La Calata: a walk from Rome to Albidona

Do you ever get a whim of inspiration and spontaneity, or an urge to just drop everything and go on an adventure? This is the story of such a man, who one day decided to follow his impulses and walk for 40 days from Rome to his home village of Albidona in the South of Italy.

Michele Laino
Michele Laino. (Photo – La Calata’s Facebook page)

Like many youngsters from the south, Michele Laino craved more than a simple low-key village life, and ‘escaped’ to the capital looking for new horizons and career opportunities. Seven years later, he got everything he seemingly wanted: good education, a job as a physiotherapist, a girlfriend, an apartment. But just like many of us who sometimes feel unsettled in stability, something was off.  He even tried a different career path, and still his discontent did not yield.  “And then it hit me”, – says Michele. “It wasn’t about the job; it was about the place. And I decided to go back South”. The decision to walk home came as a joke from his brother when Michele shared his yearning for an adventure. Having taken his brother’s advice seriously, Michele spent months preparing for the journey. And then the day came. For 40 days he walked from Piazza San Pietro in the center of Vatican in Rome – to Piazza San Pietro in Albidona.

La Calata in progress. (Photo - Michele Laino's Facebook page)
La Calata in progress. (Photo – La Calata’s Facebook page)

Where does the South of Italy begin?

Many people think the south of Italy begins right outside of Rome. Moreover, in the Piazza le Appio in the Southern Rome. Evidently, this is not true. “I’ve discovered exactly where it begins” – says Michele.  “It begins in a small town near the border of Lazio”. As a matter of fact, that area is where the border of Kingdom of two Sicilies used to be. Couldn’t be more precise!

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“Why? Because wherever I went, I asked locals the same question – what do young people do here? And exactly from that area and all the way down I heard one same thing – there’s nothing here”. People in many southern villages feel abandoned and forgotten, and this mentality has been reinforced throughout decades, making it nearly impossible to change people’s attitude. This stands in the way of seeing the positives in their lives and and potential in progress. This ‘nothing’ is a subjective point of view. Many places he visited on his journey happened to be vastly different; boasting a variety of sights, dialects, traditions, food, etc. “Its strange to hear that there’s nothing, when in fact you can always compare your home to some other place, and comparatively your village is like New York to someone else!”.

Michele couch-surfed all the way down, spoke to countless people and collected so many stories that he decided to write a book about his journey. Like a true millennial, he created a blog where he shared his amazing experiences. “Apparently, the walk has not finished yet”, – he smiles. “When I came home I was invited to so many places to talk about it, so I keep moving down, towards the south of Calabria”.

La Calata in progress. (Photo - La Calata's Facebook page)
La Calata in progress. (Photo – La Calata’s Facebook page)

Of all the observations Michele made on his way, the one that we share deeply is the idea that its the like-minded people that make changes – turning this land into a hospitable and inspiring place to visit. With so many things that the Italian South has to offer, ‘nothing’ does not exist. In fact, we were listening to the La Calata story for the first time in the mountains of Sila, surrounded by the amazing nature of the southern Italy – one of those places where you recharge your inner batteries. How could this place be nothing? And then he adds – “Well, if we really don’t have anything, there’s only one road to take – to create!”. So there we go.

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