Coast to Coast
In March to Athens on 11 March 2012 at 23:07
Day 125-LI, from Palo del Colle to Bari.
‘And so it came to pass, on the eleventh day of March in the year of our Lord 2012 that the brave marchers to Athens finally reached the most venerable city of Bari…’
Bari, March 11
The wind comes from sea. It batters the plains and brings along the sweet odour of salt and spices. The first faint hints of the East are in the air.
It’s not just the air, or the odours. Also the colours are changing. Since we descended down the mountains into Apulia everything started to get brighter. The green of the hills, the white marble stones of the old town centres. I’m sure I could say the same about the blue sky, if we had been lucky enough to see it.
Irsina, Gravina, Altamura, Toritto, Palo. Each of them is a maze of bright alleyways and snow white houses with iron balconies. When you arrive there during the hour of the siesta, like we do, you will not find a living soul there, except for an occasional cat.
Then you come closer to the sea, and the wind gets stronger. You hop from one suburb to the other, and then you finally find yourself in front of Bari, one of the places which bears the name of ‘gateway to the East’.
I’m walking together with comrade Milton from Naples, and just before Bari we get lost. We don’t want to take the national road, but every other road we take seems to lead us away from the metropolis, or ends up being blocked.
We walk for hours and hours through the desert of an industrial park, through olive groves, past abandoned villas and old outskirts in ruins. All the while we can see the city in the distance on all sides, like a fata morgana, but we don’t seem to reach it. It’s as though Bari were protected by some kind of magnetic shield, and only the faithful can enter.
As a last resort I direct a prayer to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of the city, asking him to let us through. And lo! a small road opens up in front us. Our hearts are beating full of expectation while we start following the path that takes us straight into Bari at sunset.
When we reach the old centre we find the others have already been camped for hours in one of the most beautiful squares. It’s close to the boulevard. At night, when all the other sounds die down, we can hear the sound of the waves in the distance.
We have made it. We crossed Italy coast to coast. Some of us have even descended the entire peninsula. Together we sit down around the fire. We toast, and while the luscious odour of hashish rises up from the circle, we reminisce about the various episodes of the march.
Then a police car stops by. The driver addresses us with a smile and with curiosity. He asks where we are from, where we’re going and why. We explain it briefly, we give him a flyer. He reads it, he nods, and he says: “Very well. Keep up the good work.” Then he drives off.