The wild way: walking with Matteo Caccia

We return to Lamezia Terme airport after some months. The last time we came here, in October, we picked up Elvira Dones, Marco Cazzato, Elena and Anastasia from the “Circolo dei Lettori” of Turin. This time we are ready to welcome Matteo Caccia and Francesca Alessandria. He is the radio presenter of “Pascal”, a radio broadcast on Rai Radio 2, as well as writer and actor. She works for the organisation office of the “Circolo dei Lettori”. Starting from tomorrow, for four days, we will travel together across Basilicata. We have chosen four stops on our tour, four significant places which share one theme: water. Tomorrow we will visit the Riserva Naturale Orientata Bosco Magnano (nature reserve of Bosco Magnano), the day after tomorrow the Calanchi, the famous clay gullies of Aliano, then the Bosco Pantano of Policoro (Pantano woods) and finally Matera. The flight is on time and our guests are smiling. Just the time for a quick snack and we get on the car. During the journey we talk and get to know each other. Within a couple of hours, we arrive in Latronico and go to Anna’s cafe in the town's square; the first person we meet is the mayor who buys us a coffee. We take Francesca and Matteo to the B&B and arrange to meet again after less than an hour: before dinner they want to see “Earth Cinema”, the artwork by Anish Kapoor. We dine at Francesca’s and Valerio’s, and Luca joins us. We go to bed early, it’s better if we have some rest, as a long journey awaits us in the coming days.

Riserva Naturale Orientata Bosco Magnano (nature reserve of Bosco Magnano) The participants in the journey arrive on time. It’s 9:45 am and, after introducing ourselves, we go straight to the place where the Peschiera stream flows into the Frido river. Even if many of us were born and grew up in these places, there are too many details we don’t notice! After today we will have learned more, we will have collected a wealth of information about this natural oasis, surrounded by thick and wild vegetation. We sit almost in a circle. Matteo Caccia introduces himself and the radio programmes he curates. Collecting and telling real life stories and short episodes has become his work: different characters, all linked by the desire to share part of their lives. "Telling real life stories - says Matteo- is a political act. It’s a way to make everyone understand that things don’t happen just to us, because we are not at the centre of the world and we are not alone in the world. The same thing, no matter if good or bad, has already happened to someone else." Matteo knows how to reach people’s heart; he is very good at doing that. His quasi-acting experience is perceivable, and we are amazed by his pleasantness and brilliant mind. He immediately tells us about Ugo, his dog, and about their relationship and life together. He asks us to send him, at the end of the day or in the coming weeks, some stories that this place will have evoked. The way in which we choose to tell the story is not important and is not imperative; it’s just an invitation, a way in which we can create a "bond". The nature that surrounds us here wants its elements to communicate with each other in order to create an ecosystem and be able to work well together. So, we prepare to free ourselves from frenzy. The roaring waters of the stream – sometimes strong and other times distant - accompany us during the journey. Unspoiled nature immediately reawakens memories of carefree days. Occasionally, Carmela surprises us with throwbacks to ancient traditions. Angela and Sofia, mother and daughter, talk about their many travel experiences. Luca is deeply moved by the beauty of the places and confident about their rebirth. Luciana follows the group, silent but attentive. Along this journey together we discover the different types of fauna and flora that exist here. Story after story, we ‘leaf through’ those trees. We can only see the traces left by cautious animals, as the ones that will be probably left by our words in our memories. After greeting the caddisfly and the deer which, after a careful examination, kindly welcomed us, we learned the meaning of the term "anastomosis" i.e. "union", thanks to the centuries-old beech. At the beginning of this day we weren’t other that "perfect strangers", but in the end we feel enriched and grateful for having found a little peace and calm thanks to the others. The excitement is palpable, and we are only at the beginning! At 4.30 pm we start to walk to the cars, as some of us must go back home. After a quick break at the bar, we get back on our grey van, ready to return to Latronico.

