember there were these vast valleys typical of Tuscany, with dunes enriched by tufts of grass that were extremely bright green, despite the dim light of the sun that was now disappearing.
The immense Tuscan valleys
By then we were already about halfway through the stage, and as we rode through those valleys we could, finally and unexpectedly, catch a glimpse of Florence in the distance. The emotions and shivers I felt when I saw the city of Florence, the destination city, were really special.
We couldn't believe our eyes, we couldn't believe that we were really going to accomplish that little feat. We had already covered a little over one hundred and fifty kilometers and we could feel it all on our legs, but the feeling of fullness and gratitude that journey had given us and was giving us, dragged away the fatigue and filled us with joy and satisfaction.
Walking on those soft green meadows was a real pleasure, I felt in paradise! And right there we took the opportunity to take a nice souvenir photo with the view of Florence in the background.
Tired but extremely happy
The sky was a bit gloomy and grey, but those magical valleys kept shining and releasing a crazy energy – they reminded me of the famous Teletubbies village (to give you an idea).
Here we strolled slowly and relaxed over the shiny meadows that stretched for several kilometers and then slowly entered another forest of trees on a gentle winding path.
Carefree in the middle of nowhere
Right in the middle of the forest a steep incline began to make itself felt in our legs and the usual look of concern was shared between us: once again we would have to cross a mountain. At that point we couldn't give up, of course.
So we started to climb the steep slope and after a few minutes I took the opportunity to break away from the group.
I was simply in love with nature, the silence, the smell of the trees, the colors and life. I took that moment to be even more silent with my thoughts and to reflect on what I was about to do, to reflect on how beautiful life and nature were.
I spent several minutes alone in that state of total well-being, filming and recording the colors and peace of nature and the moment. Then, after expressing enough gratitude, I slowed down and let the group join me.
Lunch at the top of the mountain
Once we were reunited, we continued up the last few steep meters - I don't remember the height difference but I do remember that it killed our legs.
Tired and aching (as we always are) we walked the last few strenuous uphill steps to reach the top of the mountain – even though we were so fatigued, we had got used to that feeling of extreme tiredness.
With the soles of our shoes leaving heavy marks on the grassy surface, we finally managed to get to the top, where we were pleased to see many travelers and Florentines relaxing and enjoying a good picnic.
Here we met up again with the legendary Tania and Lorenzo (the couple who had beaten us to the finish line on that day of the third stage to "Passo La Futa") – we greeted them and gladly decided to join them.
The view here was marvelous and we could finally see Florence clearly – whereupon we decided that we deserved a little rest and enjoyed the last of our food in company.
The marvellous view of Florence from the top of the mountain
Munching on my packaged taralli and nibbling on the delicious red apple I was carrying, I never took my eyes off Florence – beautiful and fearless down there waiting for us with all its majesty.
The taste of that simple food at that moment was spacey. My taste buds could taste the dripping juice of the apple and the crunchy crumbs of the taralli like never before. In those mouthfuls there was all the hard work that had gone into it and the knowledge that nothing on this journey was a foregone conclusion.
We spent a good half hour on that summit under cloudy skies alternating with shy rays of sunshine. For me, this was another opportunity to savor life even more, that magical moment and that wonderful journey I was making.
I swallowed the usual bitter knots of melancholy that had been present since the morning, then I decided to fill myself with joy and rather enjoy that magical moment.
During that satisfying moment of rest we almost fell asleep (tiredness was setting in), but Florence was waiting for us and we thought it was time to go again. We had recharged enough, but jumping up after that kind of break was always a major trauma.
A lot of people were now whispering the word "Fiesole". I had never heard of it before but apparently it was a very important point of the path as it marked the last village before Florence, only a few kilometers from it.
I remember with great pleasure that feeling of perpetual surprise. I realized and was grateful for how good it had been to leave without knowing anything, absolutely nothing.
