Passions and Footpaths

by Lorenzo Piccoli


This is going to be a long or, as Thomas would say, a Tolkien-size post. But it is really intense and I would encourage you to read it.

It is about Walter, who I mentioned in the post where I reviewed the book written by my friend Piergiorgio. Walter was a well respected political man and a point of reference for the journal where I used to write when I was a student. As for Piergiorgio, his honest, selfless, coherent and passionate political commitment was an essential part of life. It was about creating a sense of a community and respecting the environment where we live. His character was modelled over the mountains that shape the landscape of the land where he, and I, grew up. He died in 2009, and this is the introduction of the book collecting his essays about politics and life. This introduction, originally in Italian and then in (my) English translation, has been written by Franco de Battaglia and the title of the book is Passioni e sentieri (Passions and Footpaths).

1. Italian
Quando la neve cedeva ai primi fiori, o l’autunno dei boschi anticipava il fuoco acceso nelle baite, Walter Micheli era solito, con alcuni amici, organizzare una giornata libera su un sentiero del Trentino. O dell’Alto Adige, perché queste due terre convergono a formare un’identità comune in chi le percorre, e ognuno ha da imparare dall’altro. C’era una meta: una malga, un maso, un’osteria, e ad individuarla ci pensavano magari Giuliano Castelli, o quel grande conoscitore di anfratti e misteri nonesi che è Danilo Zanoni. Ma si trattava di dettagli, perché il protagonista della giornata era il sentiero, inteso come luogo che al tempo stesso unisce, trascina, insegna. I sentieri di Walter Micheli erano innanzitutto luoghi di incontro. Richiamavano, a percorrerli, persone dalle provenienze umane e politiche più disparate, univano esperienze intellettuali e pratiche manuali. Ognuno veniva con il suo “prosacco” e le sue idee. Poi ci pensava il ritmo dei passi, il respiro del vento, il distendersi della vista a mescolare le proposte, a chiarire i dubbi, a sciogliere i pregiudizi. Sul sentiero la mente assume lo stesso ritmo dei passi e con il corpo si compenetra in armonioso equilibrio. Nell’ansimare di una salita uomini anche di idee diverse si scoprono uguali nella fatica. Ho sempre avuto il sospetto che i sentieri piacessero a Walter anche per questa ragione, non solo naturalistica ed escursionistica, ma anche un po socialista.

2. English
When the snow left way to the first flowers, or autumn woods anticipated the fire burning in the huts, Walter Micheli was accustomed to organize, with some friends, a day off on a footpath of Trentino. Or of South Tyrol, as these two lands converge to form a common identity, and they can learn from each other. There was a goal: a hut, a farm, an inn, and those who had to locate them where Giuliano Castelli, or maybe that great connoisseur of ravines and mysteries nonesi which is Danilo Zanoni. But these were details, because the hero of the day was the footpath, meant as a place that unites and at the same time drags and teaches. The footpaths of Walter Micheli were, first of all, meeting places. They put together people from many different human and political backgrounds, uniting intellectual experiences and manual practices. Everyone carried his “prosacco” [a mix of Prosecco, the local wine; and sacco, bag] and his ideas. Then it was the rhythm of the footsteps, the breath of the wind, the unravelling of the sight that stirred the proposals, clarified doubts, dissolved prejudices. On the footpath, the mind has the same rhythm of the footsteps and penetrates the body in harmonious balance. In the fatigue of a climb even men of different ideas find themselves united in the same effort. I’ve always had the suspect that Walter liked the footpaths for this reason, not only environmental, but also a bit socialist.

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