The Calanchi of Aliano At 8.40 am we are about to leave. Going to Aliano is a bit like taking a trip down memory lane and, at the same time, when you are there you feel like being a completely different planet! After an uphill road, we can finally see the town in front of us, surrounded by the Calanchi, the clay gullies typical of this area, which originated from the water’s erosive action. As it happened to Carlo Levi, the Italian writer who was exiled to Aliano for several years, we cannot help but feeling completely bewitched by this village: a group of tiny houses perched on the mountain and surrounded by some moon-like clay landscapes. Once we reach the meeting point, in the small square in front of the town hall, we meet the many participants in the walk. Mimma, our guide, is waiting for us there. She shows us around the small Pinacoteca Carlo Levi, which houses a permanent exhibition of lithographs, letters, documents and drawings by Carlo Levi. Soon after that, we visit the house where the writer once lived. The terrace, with its wonderful panoramic view, makes us forget for a moment that in the past this was a place of exile. Carlo Levi’s words, and the pictures displayed on the façades of the “houses with eyes”, are a reminder of our roots and our past as migrants. A great empathy pervades us. The walk has a new meaning then: it becomes a technique to resist to the impersonality of present days. We go to the graveyard where Carlo Levi is buried, to pay our respects to this man who returned here several times after his exile and chose to stay in this land forever, after his death. We come back to the square and around 1:30 pm we decide that we are too hungry to take a walk across the gullies on an empty stomach, so we eat our packed lunch and the excellent pecorino cheese that our friends from Molfetta, Daniele and Gianluca, give us. We enjoy some moments together in a convivial atmosphere. Ka art is above all this: walking together, telling stories, thinking. Everyone can offer their own contribution, proving that man is not made to live alone, as it is also shown by the story of this village in Basilicata which, despite being almost off the beaten path, has not become isolated over the centuries. "Foreigners" can become an integral part of the social fabric of a community that was unknown to them until a few years earlier. There is a feeling of hospitality in the air, together with the fragrance of food. Places are able to tell stories and we, the visitors, can give them other stories, the ones that the places inevitably evoke in us. We arrive in the Calanchi in the early afternoon. We park the cars and walk a long stretch. The atmosphere here is magical, the bright green of the hills merge with the grey of the dry gullies, where brooms and many other plants grow. Some gullies resemble moon’s craters, while others look like sharp teeth, like those of a shark. The silence is striking. We sit. It’s time for the “Caccia moment”. Matteo tells anecdotes, and we do some shooting and take pictures. We listen to those stories, bewitched. At about 4 pm we say goodbye, we exchange telephone numbers and even some invitations. Tonight, we will sleep here in Aliano so, as soon as we are back at the village, we go visit the legendary farmer Sisina. For forty years, Sisina has been offering accommodation and food to visitors, gracefully and humbly, as someone who knows how to welcome people with simplicity and without frills. After resting a little bit, we decide to go to the bar to have an aperitif before dinner. We choose the 666 not by chance. The style and the people sitting outside intrigued us. It is a truly unique place. It’s a café just like many others that were located in our villages in the past, however today it’s very difficult to believe that they can still exist. The walls are brightly coloured, and the barman is a nice and talkative guy. The locals carefully look at us, curious about these new faces. At 8.30 pm, together with Gianluca and Daniele, who came here by camper van and will spend the night in Aliano with us, we enjoy the dinner prepared by Sisina: delicious traditional dishes, masterfully cooked. Sisina comes to see us after dinner, it's a pleasure to exchange a few words with her. Meanwhile, the smell of the doughnuts, which are about to be taken out of the oven for tomorrow’s breakfast, is coming from the kitchen.

