Monday, September 30, 2013

Corfu: My First Impressions of Greece

Finally, after a long train ride and 2 ferries we arrive in Corfu in the early hours of the morning.  Our accommodation is in the old town, not too far from the port, so after checking our map we walk there.  Thankfully, breakfast is still open so we tuck into some food before we crash and catch up on lost sleep. 

Later in the afternoon we get out and explore.  Corfu is beautiful. The old town is full of atmosphere and the castle looks down from its high vantage point, reminding us of its past history, rich with stories of battles and conquests.  We have had very little seafood on this journey, and so we settle for a café overlooking the ocean and order up a treat – calamari, fish and prawns…we don’t get to eat like this very often!

We explore the old town the next day.  We have a week here and it will be nice to relax, spend time at the beach and generally catch our breath after all the travel and work.  The old town is buzzing with travellers, souvenir sellers and roadside cafes.  It is easy to get lost in here.  The place is a maze of narrow cobblestoned alleyways and streets.  The Old Town evolved within the walls of the fort and of course space was a constraint, which explains its haphazard street pattern.  It certainly adds to the character of the place and is obviously a popular place for travellers to hang out. 

The place empties a little during the heat of the day but is a hive of activity once again at night.  Locals mingle with tourists at the various bars in town and there is a heightened vibe in the air that was not present during the day, accentuated by the sound of Greek music that wafts through wherever you walk.  I wish I had my tripod.  I know many of these night photographs won’t come out too well…but I try anyway. 

Earlier in the day we had discovered the sky bar in our hotel, so we venture up there to have a look at the town.  The views are beautiful – the old fort is lit up and the lights mingle from those reflected off the ships in the port.  

We head up north on Day 3.  Palaiokastritsa is a picturesque spot but the beach is a little crowded so we decide to catch a boat to a more deserted spot.  The boat stops at a few caves on the way before
dropping us off at a less crowded beach.  Still not deserted, but perhaps we need a car to find those beaches on this very popular Greek Island. 

We wake up late again on Day 4.  We are enjoying the fact that we don’t have any deadlines to meet or buses to catch.  We spend the morning at the rooftop café catching up on some admin work that is inevitable on a trip such as this. 

Yesterday, while browsing through a calendar on the top 17 spots in Corfu, we saw pictures of what looked like an idyllic spot, Pontikonisi – and it was only a 10 minute bus ride away, so we’ve decided to check it out.  But first, we have lunch at a café serving up really traditional Greek food. It’s a great experience to be here with Steve.  He can speak Greek relatively well and it’s a lot easier for people to be able to converse in Greek than convey a more diluted version of the information in English.  We are often treated differently, because of this – almost as if we were locals.  Today, the proprietor shepherds us to the back of the café so we can view
the food that has just come fresh out of the oven.  The dish of moussaka still hot to the touch looks mouth-wateringly delicious.  We settle for a little bit of everything – moussaka, with stuffed tomatoes, Greek salad and anchovies cooked just how Steve loves them.  Mmm- this was a good find.

We get directions to the bus that will drop us off at Pontikonisi and we are blown away by the view when we get there.  A beautiful white monastery sits on a little island.  There are other islands with lush green vegetation that dot the adjacent area.  To the right is Corfu’s airport, where planes keep arriving and departing at a rate one would not expect on a small Greek island.   Corfu is a popular place and travellers from all over Europe will fly here directly. 

We have a very relaxed afternoon here.  We wander down to the monastery, sit at the waters edge and watch the schools of fish darting about and then enjoy the sunset over Frappes – Greek Iced Coffees that come with ice and a dollop of ice cream.  Yes – I feel as if the holiday part of this journey has finally started!  As the sun sets, the colours of this landscape change also.  I can say that I have honestly found a place where the postcards and calendar photographs don’t even come close to doing it justice.  This place is truly magic.  I know now those postcards were not photo shopped – this place is just that beautiful. 

