“When you are in that countryside ( the Italian Piedmont), you won't think about me anymore.
You will think of Italian girls, who are way prettier than me.”
( Pyrenees traditional song)
I have been dreaming about the Italian rivers, a lot.
Remembering the atmosphere, the cappuccino in the morning, Rassa's flagstone roofs and the magical sequence of paddling, Gronda into Sorba, with its rapids full of joy, astonishment, fear and pleasure.
I often think about those Val Sesia days, extended by an aperitif in the street, in front of a tiny bar. A bar from another age where you can already exaggerate and dress up the adventures that you barely lived; thanks to a glass of red wine, or two, or I don't remember how many.
You all know how that goes, when the thrill gets prolonged into the night. It's actually the whole place that gets me drunk, happy and at peace. A country where time has stopped, showing us that another world, another pace is possible.
Everything is nearby: the rivers, the mountains, the cheese, the antipasti, the vino rosso, the coffee, and the people. Italians, Spaniards, Chileans, British, French; the world is here.
The global and the local meet and discover each other.
Take your time, enjoy and paddle.
The absence of hydropower plants in the valley is far from insignificant. It ensures the continuity of rivers, ecosystems and landscapes.
This is striking in Val Sesia, this respect for nature which is also in some way a respect for human beings.
22 years ago I first climbed the mule trail leading to the Gronda put-in, a purple Topolino on my shoulder. In front of me, an old woman was leading her donkey to the fields. If some asphalt has replaced the stone pavement, Rassa practically remains the same today. The atmosphere seems eternal, however Val Sesia is anything but a museum scared of any changes. The place is just teeming with life. People have chosen what they expect from modernity, and it's simply not concrete.
I dream about a tiny house I could buy one day in Val Sesia. A very humble home, without even a coffee machine. That would force me every morning to go down to the bar from another age. I would order a cappuccino from a beautiful waitress, and I will try to convince her with my bad italian that it's in her best interest to share her life with me.
And then, whatever the outcome of my sweet talk, I would go and paddle the Gronda and the Sorba, two Italians that never say no to me. They would make me wait for the aperitif, and it would mean that there has been no dam.
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