In that way everything was new to me and each step was a discovery of the unknown – I adored those emotions infinitely and I think that this was one of the main reasons why I fell in love with Via Degli Dei.
We followed the route again over extremely soft grass under the usual rather gloomy sky. I realized how much I was living the moment to the fullest when my mood was sky high despite the gray day.
It's something I've always struggled with: meteoropathy. Warm, sunny days always put me in a good mood while gray days like that usually bore me, yet I was filled with an extreme sense of joy and gratitude that made me forget about the clouds and the gloomy sky – “life is beautiful" I thought. And once again Via Degli Dei amazed me.
Reluctantly, we left the green valleys to slowly fade into the paved roads. It had been a long time since we had stepped on concrete, but this time it was a good sign because it meant that our destination was not so far away. As a nature lover, I have always hated the noise of cars and motors: after all, after all those magical forests and woods, it was not easy to bear the noise of the city. Despite this, however, I was able to enjoy that moment too, even the asphalt roads.
As I moved away from the group I switched off my mind completely to savor that moment alone, and the sound of my steps and soles on the asphalt filled me with satisfaction.
I knew how to fall in love with the little things and for that reason I took the opportunity to film my steps. My feet and legs were taking me to my destination, on one of those uncertain journeys where you don't know if you can really make it. I felt infinite gratitude for what was about to happen.
Noticing how we had all isolated ourselves for a short while, I realized that I was not the only one feeling special emotions. Then, as we approached Fiesole, we regrouped again to conquer the small town.
Arrival in Fiesole
Once again enjoying the noise of civilization from the houses, the roar of the engines and the Tuscan citizens smiling and greeting us, we realized that we were very close to Fiesole.
At that point we began to meet other travelers. We took the opportunity to have a chat and the time slipped away very quickly. So, in no time at all, we found ourselves walking through the narrow streets of Fiesole: we had arrived!
The atmosphere then became quite palpitating and the excitement pervaded me.
Here we strolled along happily with a relaxed and satisfied pace – this destination signified an important point on the journey and indicated that the fateful Florence was now near. Since time was on our side (it was about half past three in the afternoon) we decided to "pamper ourselves" a little by choosing a bar of our liking.
We peeked into a few bars and it was surprisingly nice to note that in almost every one of them we found wayfarers we had met along the way in the previous days: "how wonderful!" – I thought.
It was extremely pleasant to see the spontaneous and genuine smiles on each other's faces. All of us had walked that path with a personal attitude and each for our own reasons, and yet all this had bound us together and somehow filled us with joy and light-heartedness. "Ahh, the power of nature” – I thought.
We arrived in the main square of Fiesole and chose a bar rather casually to take a seat and relax a little. The group was the usual one: Elena, Altea, Simone, Andrea and me.
Someone had an alcoholic drink, others a refreshing ice cream and I a simple coffee.
It was a very pleasant moment of sharing and I savored it to the full, aware that the “end” was near.
Altea took a few sneaky photos of us, which I still jealousy preserve in my photo gallery: there were so many emotions in those representations, among which the extreme tiredness mixed with the incredible joy and satisfaction of being about to conclude that wonderful journey.
We basked pleasantly on those uncomfortable chairs in the bar, but they were extremely pleasant to our butts. We were exhausted, yet our destination was closer than ever and we realized it was time to set off again and conquer Florence.
The sky became even darker but the joy and energy of us wayfarers was more powerful than anything else and my mood was sky high – I realized this when the melancholy I felt did not affect me in a negative way but rather contributed to making the moment even more magical and full of emotion.
Florence in all its beauty
We resumed our journey against the backdrop of the many wayfarers who, like us, were arriving in Florence and we took the opportunity, once again, to get together and chat about the wonderful experience we were having. It was another extremely magical moment!
Walking on we could clearly see the dome and the buildings of beautiful Florence, which was pure joy and emotion for our souls.
In front of that beautiful scenery we had a souvenir photo taken by the travelers present (in which I was obviously with my eyes closed).
