This post is also available in: Italian

This is the story of a road, of a race; of a Rucksack and a Pen.

Reader, treat it with care: fair or ugly as it may be, it is my



I run to escape.


There is no contentment for me, no point of arrival. I am a

nomad, both inside and out. The consequences of this cruel

game are that my knees ache from running, my hands are

numbed by the icy night and my heart is torn by an obsessive

quest for answers. “Run, run, run,” l repeat to myself, as if it

were a mantra. This categorical imperative moves apace with

my progress, ceaselessly treading on my thoughts, permeating

them, agitating them, turning them upside down. I turn and,

like a crazy person, smile. The Pen laughs and tells me to stop

it: “You look like a fool!”. Fortunately, the Pen itself, thanks to

its splendid colour, makes up for the grey of the asphalt. The

road I mean to follow with tired legs cuts a solitary figure off in

the distance. Reader, you need to know: the road along which I

crawl, walk, run and fly is no ordinary road. My life is one long

flight, an endless struggle for survival and self-affirmation. A

tumultuous, incoherent forward motion lacking any core



I run to win.


I hold a baton that I desperately need to pass on, in order to

flow into the flood waters of the river of great men, in order to

lay a brick in building the temple of existence, in order to

imperiously recite my role. The road along which I lumber is

paved not with people but with words to be shouted.


I run because I have something powerful to say.


I squint in order to see something behind me. The Rucksack tells

me: “Put me down on the ground. You are not very smart. You

will have few chances to be free of my weight… best to take

advantage of them all.” And so, I place him on the ground, that

I might rest. The Sack talks too much, but that is to be

expected. There is nothing inside the rucksack but words, more

words and still other words. Off in the distance, there is

nobody to be seen. Except for the unmentionable one. Just

him. He is always there. And he runs much faster than I. He is

strong and tireless. A slick thief capable of rapid bursts of

speed, unbeatable with his endless experience. One by one he

steals the races of the past, piling them up as gifts to his

brother, ultimately to wind up trapped in his grid of space and

time. He hides the beauty of things in a veil of dust, rendering

all acts of rebellion pointless. Desolate is he whose life slips

away, transformed into a shapeless mass, without anyone to

suck the nectar out, down to the very marrow. Desolate was I

before making the acquaintance of the Word. Until I began to

caress it and pray that it would pass on to me what I considered to be

a timeless truth. I began my desperate race against the

unmentionable one armed with nothing more than the worn-

out soles on my feet and with Words. The running was

supposed to still a whirlwind of questions: what will be left?

What will be left of these days, of this maelstrom of moments?

What will be left of this life that flows dense and bountiful

through the veins, that surges immense and powerful through

the hands, the eyes, the heart? “A savage strength”, I thought

to myself, “has always throbbed inside of me, keeping me from

being torn apart by him”. The fear of him, so strong that his

name cannot be spoken, closes my heart in its steely grasp,

casts a grey pall and takes the breath from my eyes. It drags

me along, as in a shadowy shipwreck, hindering forward

motion, blocking the way through total paralysis.


I run to keep from slowly dying.


The idea of not being a key part of something larger, of not

contributing to sending out a single, momentous ‘message in a

bottle’ to those in need, is intolerable. “I know not what it is,” I

say to myself, reflecting on the all-consuming fatigue of the

endless race, on the massive strides taken to gain ground, to

arrive at a more clearly visible horizon as an award, to

establish a new outlook to be shared, an idea to be shouted

from the top of the world. “Maybe it is an innate human fear

of disintegration, or merely a physiological need to somehow

be admired and applauded, or simply a natural inclination for

giving”. I think of the maze-like thickets of inconclusive

thoughts in which I run aimlessly, and still I smile in the light of

a sole, complete awareness.


I run to give.


I stop to reflect. The Rucksack and the Pen confer with one

another. The Rucksack winks knowingly at the Pen, who supplies

the Rucksack with the ink for the words. Meanwhile, I say to

myself, “This bench shall be the throne upon which I engage in

contemplation,” before laughing at my own melodramatic

vein. The rush of the race exhausts me, so that, at times, I can

think of only one thing: blessed lightness. I would like to stop

and glide over things from above, with the wings of a gull,

caressing what lies below me with the eyes of a child able to

be newly astonished every day, without the oppressive

presence of the unmentionable one. I wish to be reborn in the

probing, unfolding light of a tenuous dawn, in my small,

unadorned moments of reflection, in the sweetness of a

hawthorn blossom found along the side of the road, in a hand

held out to provide assistance. All I wish to do is pirouette on

the rippled surface of the water, taking bold, vigorous leaps.

That is what I would like. But I wish to avoid the gut-wrenching

longing to delve ever deeper, to push my lungs to the limit,

obsessively striving for the sense of things. I wish to love but

not to understand, so that the race might prove less intense,

and the gift more spontaneous and genuine. I wish to live, but

without the malady of the pained feeling that weighs me down

like a curse, a sin with no possibility of pardon.

As I run, I lean forward, to the point where my own weight

often brings me to the ground. This is when I begin to crawl, to

draw myself ever further away from the unmentionable one. I

would like to follow a road that is a treasure trove of the

eternal essence of things. I would like to follow a road that is

pure light, though I know that light only exists in the form of

darkness. Here is what I would like: to run wild and free, in

perfect solitude. With an end to all thoughts. I get back up on

my feet. The pause has been so brief that my condition is no

better. I am exhausted. I wish I could lay down in the middle of

the road and wait for someone to come along and say to me:

“Get up. The world is over, you’re free”. Once again, I look

behind me, and I am struck by an awareness that no, it will

never end. I am destined to go on running forever.


I run to assert myself.


