Europe N to S: Tropical Pizza, Italian Mothers, and Pillow Forts (1/10-12/17)

Today’s Miles: 0
Total Miles: 3,663.6

Gallarate, Italy – January 10-12, 2017

You have to crawl through the green tunnel of doom then capture the great white seal and ride it across the sea of lava to reach the evil castle of the giants. That is the only way. Well, unless you ignore the old wizard’s warnings, stare up at him like he is crazy, and walk right out on your own two feet like you don’t believe a word of it and just want to go build a pillow fort downstairs with four chairs, a stack of cushions, and a blanket.

“Such is the nature of magic,” I think, running my fingers through my beard for a moment before following Guiditta downstairs to oversee construction of the royal pillow castle. “It is only as strong as the belief.”

At dinner, Sarah tries to convince me to stay another day or two by explaining that there are still Italian dishes I haven’t gotten to try yet. I laugh. Francesco says something about Italian moms always trying to feed people. If this was a movie it would flash forward six months and I’d still be sitting at their table saying how I have to get back to the trail as Sarah tells me there is just one more dish to try before I leave. 

I came back from Alba, taking the train, watching the landscape I just walked through for a week speed by in a few hours. It was supposed to be for one day, to go on the radio and talk about the trip, but one day slid into two, and two into three. It’s hard to leave good people, good food, and the fun of building pillow forts behind.

The radio interview had me nervous all day, but I kept telling myself that any show called Tropical Pizza had to be good and the host, Nikki, was the kind of person who takes a year off to work odd jobs in New York or start a pirate radio station from his apartment. In other words, he’s a bit crazy for life like me, different than what I do, but coming from the same place of not quite fitting into the mold. My nerves disappeared after the first few words. By the end, I wish I could have talked to him longer (check out the interview here:

The next day I cooked Cuban food and watched the entire season of Stranger Things, one episode after the next, relishing just sitting on a couch. Then there was supposed to be snow, so it only made sense to stay another day.

“You know you can always stay longer,” Sarah says.

“I know,” I say. “But I gotta get back before I forget how to walk.”

Francesco and I have one last glass of grappa after dinner. Sarah tries to give me every bit of food in the refrigerator to take with me. It’s hard to say goodbye.

I pack up my bag so it will be ready in the morning. It’s already late and I have to wake up before dawn to catch the train back to Alba. Even thinking about it makes me tired as I make my bed on the couch with the remnants of the pillow fort. 

“At least a train is easier than catching the great white seal and riding it across a sea of lava,” I think. “And there are still giants to meet and face along the way.”

6 thoughts on “Europe N to S: Tropical Pizza, Italian Mothers, and Pillow Forts (1/10-12/17)

  1. Your story is like a warm blanket on a cold day and a lovely tribute to mothers everywhere. And I loved Tropical Pizza!!

  2. We loved watching the interview and we are happy that you were able to spend time with Sarah, Francesco and Giuditta. We knew they would take good care of you. Happy trails to you! Love

  3. Another adopted family on your journey that has provided you with memories that will last a life time. The world is filled with love and generosity if we seek it out. The beautiful thing is, the memory of your visit will remain with Sarah, Francesco and Giuditta for a lifetime too.

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