We hop off the bus in town and hear the strains of music in the air.  We follow the sound to a beautifully lit building outside of which a harmonious choir of more than 50 people are performing a
free outdoor concert.  We sit on the sidewalk and listen.  Greek music and Italian opera…the music is superbly accompanied by a pianist – yes the piano is on the street as well.  On the way home we walk past a café where a group of locals are playing and singing traditional Greek songs.  Their table is overflowing with food and they smile and wave as we walk past.  We stop for a while in the square to enjoy a completely different performance.  This is one of the reason we both love Europe.  You can stumble upon the most amazing finds…and then you realise that the best things in life are really free! 

On Day 5 we take a bus to the west side of the island, to a place called Glyfada, renowned for its beaches.   Initially, we thought the bus might take us to a far rockier beach but everyone on the bus
wanted to get to Glyfada.  A phone call to head office seemed to settle it and the bus does a detour to drop us off at our preferred destination.  “See where I brought you”, the bus driver yells after us as we hop off and wave goodbye.  “Efharisto”, (thank you) we yell back.  Back comes the standard response - “Parakalo”, (your welcome)!

The beach stretches for miles and after a bite to eat at a café on the top of the cliff we wander down to explore it.  Eventually we get in the water but despite the heat of the day, the water is freezing cold.  We’ve found a sheltered cove with a sandy beach and despite what appears to be idyllic conditions, the water never really seems to warm up.  We give up eventually, and sit in the sun but not for too long because we don’t want to burn.  Later in the afternoon we catch the bus back to Corfu Town. 

Corfu has been my first introduction to Greece.  Despite all the backpacking I’ve done in Western
Europe, my travels never brought me to the Greek Islands.  Being here with Steven has certainly made a huge difference.  People always assume we are English speakers because he is with me.  The minute he responds in Greek, they are intrigued and the perennial questions always seem to follow in rapid succession. Where are you from, where are your parents from?  Greeks just like Sri Lankans and perhaps people the world over, are very curious about your heritage. 

In fact, there is a lot about the Sri Lankan and Greek cultures and also the physical places themselves that are very similar.  When Steve went to Sri Lanka for the first time last year, he kept saying, “this is just like Greece!”  Now I find myself saying, “This is just like Sri Lanka!” 

The old world culture, the buildings that are only half completed, the buses that have both a driver
AND a conductor, dust everywhere, stray dogs and cats on the street, the warm weather, the laid back lifestyle, their attitude to time itself, late night eating – the list goes on.  There is also something about being ‘island people’ that defines the culture of these places.  It feels less busy and certainly the stress we physically felt in some of the big cities we visited is non-existent. 

I’m glad to be in Greece and to be discovering her hidden gems with someone who is ‘almost’ a local.  Steve tells me that his grandfather used to say, “You can only get to a place by asking!”  All along our travels we have realised this to be true.   But to truly get to what makes a place tick, to discover the gems only locals know about, it is important to speak the language.  I’ve always wished as I travelled the world that I could speak the languages of the places I am travelling through.  Being with a traveller who does, is almost as good and the experience is one I will treasure forever. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Bari: A Beautiful Medieval Port City

We arrive in Bari after a long train ride from Nice.   It’s after the usual check in time and we message the guesthouse to say we will be arriving late.  The owner texts back in Italian to say he will pick us up at the train station.  We finally figure out where to meet him after getting a fellow passenger to translate the message!

We are glad to find our transport waiting for us.  He drives us to the old city, which is beautifully lit at night.  He opens the door to an amazingly large bedroom with a living room and mezzanine.  There are enough beds in here for a family of 8 and I can’t believe this is all just for us.  He ushers us in and opens the fridge to reveal he has stocked it with fruit and water.  This is a lovely welcome. 

Later we learn we are the first people to find his B&B through the website.  He is keen to impress us so we will give him an excellent recommendation.  A positive recommendation on a website is ultimately what will drive your business in today’s world.  We are tired and it’s past 10pm but Steve suggests we go for a walk to explore the old town.  The entire town is lit and the warm glow of the streetlights creates a beautiful look.  We know it will be different in the morning.  For a European town this is still early but the place is deserted.  We finally find a few cafes that are open and grab a few slices of pizza. 

