As is often the case in our country, we are surrounded by so many wonders that we have become so accustomed to the beauty that we forget to value it. So seven young explorers decided to venture on an exciting journey recounted by “Va’ Sentiero | Uno sguardo lungo 8,000 km,” the exhibition in Triennale Milano opened to the public until April 7th.
Curated by: Rica Cerbarano, Sara Furlanetto and Yuri Basilicò
Photographs by: Sara Furlanetto
Exhibition design: Rica Cerbarano
Production and communication: IdLab
Exhibition design: MH Srl, Center Chrome Fine Art, Studio Rufus Srl
Project by: Va’ Sentiero Association
With the contribution of the Cariplo Foundation
With the support of 150up
What is “Va’ Sentiero | A look along 8,000 km“?
An image narrative composed of more than 100 works, including videos and photographs showing the entire mountain ridge of Italy.
Stories that make people fall in love with but also think about heritage, mostly unknown, that makes our country unique. Landscapes, shapes, and colors paint slices of lives dedicated to the love of nature and our territories.
The exhibition by Va’ Sentiero association analyzes two different aspects; the first section investigates anthropization and human impact on nature and biodiversity. The mountains act as the “common thread” of a narrative that winds between abandoned areas and others with a strong cultural identity, thanks to mountain communities that conceive mountain ranges as a union of territories and not as impassable separation barriers.
The works show the faces of the guardians and interpreters of an unspoiled nature, where beauty is glimpsed in respect of peaceful coexistence. The alternation of peaks and valleys creates a succession of adventures and experiences discovering different points of view.
The second section, on the other hand, focuses on actual Va’ Sentiero expedition, where the group narrates in their own voices and eyes the journey following five macro-areas: Alpine Arc, Northern Apennines, Central, Southern, and Islands.
Very personal videos and thoughts written and captured by Yuri Basilicò, Andrea Buonopane, and Sara Furlanetto, whom we had the pleasure of interviewing; Sara is co-founder of Va’ Sentiero and the official photographer of the expedition.
How Did the Idea of Creating Va’ Sentiero Come to You?
“It was late 2016, Yuri Basilicò was in Corsica for GR20 with Scandinavian hikers who first told him about Sentiero Italia. Yuri delved into the topic and discovered no accurate bibliography, but he found a CNN article that listed it in the world’s top 10 long-distance trails. So Yuri got curious, gathered as much helpful information as possible, and shared it with another friend and me. After several evaluations, we launched this initiative for social and cultural purposes.
We set several goals: to document the route, go forward culturally and technically, and investigate the highlands’ welfare status. It was two intense years of research and planning, so we created an association to shape our plans and dreams, involving sponsors and other entities to support the initiative. The expedition would also have to be financially sustainable, even though we had worked as volunteers all these years.
Our public interest was confirmed by foundations, technical sponsors, and successful crowdfunding close to the start. For the first crowdfunding, we chose an international platform, convinced that it would give the proper visibility to the expedition even abroad; instead, with pleasant surprise, 99% of the backers were Italian. It was an important campaign economically and in terms of awareness and value of the project, and we exceeded our goal. “
Va’ Sentiero is a True and Proper Community: How Did it Come About?
Our expeditions are participatory; anyone could join during Sentiero Italia every day.Sara Furlanetto
“On our website and social channels, there was a free public calendar with a map on which the exact spot where we were was marked. All interested people could sign up and contact us through a Google form. The more people who joined independently, the greater the synergies created. Seeing how an expanded group spontaneously increased self-management and contamination was amazing. Va’ Sentiero has the ambition to be a “trekking school” for so many people approaching this activity for the first time or who have the passion and experience but cannot find who to share it with.”
“For this reason, in the winter between 2019 and 2020, we published a self-produced book also thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, this time on an Italian platform, which allowed us to print a second edition and raise funds for the extension of the expedition: after the first seven months we had to stop due to covid.”
An Experience Lasting Two Years: what were the Biggest Challenges?
