How are you doing? Are you ready to read a lot of interesting news from your friend Fabio and see a lot of nice pictures? Get a big warm popcorn cone as this is going to be an important, very important mail.
I have a lot of fun stories to share about this yet-to-finish summer, but before that I want to tell you about my upcoming big life project. Starting from the 15th of September to come, I will take a six months career break, as in, I will be free from work obligations till Spring 2011! Free! No eight hours per day schedule, no meetings to attend, no deadlines to meet!
If you listen carefully, you can also hear a thin voice from far away that adds “…no salary! No salary!” to my list. This is indeed the only downside of my choice: during the course of six months, there’ll be no steady flow of oxygen into my bank account, which means I’ll probably have to occasionally hold breath. But I have some savings and I rented out my place to a friend, so I’m positive about the financial aspect.
What will I do in this half-year? Considering that I haven’t set foot in a far away country to discover since 2008, Japan in that case, the answer can only be: I’m going to travel the World! Where will I go? Ah, this is the question I was waiting for. Because the absolute reply is “I don’t know!” I only know what the beginning of this trip will be: I have a one way plane ticket for Kathmandu, Nepal. Together with an English friend of mine and a few others, we will walk the three-weeks trek that will take us to the Everest Base Camp! We will reach an altitude of about 5.400 meters, and we’ll sit to contemplate the highest peak of the globe. I’m not sure I can imagine a better way to kick off my world wandering.
After that I will go to Australia, where I’d like to spend maybe a month and a half, and from this point on everything is still blurry and undefined. My ideal destination is South America, but there’s nothing set yet and all can change in the meantime. I am very excited about this all. I am no last-second person, but I also reckon the value of the unexpected and unplanned; that’s why I am kind of preventing myself from organizing the whole trip in details. This will maybe lead to higher costs, but also maybe not – and what’s more important is the freedom, total freedom that I want to be able to feel.
I’m now going to write something about the last times, I’ll talk more about my trip at the end. Something funny to start with: after the Norwegian trip I wrote about in the last email, I had a very long beard. I cut the whole thing off, leaving though a fantastic, bushy mustache. Here’s two shots that Carlos took. Apparently the mustache inspired me very much at the piano. Such facial hair configuration gave spark to absolute excitement (and a lot of amicable laughs) in any friend that saw it!
This summer begun under the World Cup sky. Holland became more orange than ever. Or- ange flags, man-sized orange lion costumes, orange hats, orange everything. Italy played its first horrible match on the 14th of June, and that happened to be the one night that I spent in Breda, a little Dutch town in the southern part of the country. I was there to take the Staatsexamen, the official Dutch language exam, which took two days (!!). I had dinner with my Couchsurfing host, a girl called Wendy, in a lovely dark restaurant – Dutch cuisine at popular prices. After that, the match was about to start. I was walking
in the streets looking for a screen equipped bar, when I heard some accented English being spoken among a group of youngsters. A glimpse was enough to sense that they were Erasmus students, and a second glimpse assured me that they were on my same quest. I approached them and after two words we were walking together to their favorite student bar! After the match I reached my couch for a good night of sleep before the second day of the exam. Which I actually passed!
The World Cup was still developing when I left for two weeks in Italy. It was actually since 2006 that I didn’t spend one single summer day in my home country and, I have to admit, my body had completely forgotten how deadly warm and humid Rome can be. In the first two days I kind of couldn’t breath properly, therefore I felt tired and sleepy all the time. Fortunately, things changed when I took the plane that carried me to the absolute apex of my time in Italy: after years of talking about it, I finally managed to visit Sicily! I never managed to make it there in 25 years of Italian life, and shame on me. Because, and this is going to be a strong statement, Sicily is the closest thing to Paradise that I’ve ever visited on Earth. As I arrived in Palermo I met Alessia, a friend from Erasmus times. She picked me up at the airport and three days of awesomeness began.
I have always advertised food in Abruzzo as the best of Italy. Sicily changed my mind. I was there for only three days and never got the chance of tasting the same thing twice: I would lay ecstatic after any single meal or snack, but the next one would be something completely different and possibly more extraordinary. Be that swordfish, some special pasta, baked stuff or pastries, it would always leave me speechless. One pic shows you the pezzi, literally “pieces”. That’s what they eat in the wee hours of the morning, after a good night out: a kind of mini calzone, with different fillings and toppings, each one as big as my hand and it only costs 70 cents! I almost cried when I had to see a Febo shop again. Plus my wonderful host Alessia is a kitchen magician, and whatever she prepares will stay in your heart for long time. It’s no coincidence that, back in 2004, she basically took care of the survival of myself and of all our Erasmus friends. Her loving and caring attitude is very hard to find nowadays.
The cultural & art heritage of Sicily is also impressive, with little jewels such as Cefalù or the surprisingly rich center of Palermo. One night they took me to an aperitif in town, where the venue was the garden of a 1700 villa with an amazing arcade that you can see it in a picture together with Alessia and me. And also all the people, so nice. The nature is also magnificent, with such a beautiful blue sea, often facing gorgeous mountains and hills. The weather was always great, warm but not as humid as Rome and always cooled down by a gentle breeze.
When you are there it’s almost unreal to think about all the problems and plagues that affect that land, Mafia above all. You almost don’t see it, which is probably one of its strengths. The only concrete presence I’ve witnessed was a police car patrolling the house of an entrepreneur who refused to pay the pizzo, the extor- tion racket, and thus received death threats for himself and his family.
I contemplated an incredible sunset from Alessia’s terrace in Zafferano Cape and wondered what could this people do if freed from the Mafia oppression and the political corruption, when even under this burden it is such an unbelievable place. I was really impressed by everything – but I spent all my time with a local, so my impressions might be a bit biased.
After Sicily, I spent some time in all my “ordinary” places: Rome, Grosseto in Tuscany and Chieti in Abruzzo. I mainly tried to spend time with my friends and homies, as I’m not gonna see them for quite a while. The main event of the time in Chieti was an excursion with my father to the San Giovanni cascade, the same we wanted to go to last Christmas, but from another starting point this time around.
A recommendation about Grosseto: a little ice-cream shop, which serves the best gelato I’ve ever had. It opened in the same year I was born, and it’s been a constant afternoon appointment throughout all the years to come. Check out http://www.ilgolosastro.com, but don’t let the shiny pictures fool you: it’s a genuine, tiny place where people like you and me go.
During my sixteen Italian days, I followed the ascension of the Dutchies to the World Cup final, and my excitement mounted so bad! I did proselytism with all of my friends and relatives, so in the end they were all sup- porting the oranges. But then I looked at when the final was scheduled and you can’t imagine my disappointment when I realized that it would occur exactly as I would be on the plane to go back to Amsterdam! Oh no! Maybe that is why the flight was so cheap. Still, there was a festive atmosphere on the plane, with the KLM hostesses wearing or- ange hats and scarves, and the pilot keeping us updated on the score. Once landed, we re- joiced in learning that the game wasn’t over yet, and I watched the last half an hour in the airport, surrounded by literally the whole World! Too bad we lost, but it was cool to attend the closing minutes in such a singular location.
World Cup final in the airport!
[Here ends the first part of this update. Stay tuned for the second part. I like this, it feels like the double last episode of any X-Files season… thrilling! fab]