Many of the best times of my life have been spent at home. I'm a frequent traveler, a last minute flight-hopper and, when lucky, a crasher on some great sofas & couches. There are few places in the world which I haven’t at least considered for a trip. A whole night on the Ramblas with guitar and hat full of coins? Check. Boat excursion in Montego Bay, Jamaica? Check. Village in Tanzania, eating a dead animal which was previously alive and cuddling on my lap? Again, check. Road & ferry trip from Miami to Key West? Check. Berlin? London and, ça va sans dire, Amsterdam? Done, done and done.
When my itinerary takes me from el Prado back to a Canadian chap’s flat in Madrid, it was a fortunate coincidence that he owned a piano, too. I met this guy on ICQ - Facebook’s great grandfather: he promised me free accommodation in his apartment filled with multi-cultural tenants and so, off I went. I know what people think when I tell this story, but no, I didn’t exchange the favour in nature: I thought he was young, he thought I was thin and we were both wrong.
I have walked through many places and, although I (almost) never brag about it, I know I have been very lucky to have had such experiences. The main memory of each trip is, yet, that of a profound gloom. Here I am, walking in the Camargue and feeling alone, like a zero in a world of ones. Here I am in Paris feeling lost - irrelevant. And see me saying goodbye to my very good friend in Köln, wondering why we all need to move from one place to another leaving our loved ones behind.
Maybe it’s because I'm from Tuscany, a land which endows you with introversion rather than full, open enthusiasm, or probably because I feel incomplete when visiting a place I don’t know everything about – an attitude which has always set me up for a lot of disappointment, whether for one reason or another, all that liberty I had, that expansive horizon when travelling, was never good news for me: having no boundaries, no time limits, no stress, no anything even today simply translates into ‘no life’. I must not be left floating like a jelly fish in the ocean because I do not own the tools for too much of nothing: it puts me down, it makes me anxious. The fact is that I can barely stand spending two consecutive days at the beach, on the third I will be gripped by bad thoughts. I need to be engaged in a plan, to think, to create and not because I am that intelligent: I just do not fancy spending my time like a sea lion.
The word ‘holidays’ is also synonymous with work for me, anyway: I own a villa rental company and from May to October I live for my customer's satisfaction, annulling my own needs to make sure they are happier than ever – it is my joy, do not misunderstand me, but it’s a hell of a lot of work.
Slowly I have learnt that my favorite part of the journey is coming home and, although I have never been attached to a particular house for too long, finally feeling deeply comfortable in my own tiny spot – a mug of coffee, a book, familiar faces around. So trips and inter-rails have become less frequent, while entire nights spent with some very inspiring people at home have become more and more pivotal to my happiness and self-definition: at my dinner table, that’s where I have gathered with the most fabulous people and listened to some unforgettable anecdotes. It was in the cold comfort of my Florentine apartment with no heating that the relativity theory was explained to me by a cycling scientist - not in some University abroad. It is at the table of my kitchen that I have gone through some serious challenges, not while walking through a forest. I owe to my echoed bathroom in Pisa the inspiration for all the songs I have written, not to the Ramblas, and I have bonded with some of my current best friends in some over-crowded apartments around our University, not at the Pacha in Ibiza. Finally, when my little girl was born, that’s when I started the hardest and most striking trek of my life - not when crashing exhausted at the Schlüterhütte, in the Dolomites.
I am now travelling to people, rather than Countries, on a daily basis. Today I am fascinated by other people’s stories, by the immense number of lives I won’t be able to participate in, by the magnificence of diversity. I love humanity. I fantasize about the way people do things differently from me and why that would be: who’s waiting for you at home, whom do you love, how do you place pillows on your bed, what’s your secret compulsion, what happened if we met one day. So many things we end up not knowing about others, so many people I will never have a chance to exchange opinions with, it drives me insane.
Pleasant Pistoia is a town of many surprises.
The first being that one can’t find a better place to appreciate both sides of Tuscany, the old and the new, together. The historical environment of this town is peripheral to the core element for the citizens living there. This is no Disneyland version of Italianity and the Pistoiesi don’t wait for their own version of Palio, the Bear Joust, to finally come alive: there is a Blues festival of international repute happening every summer, and a basketball team in the main league. As well the area is a major European supplier of ornamental plants for outdoor use.
Yes, they still purchase veggies and fruits in the old mediaeval square of La Sala surrounded by architectural beauty – those with a successful, travel oriented account on Instagram, buy a ticket now - but this is not San Gimignano, a place for the dead from Fall to Easter: the ‘Pistoiese Movida’ boosts an impressive number of pizzeria, wine bars, restaurants and bars all buzzed up for the aperitivo, the Italian take on tapas, from Thursday to Sunday at the very least. To make a very long story short: they don’t live waiting for the tourist, they are instead an epicurean and sophisticated population with a healthy snobbery to themselves - well deserved If I may say, bringing antiquity and modernity to a satisfying synthesis. Now, move a little bit away from the main square and walk towards the Hospital of Ceppo, with its 16th-century polychrome terracotta frieze by Giovanni della Robbia. When you get there, walk a little further to Via Ceppo, enter Caffè La Corte then meet and greet, if they feel like, with Dj Coxca and Monica Mottola, who run this vibrant space together with her sister, Elena. There is a bar, of course, a restaurant - with a pizzeria, naturally, and a courtyard with an arch featuring some more tables, sun umbrellas and great atmosphere.
You might stumble on a poetry reading there, or some spontaneous act of music. The food is Tuscan authentic, which translates to great ingredients that taste delicious, including baked oven pizza in the evening. The vegetables come from some garden nearby. But this is not about the food. It is about travelling without moving one foot.
This is a place for the bohemians in search of a literary Cafè to squat in, this is the recovery-zone for exhausted bricklayers, and the cove for the cultured and shy. This is a magical place where introverted Tuscans are as at ease as calm Swedish and enthusiastic Americans, the real deal when you want to observe Italians from a short distance and a source of silence few steps from the square.
Come and read your book in silent company. Enjoy Dj Coxca’s out-of-the-ordinary playlists in ecstatic admiration of such a baggage of musical culture. Let Monica observe you with her naturally suspicious attitude and then (eventually) open up with such a smile that shows you way more than table service: it is called humanity. It's real and it can’t be faked – if she doesn’t like you, she doesn’t like you.
Come and travel the world in few square meters, walk a path of intimacy in which diversity is grown with love, cross referenced with some outstanding human beings without having to do pay for a counselor or a concert ticket.
Travel to humans, for the cost of a glass of nice house wine. Never feel alone.