11 September 2017
Departure: Picinisco – 8:00 am
Distance: 12,5 Km
Moving Time: 2h 39m
Elevation gain: 1.011 mt
During the night I woken up more than once doubting in my head, there is an abyss between planning, studying, and making things happen.
The first day of walking was hard, the rain was capable to infiltrate even trough my raincoat if I walked for more than 2/3 hours in those weather conditions. I soon learned the importance of staying dry, especially my shoes. If you get wet, before departure you have to be dry, or you’ll be moving slow, or even worse you can get sick or ruin irreparably your shoes, essential for the contemporary pilgrim as the cape was for the traveller of the past (to be covered at night to not die of hypothermia).
When I put back my sleeping bag in the morning, I made sure doing it before the opening hours of the City Hall offices. I stood up, took my backpack and I started walking uphill towards the mountain path that leads to the Abruzzo’s border.
In the early morning, immediately after being struck by the beautiful fountain with running water from the Roman era, I was surprised by the strong grunts of wild boar, that, evidently frightened, run inside the thick vegetation. My choice to extend my route through the Valico dell’orso in Abruzzo, began to pay off. I could have done from Cassino the Via Casilina (the old Roman road that led to Capua) which would have led me shortly in the Campania region, but the purpose of my pilgrimage was not to reach my destination Jerusalem as soon as possible, but first of all find favorable conditions to my spiritual and introspective journey. Starting with the Latium and Abruzzo mountains gave me the opportunity to start off with the right foot, united in nature, accompanied by peace, and surrounded by Creation, fundamental elements that have always allowed me to lighten my labors through energy that GOD grants to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
The journey of the second day was complete after only 12.5 km. The path in the mountains was complicated rather than tiring. Although I felt strong support of the GPS (previously I had downloaded the maps for offline use knowing the network low signal in mountain), and I was oriented by the noise of the water of the streams that flow into Lake Grottacampanaro, for a couple of times I got lost (zoom on the gpx track for visual details).
Arrived in the magnificent valley of Canneto I was still undecided whether or not to continue my day of walking. The weather was not the best, but being just after lunch time I still had 4-5 hours of light that would have support me. I went to the only place where there seemed to be someone to ask for information. I met, near the tourist hut, a shepherd of cows that gave me very useful information, advising me first of all to not continue for the Valico dell’orso due to bad weather. He had just come down from the mountains signaling that, although in the valley the light was abundant and the rain was not so restrictive, at high altitude the situation was very different.
So I decided to start preparing for the night, and after eating in the shelter and made acquaintance with the kind owners of the place, I dried myself and my clothes in front of a welcoming fireplace. Just as the first day I did not share with anyone the reasons of my trip, nor my final destination, I only exchanged a few words with the people who were at the hut with me.
Immediately after having refilled my body, I tried for the first time to set up the tent, but I immediately gave up. Too complicated and not so much need to mount it, the climate was not so rigid, and not far away I sighted a wooden cabin perfect for my sleeping bag. After putting away my bag and my few belongings, I walked towards the Sanctuary of Canneto, a destination for many pilgrims from all over Europe.
The sanctuary was magnificent and desert, after my midday prayers, I allowed myself a tour inside this pontifical basilica. Inside stood out the statue of the brown Madonna (Black Madonna) which has always been the subject of more varied speculations and hypotheses. This statue certainly is not to be worshiped, since the first Commandment constrain the believer to worship exclusively GOD, the Creator (“You shall not worship any other God besides Me“), and the second categorically forbids worshiping statues (“You shall not make any graven images“), but this statue is certainly to be contemplated.
The first speculations even involve chemistry, “the wood pigments would been blacken over time”, or “these statues miraculously escaped fires”, or was “smoked by candles”. But all these theories do not really have solid foundations, also because the genesis of many traditions report these statues of the characteristic dark color. So what ‘s the purpose of preserving a statue for so long if not to confirm what everyone already knows: We are all children of GOD, not by race, origin, or nationality, but for the love we heve towards the CREATOR and the Created. Only love is responsible to be considered by GOD His children, and not beauty, wealth, social status (or in this case the color of the skin). This is the testimony of our ancestors handed down through this “tanned” statue (Song of Songs 1, 5-6) of Mary.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your GOD will be with you wherever you go.”
(Book of Joshua 1, 9)