An unforgettable experience
“Do you want to live an unforgettable experience on Sunday?”
Alessia asks it with a sly smile while loading the dishwasher. Since she does not have the phisique du role of one who proposes illegal things, I smile her back and answer ok even before knowing what it is all about. “The idea is to walk to Monte Berico ” continues Filippo.
The Sanctuary of Madonna di Monteberico is in Vicenza and stands on the homonymous hill. In our Region “andare a Monte Berico a piedi” became part of common language. It is a figure of speech used to explain the willing to do something exceptional in exchange of a grace.
I have being hearing it for years. Now the moment has come to do it.
I have no grace to ask, but I have a wish for a dear friend of mine. When your athletic preparation is similar to the one of an old sloth it is always useful to find a good motivation before start a mixed fatigue and lactic acid adventure.
Filippo is the planner who studies the path and shares it with us (and I do it for you here)
We agree on the technical details. We will meet at 4.20 am at Bassano train station. Four-twenty. I spell it in letters as in the checks so you know I’m not kidding. “We cannot leave too late otherwise we will suffer too much because of the heat”. I think to myself “Who cares about the heat! I will hydrate! I’ll take mineral salts! I will bring with me an hat and a rice paper and bamboo umbrella! (Ok. You should know Franco Battiato’s “Cerco un centro di gravità permanente” to get it…)
Sunday 2nd June. 3.30 am alarm clock. 4.20 am meeting in Bassano railway station. We leave one car there and with the other one we drive all together to Travettore, the starting point of our pilgrimage.
It is still dark when, with the flashlights on our heads – some other in the hands, as last defense of the dignity – we leave. I didn’t have breakfast. The idea of eating something terrifies my body which slept very few hours (I’m more owl than lark). The groups are clear from the beginning. Filippo and Matteo two hundred meters ahead, Alessia and me two hundred meters back.
I took only one mineral salt before leaving and I start missing sugar very quickly. During the first hour I can hardly say a word. Alessia from time to time tries to speak to me softly, just to understand if I’m still alive or to decide where to spread my ashes. Then, suddenly, a banana. Life starts to smile to me again (I will mention the wonderful fruit again in my peanuts). In a second I feel blood coming back into circulation.
Here comes the sun
Meanwhile darkness is giving way to the first rays of sun, as prelude of a gorgeous day. The landscape begins to take more and more shape and the experience begins to excite me. Allow me to exaggerate perhaps, but we slowly slip into a Van Gogh painting. Farmers we meet on our way are working like crazy bees, taking advantage of the first sunny Sunday after almost an uninterrupted raining month.
It’s about 7.30 am when we pass a field where a lady about eighty is raking the cut grass together with her husband. Home apron, woolen socks, wool skirt, wool sweater.
Then in Bressanvido an oasis. The Bar Sport of the village (one of this place where it is actually culturally accepted that patrons drink a bianchetto – a small glass of white wine – at 8.00 am already), gives us a rest with croissant and cappuccino.
Tell me thirty-three
The landscape is a continuous alternation of wheat fields, stretches of red poppies and tree-lined avenues bordered by streams of water (what we familiarly call roste in our dialect). I filled my eyes with all this beauty. I feel as I would be in another country but I am actually half an hour drive from home.
In total there are about thirty-three kilometers to walk. After twenty kilometers I begin to realize why the various amateurish marches I know does not exceed twenty-one kilometers. About kilometer twenty-two the group shows the first signs of slowing down. Heat, cramps, little pains a bit everywhere. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going… and we start also taking the wrong path, so that the route gets about one kilometer longer.
But we also begin to smell the goal in the air. And to start to see the hill in the distance.
You will not decide a trip at the arrival (quote apiediperilmondo)
Near Vicenza we are almost without water. We manage to recover it in a difficult way. We get in the traffic of the city on Sunday morning and we prepare to face the last stairway before reaching the goal. We walk along the tree-lined avenue in front of the basilica and it’s about 11:30 when we finally find it in front of us. I close my eyes for a second. I’m a little bit excited. I let my hearth talk for me.
We enter, we are in a bath of sweat and we try to keep the distances as much as possible from our neighbors, since we love them as ourselves.
I often came here as a child with my parents (but with the Alfa 33, not on foot). At the time the sanctuary seemed to me huge. Now I understand its real dimensions.
We go out, refresh ourselves before going down along the colonnade that will take us back to the city center. We eat something while waiting for the bus to Bassano. When we get off in the train station, after one hour sitting in the bus, we have the feeling to come out a settling of scores between gangs. The legs seem to be made of wood. Looking us from the back I think to myself I did not know so many ways to limp so far.
It will take days before getting fit again. But Alessia Saturday 9th will leave for her Road to Santiago and now, while we are saying goodbye and doubting to be able to hit the clutch of the car, we look at each other smiling: we did it!
- The best times to do this walk are spring and autumn. If you decide to do it in midsummer, you could also take into consideration to do it in the night: as tradition many people do it in the night (equipped with all the necessary) in order to arrive there on time for the first morning mass.
- Water and bananas. And again water and bananas (and in addition energy bars and chocolate). Don’t underestimate that if you leave early in the morning as we did you won’t find anything open for hours.
- Drink very often, even if you don’t feel thirsty and don’t wait to get hungry before eating something.
- If you are an allergic individual bring antihistamine with you. Don’t forget also mineral salts, sunscreen and patches for your feet.
- Use a well-run and light pair of sneakers: they need to have a good sole but also be light on the top in order to let the feet breathe. You will also need a pair of anti-rubbing socks.
- I strongly advise you to buy a pair of orthotics (if you do not want to buy a professional one you will also find them in pharmacy for about € 30 – € 40) and use them several time before this walk (and after it obviously!). Orthotics should help you better balance the weight of your body on your feet.
Special thanks to Valentina Tolu