Bosco Pantano di Policoro (Pantano wood) After an excellent breakfast, we start our journey. We leave mountains and hills behind and turn towards the sea, to Policoro. We meet at the WWF nature reserve of Policoro, where Tonino Colucci and his young team are waiting for us. We have known Tonino for several years and we appreciate the work that is carried out in this centre for environmental education and recovery of wild animals and sea turtles. Today Simona will be our guide during the walk. We introduce ourselves and, around 10:15, we leave. The Mediterranean vegetation really stands out here and proudly displays all its varied forms. Nature is so diverse in this land, and we are absolutely amazed by so much beauty. The symbol of this area of ​​strong community interest, which includes about 17 different habitats and 21 birds, is the "Rosalia Alpina", a glacial relict belonging to the beetle family. On our way we can hear the croak of frogs and the song of the Cetti's warbler that seem almost to want to communicate with us and tell their stories. We have been hoping to meet some otters, but unfortunately, we could only see a few footprints on the seashore, which, between July and November, hosts many small newborn sea turtles after the "hatching". But the most exciting moment, for sure, is the arrival at the mouth of the Sinni river which, here, flows into the sea. Sinni is one of the region’s most important rivers. It originates from Mount Sirino, near Lauria, and it flows throughout the southern part of Basilicata, from west to east. It has got several tributaries, including the Peschiera - Frido stream, which we ran along on the first day of this journey. On the way back, we find a barrier, so we are forced to cross a water channel that flows into the sea and the only way to do it is either jumping or crossing it barefoot. Most of us prefer the second solution. Matteo, instead, with his long legs, is the only one to opt for the jump. The most fearless of us, then, try to emulate him, ending up in the water and bringing laughter to the entire group. We return to the reserve when it’s 2 pm already. We had to literally run along the seashore to avoid the strong and violent storm that was about to arrive. It starts raining when we are finally indoors, eating our packed lunch. Now it's time for the "Caccia moment" to end the day. Today too he gives us real-life stories and a very strong, almost political and ideological definition: “A story is such only when it produces a change in ourselves". It's 4 pm and, of course, the visit to the turtles, scheduled for the afternoon, didn’t happen due to the crazy spring weather. So, we get on the bus and go to the hotel, to rest a few hours before dinner. Tonight, we share the dinner with Rita who, after participating in the walk and visiting her grandmother, joined us at the restaurant. Her loud voice and laughter cheer us up throughout the dinner. Rita has read Matteo Caccia's books but has never listened to his radio show, “Pascal”, because at 10.30 pm she is usually asleep. But tonight (could this have something to do with the wine ???), while enjoying a delicious walnut bread and some linguine with squid ink, she swears that from Wednesday she would become part of the Pascal's "community".

The Sassi of Matera It is the 2nd June, the birthday of our Italian Republic. In Rome, the celebrations will start in a while, with bands of musicians and the performance of the Frecce Tricolori. But today we are going to Matera. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, at 8:40 am we are back on our van, ready to leave. We are quiet this morning, maybe because we know that we have reached the end of the journey with Matteo and Francesca. Within a few hours it will be time to say goodbye and wish each other to meet again soon. Radio Tour is playing an original version of "la vie en Rose" and it’s a sunny day. The road is traffic-free, we only meet a group of Vespa riders that are definitely engaged in a rally. A large group of people is waiting for us in Matera for a tour around the Sassi with Enzo, our guide, and some new stories told by Matteo. Ka art's days are made of places, stories and people, and today we will meet new ones. Angela and her husband, both from Matera, are waiting for us too. Yesterday they took part in the walk across Aliano. He, an agronomist, welcomes us with a smile, together with his wife: they came to say hello and offer us some tasty apricots produced by them. This makes us really proud: Ka art is already etched in the minds and hearts of its participants. This morning, the group is numerous and managing so many people is not easy, but Enzo, with his friendliness, manages to put everyone at ease, while Rosita, with her resolve, ensures that our schedule of appointments is orderly fulfilled. We wander around the streets of one of the oldest cities still existing in the world. Locals and groups of tourists, coming from all over the world, confuse with each other in the crowded streets. Every now and then someone stops - how could you not take a picture with that charming background? Enzo goes on describing the places, often using jokes to make those centuries of history light and pleasant. We arrive in via San Biagio, at the children's bookstore "365 storie", at around 12:30. The booksellers, Anna Felicia and Iolanda, are kind and welcoming and invite us to take a seat on small child-sized chairs. We can clearly see that they are happy to have us there, in the bookstore they opened, with great courage, about two and a half years ago. Matteo is ready and starts his storytelling. He has just introduced himself, when Carmelo, who has walked with us all morning, exclaims "But...you are Matteo Caccia, aren’t you!?!?” Just now, after several hours, did he realise that he had walked alongside the presenter of Pascal, the programme he follows every evening. His loud exclamation brings laughter to the entire group. Matteo concludes the journey by telling us about other fragments of lives that he has received over the years from his radio listeners and, once again, invites everyone to do the same and send him the stories evoked by the morning walk. From Matera we will bring with us memories of places and people, which will certainly reawaken other places and other people. After a brief interview and some pictures, we go to lunch. Today the menu is simple: fava beans and chicory, with some excellent toasted bread from Matera. Of course, we can’t miss a cup of coffee. We head towards the parking lot and leave Matteo in the hands of Rita, who offered to take him back to the airport, as she has to return to Bari. In the midst of a violent storm, the rest of us leave for Latronico, instead. We are tired but satisfied, unable to stop talking about the upcoming events.