All of us against the backdrop of Florence
We continued to plow through the steep concrete of “Fiesole”, which led us to Florence via extremely winding roads. At that exact moment our bodies became lighter and we let ourselves be carried away by the downhill roads that erased our fatigue.
Simone then started playing his music playlist and the excitement broke through! Her phone was ringing with "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)" by “The Proclaimers”: I hadn't listened to that song in ages but that tune was perfect for that moment.
Excitement, thrill, melancholy, joy, happiness, adrenaline were all the sensations that univocally struck me at that moment and I lived torn between a state in which I wanted to speed up time to get to Florence as soon as possible and slowing down the hands to enjoy a little more all those emotions that still today, writing with the background of that song, move me and remind me of the state of happiness, bliss, carefree and well-being that I was experiencing at that moment. Magically special.
Shivers of emotion
It is difficult to convey in words the rollercoaster of emotions that were going through my head as we approached Florence: shivers in the knowledge that each step was bringing us closer to our destination and therefore to the end of another wonderful chapter, which would only be the beginning, however, because I had already fallen in love with walking.
My heart was beating incessantly and I felt my soul lightened by the life and thoughts that had gripped me in the previous months; at the same time I felt heavy because of the melancholy that was making itself felt more and more. I became silent.
I immersed myself in my thoughts to express extreme gratitude once again. That trip was a huge surprise and amazed me in every single detail, every single day. These are the kind of experiences I love the most, where your expectations are rather low and you end up surprising yourself to no end.
Then, after taking my time to reflect, I reconnected as usual with the group of the five of us.
We began to talk about this and that, joking about the fact that this damned Florence was getting very longed for, and yet we were loving everything about that journey!
Arrival in Florence
The winding paths leading to Florence had ended a few meters ago and a particularly exciting road sign appeared before our eyes, it read "Florence".
It wasn't Brunelleschi's dome but it made us shudder – now we could actually say that we had reached Florence with our feet.
Entrance to Florence
I stopped to take the next photo and nodded my head with a slight "no" accompanied by a smirk under my mustache: I still couldn't believe it was all true, I was incredulous but extremely satisfied with what I was about to do and above all with everything I had experienced and was experiencing in those days and at that moment.
Here the traffic and the noise of Florence began to make itself felt but this time it didn't bother me: it was time to celebrate!
The darkening sky foreshadowed a torrential downpour over our heads soon – perfect timing I dare say!
We had now reached the plain of Florence and I could begin to recognise some of the streets of the white-purple city.
In single file on the pavement, without realizing it, we quickened our pace at the sight of that gallant and special monument: the cathedral of Florence.
When I saw it for the first time I had the same reaction as when I saw the sign for Florence, only a thousand times more pronounced.
"It's a mirage, it's a mirage!" - I thought to myself, then took a quick look at the faces of my companions. "What can they be thinking about? What emotions are they feeling?" – I thought to myself.
I began to wonder if I was a very sensitive person or if they too were actually shaken by what was happening. I like to believe, but I am certain, , that for them too this was a moment they would not easily forget.
Fatigue, sweat, perseverance, will and sharing had driven us to Florence, the city without boundaries of beauty. Once again I thought about the beauty of life, how unpredictable it is and how beautiful it is that we meet people along the way who go from being complete strangers to an active part of your existence.
Some of them may not be part of it anymore and may just be passing through (I appreciate them too, there is a reason they crossed my path and I feel a certain thrill to think that I will probably never see them again), but others stay. They remain imprinted in your heart, in your mind and at your side, still sharing experiences and memories together.
The real destination
We walked into the city past the beautiful dome of Florence and stopped for a while to admire it and take a few photos – still more pleasantly incredulous at everything that was happening. The real journey, however, ended at “Palazzo Vecchio”, with the last efforts still to come.