“Definitely the physical commitment; although we were all trained and physically fit, these experiences require a lot of energy and resources. In addition, all of us founders were provided with a common background related to the mountains. However, the initial stages of running in, coordinating, creating the team, and managing the people themselves were very challenging.
By the summer of 2019, the machine was going by itself, the body too; we had reached peak form during the alpine crossing before being stopped by Covid.”
How did you cope with the Covid Period?
“The covid represented another big challenge for Va’ Sentiero. The pandemic was a time of crisis dictated by uncertainty; however, we reacted and reorganized to resume once it was made possible by the restrictions.
Year by year, we became increasingly familiar with it, but revising the time frame displaced us: being volunteers, even on a personal level, required a significant investment. Nevertheless, we all arrived together at the destination in Sicily in September 2021.”
What was the response of the Territory and Local Populations?
“I must admit that the response exceeded expectations; from north to south, we found great enthusiasm in any corner. It was a surprise, especially in the mountains, where people live a certain way, and where, if approached correctly, people open up and are very pleased to share both the beauty and difficulties related to the context in which they live.“
There is no real awareness of the potential and richness of the areas around us. We are so accustomed to beauty that we only notice critical issues.
“It is also interesting to confront local administrations and institutions operating in the area; no presumption but many ambitions: it is crucial to uniting perspectives to better understand the subject.”
Today Many Young People are More Attracted from Abroad. How Do You Think We Can Incentivize Tourism to Rediscover Our Territories?
“A joint effort is needed; tourism is essential, but it is not the magic recipe.
One solution is promoting and adopting slow tourism; this implies the development of synergies to enhance local culture, traditions, and gastronomy. This integrated strategy can also stimulate the economy from the bottom up, linking it to separate areas where a phenomenon of return and resistance must be encouraged anyway. Some areas are difficult to reach or make relocation hostile, so implementing appropriate services and infrastructure is vital.
The lack of infrastructure and connections is a heterogeneous situation. In some areas, mountain culture and slow tourism are more entrenched; in others, they are more meager; different investments are needed on several fronts.”
Can You Give Us an Example?
“Sila National Park, for example, is a beautiful area but very little known. There is no organization such that people can move around nimbly and independently, outside and inside the park. The only solution has been created by a small entity of young entrepreneurs who provide bicycles and guide visitors inside the park. It is an essential service and works throughout the park. However, it is the only one there.
Our book includes 25 routes selected by several parameters, including ease of getting to them.”
What was an Unforgettable Moment?
The arrival in Visso coincided with the end of the first installment, a cathartic moment after seven months of walking in the heart of the Sibillini Mountains.
The choice of Visso as the final stop of the first part of the journey was also symbolic. The town was the epicenter of the earthquake that shook Italy in 2016. We decided to support the territories and communities most affected by the earthquake, and the fact that so many people came together made this moment even more unique.
For the occasion, we received a special visit, that of Neri Marcorè, who joined us as a surprise by entering the last two stages of the walk. Neri Marcorè told us that he had signed up for Va’ Sentiero and decided at the last minute to join us, then continued his journey in the Marche region on the occasion of the Risorgimarche Music Festival, conceived and directed by Neri Marcorè himself.
RisorgiMarche is a kind of secular pilgrimage, a eulogy to slowness, a way to reconcile with nature. A way to enjoy this land is walking, taking time, and casting eyes toward the many beauties that outline a truly plural region.”
What has been a Great Satisfaction?
“One of the greatest satisfactions was converting a shared walking experience into a life experience, where the people we met became companions on new paths. This was also one of the goals set by Va’ Sentiero, and we are happy to say it was achieved. Often trekking enthusiasts do not find companions for their adventures, and these experiences make it possible to create bonds and synergies that are not insignificant.”
What are Va’ Sentiero’s Upcoming Projects?
In 2022 we began to consider new experiences. Va’ Sentiero association continues to exist thanks to dedication and passion; it has become a personal mission. We will continue to act in the field, continue with the editorial part and develop other projects related to promoting the mountain territory, maintaining the format we have outlined. We will launch new experiences with territorial entities and would also like to land abroad, combining nationality and internationality.