I met a lot of interesting people and made plenty of new friends on my 37-day Long Walk from Rome to Santa Maria di Leuca this September/October, and in this post, I would like to introduce you to two very special new friends!
|Massimo Pedersoli and Alessio Tomasella upon arrival in the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Leuca|
Alessio Tomasella (@a.salty.life on Instagram) lives in Pordenone, and worked in the restaurant business before becoming practically a full-time walker. Alessio was born with cystic fibrosis, but he does not let this genetic condition, which has an impact on multiple organs of the body, particularly the lungs, stop him from walking. He walked the Camino de Santiago for the first time in 2010, just to see if it was possible for a person with cystic fibrosis to do it. Finding that it was not only possible but helpful for improving the functioning of his lungs and his overall physical condition, Alessio has continued long-distance walking over the years, on various Camino routes to Santiago as well as the Via Francigena, Nepal's Annapurna Circuit and even Mount Everest Base Camp. Allow me to add that while people with cystic fibrosis normally have an average life expectancy of 40 years, Alessio is now 37 and in excellent health!
Massimo Pedersoli (Walking for Charity on Facebook and Instagram) lives in Genoa, not far from my own home - the only other person from Liguria I met on this trip! After travelling to Chernobyl as a photographer in 2019, Massimo began to rethink his life goals, and left his job to start walking - in the middle of winter! On that occasion he came down with pneumonia, but he has had better luck since. He walks for charity, to raise awareness and funds for charitable causes such as an association providing holidays in Italy for Belorussian children from the Chernobyl area and Omphalos, an association for families of autistic children for which he is currently walking.
In February 2020, just before the Covid emergency broke out, Alessio and Massimo met on the Camino de Santiago and formed a partnership, deciding to embark on an epic walk together to raise funds for cystic fibrosis. This was postponed as a result of the events of 2020, but the two of them set off from the border between Italy and Slovenia on May 6, 2021 and walked the Via Postumia across northern Italy from east to west, ending in Massimo's home town, Genoa (over 1000 km) before boarding a Flixbus to Calais to walk the entire French, Swiss and Italian sections of the Via Francigena, a total of 3200 km (it was not possible to travel to the UK at that time to start at Canterbury Cathedral due to Covid travel restrictions).
I first met Alessio at the pilgrim hostel in Rome before beginning my latest Long Walk. He set off from Rome a day after I started walking with the Road to Rome 2021 group, but Massimo and Alessio caught up with us when we had a rest day in Fondi a week later, and from then on we walked several stages together, separating again when they took a different route from mine in Troia but then meeting again in Bari to walk all the rest of the way to Santa Maria di Leuca together. We shared accommodations, washing machines and meals, and walked together - as often as I was able to keep up with their rapid pace!
My 870 kilometres are nothing compared to the total distance Massimo and Alessio have walked this summer: approximately 4200 km! All this while carrying backpacks weighing 20 to 25 kg, in order to be fully independent, carrying a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad, food, water and cooking equipment. When I first met Alessio in Rome, the weight of the medications he had to carry was, alone, equivalent to the weight of my entire backpack! Of course the supply diminished as he carried on walking, but as Alessio only weighs 50 kg, he was still carrying approximately half his body weight on his back! Massimo is equally slender, and in their rain ponchos during that rainy final week in Puglia, the pair of them looked like a couple of gnomes, hunched over under the weight of their packs.
Their project is called Vivi Ogni Respiro, meaning "live every breath" to the utmost, and it's not too late to help them reach their goal of raising €5000 for the Italian cystic fibrosis league - that's just over one euro per kilometre walked. If you would like to donate, click here!
Thank you for reading this, thank you for donating, if you can - and thank you Massimo and Alessio for your excellent company on the Via Francigena between Rome and Santa Maria di Leuca!