The sky slowly began to drop a few drops of rain, which at that moment I liked to compare to tears of joy. It's amazing how certain moments can change your perception of things and your view of life, isn't it?
I have always hated rain because it put me in a bad mood, but at that moment my soul was soaked with joy. I felt like I was pleasantly trapped in a sticky honey pot, where it represented the happiness that was pervading me and that I was releasing from the pores of my skin.
We increased our pace even more as the rain intensified in front of the street leading to “Palazzo Vecchio”, now only a few meters away.
Another moment of extreme melancholy and joy pervaded me. It was in those very last steps that we could see and meet again many of the travelers we had met along the way in the previous days – they too were about to end this wonderful journey with us.
Their faces showed extreme joy. With their cloaks on, hooded, they were walking quickly towards “Palazzo Vecchio” to escape the rain that was gnawing at our noses.
We also saw those who had already reached the Palazzo and were now thinning out. At that moment I realized that it was really coming to an end: I told myself to enjoy the present but the melancholy was winding fiercely in my throat.
Soaked with water, ugly and smelly, we made our triumphal entry into our final destination: the “Palazzo Vecchio”!
Shouts of joy, smiles, glances that meet, strong emotions. Hugs, congratulations and our souls filled with joy. Had we really made it? I still didn't realize. So much effort, but so much satisfaction! Via Degli Dei had pushed me to the limit and I couldn't help thinking how many things it had taught me.
Above all: the magic of nature. I have always appreciated it to the fullest, but never so much as then. And then the people I met – reconnecting with the human being, making connections.
I like to see this journey as honoring life and human interaction, emotions. The intention with which I set out to share herbal tea under the stars went far beyond the simple act of sipping herbal tea in the company of others, there was a much more specific reason.
I have to admit that I lived through the lockdown period quite well, but the desire to travel and, above all, to interact with people was sorely lacking. To feel emotions, feel hugs and love.
I couldn't ask for more from that trip: it went far beyond my expectations and did my soul good, relieving it of thoughts but filling it with endless emotions.
We took selfies in pitiful conditions in front of “Palazzo Vecchio” only after the excitement had subsided a little, then I briefly raised my eyes to the sky and couldn't help but get excited, inside, though.
Selfie in front of the "Palazzo Vecchio"
I like to sit alone with my thoughts when I feel such strong emotions, I like to process them alone because it makes me feel free from judgment and makes me feel understood.
Excitedly, Simone and I crawled slowly into “Palazzo Vecchio”, where we would get our credentials stamped and receive a small gift. That moment effectively marked the end of the journey.
We went and were given a small notebook dedicated to Via Degli Dei only after they had stamped our credentials for the last time. That was also a magical moment for me, by then I was moved by every little thing and I liked that feeling. I felt infinitely grateful.
We headed for the exit with our new notebooks in hand and our credentials finally complete, and stood at the doorway waiting for the rain to stop beating so violently on the ground.
Then we simply decided to join our companions who were waiting for us in the rain in front of the Palace. We gave them their credentials and decided all we had to do was get to our hotel rooms.
Andrea drenched in rain at the "Palazzo Vecchio"
The rain didn't stop and that very morning we had agreed to have dinner in the center of Florence to celebrate the end of the journey as a small personal victory. It was exciting to know that I could still spend extra time in their company – not only that, they surprised me by inviting all the wayfarers they had met along the way!
No one had any definite plans at the end of the route but since many were coming from outside the region almost all of them would be staying the night and so the situation was perfect for celebrating together. With this in mind, Elena and Altea booked a hotel room for the three of us, while Simone and Andrea had already organized theirs.
So we set off for our rooms and, once we reached them, we said goodbye, meeting up for an hour and a half later (it was already eighteen o'clock), and in the meantime the rain stopped.
The shower and a comfortable bed were not things I was very used to in those days, yet the idea of being able to take a fresh and scented shower and finally sleep in a comfortable and enveloping bed excited and relaxed me a lot: I think we all deserved it, it was a good reward (together with the delicious dinner that was waiting for us).