And to assert myself, I need to live. And in order to live, I must

never allow myself to be ground down by the unmentionable

one. This is why I return to my running, picking up the Rucksack and

the Pen. I search for words in my Rucksack, attempting to combine

them in unique ways that will sow messages along the road. I

am comforted by the idea that the unmentionable one shall

swallow up everything but the words. I have always held that

the eternal essence of things is to be found in words, which sit

firm and unyielding, like a Buddha in the lotus position. You

surely agree, dear Reader, that to bestow upon you the gift of

my thoughts (however banal and superfluous they may prove)

is one of the most exalted forms of love. To give is to receive. I

never stop running, so that I might give, all the while receiving

in exchange the hope of somehow proving useful to you, in

this way escaping the damnation of memory. In the frenetic

course of my running, I attempt, using the only weapon at my disposal,

to smooth the wrinkles of a soul too long coiled up in

a spiral of silence, to reveal to you the mixed, contradictory

blood in my veins, to painstakingly place the truth in your

hands. In this way, I hope to win out over the unmentionable

one while aiding you with the gift of my hymn to life and hope,

so that you can learn the art of moving forward by taking small



I run to teach you to run.


I wish to give you a feel for the intensity of life, to bring to the

fore the love and pain in my words, to let you see the small

possibility of goodness that is in me. I shall run for as long as

my wind holds out, though I realise that I have once again lost

myself in the tangle of the thoughts inside me, while outside it

has begun to rain.

It rains quite often here. The days move slowly, each

foreshadowing a storm that appears on the horizon, until,

following an angry explosion, the light once again cascades

gently downward, and all is quiet. Beneath this gauzy light, I

shall rest. I shall open a good book while sitting with my back

propped up against a tree and I shall blot out the surrounding


“If only my life were not one long escape,” I bitterly observe,

as a lone tear hurriedly slips down my cheek, hidden and

protected from the rain. I feel a suffocating sense of

responsibility. I come close to falling, weighed down by the

titanic effort towards which I have set my path in life. With

unstinting dedication, I give my all to the goal. I have strayed

from every plan and rule, I have shattered my moral compass.

It no longer shows me the true north. North is simply straight

ahead, no matter what the direction, without any care for

where it may lead. All that matters is that I run.


I run to go. To go is enough.


The Rucksack full of words weighs heavily upon my back. At risk of

falling and slipping, I feel the laboured breath of the

unmentionable one on my neck, his attempts to oppress me

mentally, to dissolve me. The Pen seems worried on our

behalf, seeing what it takes for me to move forward. It keeps

telling me that I seem to be in agony. Whether or not that be

true, I have a desperate need to run. This is my woeful story,

which could end right here, at the start of this third, tattered

sheet of paper. It is a slow, steady story, dear Reader, without

any grand gestures to narrate in exhilarating fashion, no tales

of a thousand and one nights. As I warned you from the start, I

carry very little with me. And please do not imagine that I have

hidden the identity of the unmentionable one simply to draw

your attention. That is not the case.


The problem is, I am afraid.


But I know that now, thanks to those of you who have listened

to my words, who have given meaning to my running, the time

had come to tell you who he is.


The brother of Forgetfulness, that is, the one whom I hinted at

earlier: Time.

My race was destined to fail from the start. It was a race

against time, a desperate, obsessive attempt to claw my way

into the world, to plant a seed that could go on existing even

once I no longer did. Time is on my heels, constantly. Time is

an obsession. I know I am destined to fall short. Still, I am

determined to get as far as I can, to sow as many words as

possible along the way. I walk with the Pen in my hand, and

the Pen keeps saying: “Squeeze me harder! I believe in you!”

And though I love the Pen, it is also my eternal damnation: that

which creates me, destroys me; that which holds me together,

breaks me into pieces; the Pen both forges me and melts me

down. But I am unable to break away from the Pen, for by

now, the Pen and I are one. It is my medium. Dear Reader,

believe me, I am not mad, but I do have a dream, and the line

between the two states is often quite thin.


I run to make my dream come true.


The Rucksack, referring to the words it contains, says to me: “I have

the winning cards. Now it is up to you and the Pen to play

them”. And I do just that.


I run to play.


Time will devour me, I know. The mere thought makes me stop

and lift my eyes to the sky, in the hope that my tears will meld

in with the rain. But this, dear Reader, is the destiny that

awaits us all. There is no escape. All we can do is to decide not

to stop, to make every effort to leave our mark along the way,

as engravings or smoke signals or messages in a bottle. In

short, to keep running. For who is to say that one day

somebody might not happen upon them, grasp their deepest

meaning and draw on them in order to run in their turn, in a

never-ending flow.

Indeed, this may have already happened. It could be that, as

you read this, I no longer am. Time may have already arrived

for me. But please feel no sadness for me, Reader. Wisdom lies

in understanding when something cannot be changed. Wisdom

lies in accepting that. I know the Rucksack: it is unable to accept

things. When Time will have done away with me, when I shall

have become nothing but dust and wind, the Rucksack will go on its

way. The Rucksack and its words will look for another runner just

like me, for someone willing to dedicate their life to giving the

gift of the message. The Rucksack has done the exact same thing

since the dawn of time: it searches for someone with a

vocation for giving, and when it finds them, it gives itself to that

person. I accept the Rucksack. I am neither the beginning nor the

end. I am nothing more than a tiny tile in the eternal mosaic,

part of a superhuman project meant to bring together all men

who have ever existed, all those who currently exist, and all

those who will exist in the future.

It makes no difference.

I fight Time with my writing. I shall die one day, but my Rucksack

and my Pen shall render me eternal.

I am part of a Magnificent Story, and I am grateful for this.

The story of a road, a race,

and a Rucksack and a Pen.


Traveller's Guide to Italy