We wake up late.  We are quite tired after the long train ride getting here the previous day.  Our ferry does not leave till 8 pm so we leave our bags with the proprietor and explore the town.   The town not only looks different in the morning it is full of people.  Probably people just like us – killing time till the evening when they will catch a ferry to Igoumenitsa or Dubrovnik.  It’s a beautiful old city to explore and we enjoy wandering the streets, taking a look inside the cathedrals and people watching in the square.

Bari is an important city in Southern Italy because of the port.  Most of the people walking around would probably never have found their way to this city if not for the fact they are here to catch a ferry.  I find out an interesting fact about Bari.   It was mentioned in the film the Bridges of Madison County because Francesca (Meryll Streep) tells Robert (Clint Eastwood) that she came from this place called Bari, a town that no one has heard of.  He then tells her he has actually been there and that he got off the train because it looked pretty!  Pretty it is but having been there I’m not sure you could have said that from the train station! 

We have a relaxing day and pick up our bags later that afternoon.  We are in for another surprise when we are given the use of a room till it’s actually time to leave.  We could not have had a nicer experience here…

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Couch Surfing in Nice La Belle

We decide to do a detour to Nice to visit our friend Colm.  It’s his 46th birthday and he has persuaded us to come visit.  We met quite by chance when we were visiting Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Ireland and Colm was visiting his brother Martin who lives there.  Our lives converged at the little pub in town, when we walked in and the two of them struck up a conversation with us! 

Our friendship grew when Colm offered to give us a ride to Limerick the next day.  On the way, we learn a little more about Irish hospitality and the fact that Colm offers up his living room to couch surfers in Nice.  He persuades us to come and visit.  We know we will be in the area and we promise to have a look at our tentative plans to see if we can squeeze in a couple of days in Nice. 

Our journey through Europe has been enriched because we have been open to these chance encounters and then followed up when people said…”hey you should come visit me…”!  Most people are brought with a notion that ‘strangers’ are dangerous people - stranger danger is taught in school these days and kids grow up fearing those they don’t know. 

Travel has taught me to be free of these limiting notions …to learn to trust my instincts…to be free, to go with the flow.  Ireland showed me that there is an entire culture of people who are willing to go out of their way to be of help to ‘strangers’ or as a couch surfer would say, friends you haven’t met!  Couch surfing is all about trusting ‘strangers’. You open up your home to backpackers and give them a free bed on your couch.  You get to be part of a great cultural exchange, meeting backpackers who bring the world to your doorstep.  It is one step removed from the airbnb concept in that couch surfing is free.  There is no fee for sleeping on someone’s couch but a traveller may bring you a little token of their appreciation like say a bottle of wine.  The internet has opened up a myriad of travel options for backpackers these days.  When people say I can’t afford to travel what they are really saying is that I don’t have the courage to travel cheaply, to travel close to the ground…to trust a stranger to put me up!  I look up the website and I’m amazed to see the extent to which couch surfing is becoming part of the backpacking world. 

So here we are…in Nice, where Colm has an apartment about a 5-minute walk from the train station.  It’s Friday night and he is working late. By the time he arrives, we have made some dinner so we can have a quiet night in. We met his son Oisín in Ireland but we get the chance to also meet his daughter Elisa.  They are lovely kids and keep us entertained while we catch up with Colm and share some of our stories.  

We continue talking long after the kids have gone to bed.  Colm says we are good listeners (something we hear often) and shares with us some interesting stories of his life and experiences, which are many and quite varied.  We are captivated by his stories, especially of his time as a monk.  He too is a writer and photographer and we share common dreams of quitting the corporate world for good and living off the earnings of our creative pursuits.  Colm jokes that we might write up his story before he gets around to writing it himself…so I won’t share more of his interesting life here J.  Colm also plays the guitar and sings and occasionally he will stop talking, to pick up his guitar and entertain us with a song.  We’ve talked late into the next morning.  Colm’s couch reveals a nicely concealed sofa bed, which we pull out before we say goodnight.