We settled down in our room, taking care to put our shoes and socks on the balcony: the stench my feet gave off was something terrifying - I wanted to keep Altea and Elena alive. I let them shower first as I wanted to take the time to rest a little and appreciate that magical moment of rest - having a roof over my head, the idea of being able to sleep on a mattress and take a shower filled me with gratitude and I fully appreciated that moment.
I spent minutes doing nothing but sinking gently into the comfortable armchair in the room – I didn't have the energy to actually put my things away. I chatted first with Elena and then with Altea as they finished their showers and then, in no time at all, it was my turn.
I gathered the necessary clothes in a hurry and headed for the bathroom with extreme happiness. I remember the shape of my smile as soon as I opened the shower nozzle – I looked at myself in the mirror because for a moment I realized it was really over and that I was going to rinse away the dirt accumulated over the previous days.
It was a melancholy but refreshing and extremely pleasant shower – I enjoyed every single drop and then went back to my room to get dressed as the girls were already waiting for me for dinner. I put back the clothes I had worn along the way because I only had those and had not planned to have dinner in Florence – but the walk had once again taught me that clothes were not important.
We left the hotel a few minutes later and met up with Andrea and Simone who were waiting for us downstairs. The sky had now opened up a bit and the rain had stopped - I considered this a gift in our favor.
We headed for the main square and went to the restaurant that Simone had recommended, which he had previously booked. As soon as we were seated at the table, we began to wait for the other travelers, who slowly joined us in staggered groups.
All this filled me with extreme joy and I was still incredulous at what a simple walk could bring and how many emotions it had left me in such a short time.
That evening there were twenty-six of us. Twenty-six light-hearted souls who had set off alone or in a group, all with their own precise and unique reason that somehow fate had decided to bring us together – I was obviously infinitely grateful.
Taking a first glance at my wallet I remembered how much better it was to get something cheap but the company soon led me astray.
We ordered rivers of wine that turned out to be never enough, kilos of Fiorentina and me with my meager plate of rice and mushrooms.
The dinner was splendid. The mood was joyful and the amount of alcohol in our bodies increased more and more adding that touch of ignorance that is never enough. I have beautiful, very beautiful memories of that evening , although unfortunately at some point I swallowed more wine than my body could handle and from that moment on it was total darkness.
Dinner in Florence with wayfarers
This was not the way I imagined my last evening and the end of Via Dei Dei but perhaps it was not the wrong way either – in doing so I had avoided the melancholic phase that would brutally grip me.
With the embarrassing images and videos accompanying me in the gallery I decide to keep them to myself and to erase the malaise with a healthy and long sleep – sweetly and affectionately accompanied by Andrea and Elena.
I'm sorry I didn't become fully aware of the comfort and pleasure of the mattress after so long, but I admit that I enjoyed that sleep endlessly.
The following morning
The following morning, on the other hand, I woke up dazed with a bloody bed and a deep scar on my right arm. The room was empty and I couldn't understand what was going on, but while I was trying to realize what had happened to my poor arm Elena came in and burst out laughing and asked me if I had recovered – that morning I felt rather uncomfortable and with an embarrassed smile I asked her where Altea had gone and what I had done to my arm.
I was even more surprised when I noticed that Elena didn't know anything about my scar, but rather than despair we had a healthy laugh together.
Elena then advised me to get dressed and prepare my things to leave the room – the other guys (including Altea) would be waiting for us at a specific café in the square for breakfast and, alas, the last goodbye before the end of the journey. I listened to her and hurried as I wanted to spend some extra time with all of them once again.
In a few minutes I put on the usual old clothes of the previous days (although this time I smelled a bit more) and left the room with Elena.
Still stunned, I was blinded by the sunlight that shone on us that day and gave me a tremendous joy, then a few meters later we met Simone, Altea and Andrea.
