From the Great North to the Greek islands. Destination silence

Among the birch forests of the island of Gotland, Sweden. In a red house overlooking the sea in Liguria. Barefoot in the Swiss forests. On the island of sponge fishermen in Greece. In the Norwegian reserve to observe the newly born reindeer. If you seek tranquility and contact with nature these places are for you

Delivering ourselves to silence, in the most dazed of the worlds, is a dive into the unknown. But the void contains in itself infinite possibilities: introspection, flashes of creativity, different points of view. Among the birch forests of the island of Gotland (pictured), 40 minutes by plane from Stockholm, silence is a great dream activator. Another gait. A slow trend. A form of care. The sea gives way to a single strip of asphalt that cuts through the woods scattered with huts with the roof of marsh grass. A surreal silence, in addition to the white lichens, the wild thyme, the junipers, the gravel dunes, seems to wrap Gotland, while walking among the pines. Or as you observe, near the town of Slite, the painted stele of the fifth century, with bas-reliefs depicting spirals, snakes and the runic alphabet. On the small island of Furillen, to the north-east of Gotland, connected by an embankment, one goes in search of even more silence. Furillen is the refuge of Swedish Johan Hellstrom, former fashion photographer. In 1999 he bought the land of a cement plant, obtaining the hotel Fabriken Furillen (furillen.com/en) where design marries industrial archeology. In the midst of this desolate beauty, Hellstrom has placed “hermit” wooden houses in the woods: without baths and electricity. It is heated by the fireplace, we read with the oil lamp. And we observe, in silence, the kind bark of the birch.

There were no roads until the 60s. While the rest of the world landed on the moon, he danced the swing and discovered the miniskirt, the Cinque Terre, that territory a little more than 10 kilometers long that Eugenio Montale called the “place where the grapes are caught”, they moved slowly, condemned to the same factor that later decreed its fame: verticality. So, while the villages with the houses that look like marzipan were developed in height, forced between carugi, mountain and sea, the vineyards grew on the terraces that cut the ridges horizontally, supported by dry stone walls. But the territory was fragile, in continuous abandonment of the vineyards, destined to collapse the walls that run for 6.740 kilometers. A handkerchief of 45 hectares in the National Park, a World Heritage Site, came, a dozen years ago, donated to Fai: an ancient world made of vines, marine gardens, rows of broom where the fig tree, the lentisk, l euphorbia and cork oak. The Fondazione Zegna supports the restoration for three years. Podere Case Lovara (in the picture), near Punta Mesco, halfway between Levanto and Monterosso, is a project for the recovery of historical rural landscape. It can only be reached on foot, an hour’s walk from the Giada del Mesco Hotel in Levanto, on a mule track, along the Sentiero Verde Azzurro, on the maps marked as SVA, already 1 from Sestri Levante to Porto Venere. The view of the sea always present on the path, almost drunk. From March 2018 it will be possible to sleep: about ten beds for the trekkers and the possibility to mount the tent. Now we enter, on weekends, and we are curious. The pink house dates back to 1957. The woods press all around. The dry stone walls have been reinforced. The bees reported in colorful houses, close to the strawberry trees. From Punta Mesco you can see the Cinque Terre with the nativity scenes of the sea. The silence from up here is broken only by the “voice of the sea”. In Montale it seems he did not mind at all.

Because I go there. To walk barefoot: simple, therapeutic, natural and at the same time difficult. An experience that we are no longer used to, that needs concentration, yielding emotions, poetry and quiet in exchange. The silence of the steps. Very few paths designed ad hoc. The Forest of Staz, in Celerina, in the Engadine, is one of these.

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