Day 110-XXXVI, from Romagnano to Vietri di Potenza, 12 km.
Day 111-XXXVII, Vietri.
Vietri di Potenza, February 26
We have received some precious reinforcements lately, from Naples, from France, from Belgium and from Barcelona. Our numbers our growing again, from about fifteen up to twenty. Also the weather is changing in our favour. The dark clouds have disappeared, the sun comes out every now and then. We can see the snow melting on the tops.
These days we have been following a quiet road high up the right bank slope of the river valley. Today we descended down to the water. There was no other way to reach our next stop.
While we march, the voice of our arrival is carried up the valleys by the wind. We are famous even before we set foot in the little villages on the route. The natives are expecting us.
This is the wilderness. It’s true that people have been crossing this region in modern times, they take the train or the motorway from Naples to Bari, but they don’t stop here. They have no reason to.
I don’t have a shopping cart. I walk with full gear. When I finish the final ascent up to Vietri di Potenza, I’m alone. In the first bar, I ask for a glass of water, and to my surprise I see a manifest on the window which announces the arrival of us, los marchantes.
Immediately the locals gather around me. Then the protezione civile arrive, they have been organising our arrival. Then there’s the local police, and the first of the shopping carts entering town. Within minutes of my arrival in the village, we have turned into a procession, and all the curious accompany us up to the tiny village square.
Before I started this march I knew we would be well received by the local population in the south. But almost every day they leave me flabbergasted.
All the village is in the square and on the street. The elderly are sitting on their bench, commenting. The boys and the girls of the protezione civile take us around the village on a tourist trip. They are proud of their history, their religion, their hospitality.
We have to see the monastery, they say. A real thorn from Jesus’ crown is guarded there. And we have to see the cave of Caesar. They say the great man stopped there to drink from a fountain once, on his way to Greece. But most of all, we have to tell the world. Come to Vietri! People will treat you well.
Just like the other towns here, Vietri was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake. It took more than twenty years to rebuild. Not because it was such an enormous effort, but because a lot of the funds for the earthquake disappeared. Many people lived in containers for years, and a handful of people got very very rich. Welcome to the south.
The chimes are sounding in the morning, it’s sunday. When I get out of my tent, I encounter the mayor. “Good morning, Oscar,” he says. “Did you sleep well?”
I slept great.
He has brought pastries for all. He invites people to take a coffee. We have a good chat about sustainability, small scale farming, etc. And I’m convinced that the future starts here in places like this, on a human scale.
In the end, it’s too much, really. Yesterday and today, the protezione civile has cooked for us. This afternoon after lunch we were digesting in the square. All the bars were closed because of the siesta.
“Coffee!” one of us says, “my kingdom for a cup of coffee!”
A window opens, an old lady leans out. “Do you want sugar with that?”
Five minutes later her daughter comes down with a can full of coffee…