After the first awkward greetings we headed for the bar with a rather quiet air, even though I had counted the minutes since I had planned to have lunch with a Florentine friend in the hills of the beautiful city.
We sat down at the table in the sunlight which warmed our bodies like croissants just out of the oven, we ordered some sweets and some fruit juices and liters of coffee to wake us up and we enjoyed our breakfast telling each other about it.
We wondered when the next journey would be and when we would see each other again – the thought excited me because I wasn't sure when or if I would see them again but I liked to think so.
Swallowing drops of coffee as slowly as I could, pretending to slow down the passing of the hands, I realized I had missed a call from my friend: he had arrived, which meant it was time for me to leave and face the fateful goodbyes.
I ignored the phone for a few seconds because I didn't actually want to leave but then I realized that my time had really come.
Greetings and emotions
With my voice broken by the nostalgia already present, I stood up and went to pay. Immediately afterwards, I glanced at Elena, who understood that I was leaving.
"Damn, how come greetings are so difficult?" – I thought to myself. I forced myself to hide my emotions even though it was extremely difficult and then proceeded to give each of them strong hugs.
Dulling the smile that had always accompanied me during those days, I seriously told my companions that I wanted to see them again and that it would happen, because what they had given me meant so much to me.
I put my backpack on my shoulders and greeted them one last time, first with my hand and then with my voice, lifting my mask to cover my face, which was visibly getting excited and could no longer hide it.
I quickly turned my shoulders nonchalantly when as soon as I turned the first corner a light, spontaneous cry of joy and gratitude broke out. It was really over.
I rolled my eyes and once again thanked life for letting me meet those people. For making me feel such emotions, for throwing myself into the unknown and stepping out of my comfort zone, for challenging my strengths and succeeding in my goal: opening up to the world and connecting with new souls.
What I loved most about this journey was the unpredictability and organization: it was a totally unexpected and totally unplanned journey.
It made me rediscover a love for walking, making me appreciate even more the slow rhythms of life and teaching me to slow down our pace. It also increased my love of nature and made me grateful for being the person I am and the person I was becoming.
And so, with my eyes still turned to the sky, I swallowed the last tear and turned it into infinite joy: joy of living and loving life more and more every day.
This was my first trip back from Australia - a life-changing trip. The lockdown that greeted me on my return from that magical experience in the land of kangaroos, combined with a return to the usual routine and a sentimental situation that kept me in a cage, put me through one of the most demoralizing periods of my life.
This trip, however, was a boost to life and a rebirth. It was the starting point for my future travels and personal growth.
I was convinced that Australia had changed me, and it did, but the real change happens when you go back to your roots, managing not to fall into your old habits and knowing how to put yourself on the line, improve and challenge yourself every single day.
A journey that reminded me that it doesn't matter where you are but how much you are able to live in the present, to be extremely grateful for what you have and to know how to excite yourself with little. A journey that has connected me to the land, the path, the people and the dreams.
Thanks and greetings
I would like to sincerely thank all those who crossed my path for teaching me something and enriching me with values: there is a reason why life has decided to bring us together. In particular, I would like to thank Elena, Altea, Andrea and Simone for being by my side until the end, sharing incredible emotions with me.
And I want to thank me, for once again pushing myself a bit further and facing my fears. I thank the Alex of the past who lived in fear of everything around him for overcoming and accepting himself.
I thank life for confirming to me once again it's magical beauty and for making me understand how everything happens for a reason, be it beautiful or unpleasant. I thank it for continuing to surprise me and for continuing to make my path cross with people who bring me value.
Finally, thanks to you who are reading this for coming across my thoughts and confronting my emotions. To be honest, being able to move a reader is one of the most satisfying joys a “writer” can receive.
Love, dare, dream and let yourself be pervaded by this wonderful journey called life: we are passing through and there is nothing more beautiful than being able to live each moment to the fullest.
P.s: Finally, as promised, we all met again. We are still in touch and we plan journeys together!
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