We wake up late on Saturday and make sausages and eggs before we accompany Colm as he takes Ellie to her gym class.  It is fun to spend time with friends who are ‘locals’ as you get a glimpse of how places really tick, rather than just ticking off a list of sights in your guidebook.  Nice is not that different to Australia in that kids as young as 4 are already starting to have very structured lives from a very early age, with organised classes ranging from ballet to music.  We reflect that we are all glad we grew up during a time when life was a whole lot simpler and weekends were for playing cricket in the garden or riding our bikes with the kids next door!  

In the afternoon, Steve and I go down to the promenade for a walk and to enjoy the feeling of being on the Riviera.  Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille and of course a popular tourist destination from about the time of the mid 18th century, when the English aristocracy discovered this place.  I read that the Promenade des Anglais (‘the Walkway of the English') owes its name to these early visitors.  It drew people not just because it was an ideal spot to relax in but also because artists and writers drew inspiration from its natural beauty. 

In the evening we meet a number of Colm’s friends.  They are a mixed bunch of people - artists, sculptors and musicians mingle with friends from work.  They are French, Irish and other migrants, all of whom now call Nice home.  We are particularly drawn to Colm’s best friend, a recent immigrant from Poland, who is also on her own journey of discovery. 

There is a relaxed mood in the air and we celebrate his 46th birthday with lots of champagne, wine and good food.  I’ve actually pulled out the one dress I have in my backpack as Colm has warned me that the women in Nice love to dress up.  This culture is very different from the laid back Aussie culture that is very much a part of who I am.  Making sure you are nicely turned out with the right shade of lipstick and eyeliner is a big part of going out in Nice, so I scrub up for the evening!    

Couch surfing in Nice has been a lovely detour.  Catching up with a chance acquaintance and sharing another experience has made our friendship a little deeper.  I believe that people come in to your life for a reason.  Sometimes, they stay for a season and other times they are with you for the rest of your life.  Travel enables you to make instant and deep connections with strangers. 
Connections like this are often never forged with people who have known you your whole life. Strangers take you as they find you, rather than assuming you are still the same person you were twenty years ago!

Once again we chat late into the night, long after the guests have left before we hug and say goodbye, as we will leave early morning to catch our train to Bari.  It has been a lovely reunion and Colm is convinced we will meet again sooner rather than later…!  Let’s see what the Universe brings along. 

Goodbye Colm, good luck on your journey and thanks for a lovely visit!  We hope you find the time in your life to be creative…we can’t wait to read the book!  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Torri Superiore: Realising a Dream in an Abandoned Medieval Village

We arrive at Ventimiglia by train and catch a local bus to Torri Inferiore, (lower towers) the last village on this bus route.  The bus was quite small and we could hardly fit our backpacks down the aisle!  As we drive through winding mountain roads I observe that the area of Liguria is dotted with little stone villages, set high on terraced hillsides.  

I later learn they were located inland to protect the farmers from marauding pirates along the coastline!  I love places that are completely off the beaten track and Torri Superiori (upper towers) certainly qualifies even though it is a stone’s throw (<50km) from the French Riviera.  We walk the last 400 metres, dragging our bags up the hillside before we spot the restored village.  It looks like something from a fairy tale, a stone castle set deep in the hillside, looking down on us invitingly.  I feel excited to be here…

We are welcomed warmly and walk through a maze of corridors and narrow stairways in a mysterious labyrinth I hope I won’t get lost in.  It is a place full of charm and character with a surprise around every corner and I can’t wait to explore.  We are shown to our bedroom, high up in this 8-story tower.  A narrow staircase leads us to a small door that opens to reveal a room full of appeal. The shutters have been thrown open and the midday sun streams in.  The views of the surrounding hillsides are breathtaking.  We gaze at the view, take deep breaths and feel our bodies relax.  This is going to be just what the doctor ordered…

We don’t do much on our first day except walk around, discovering the hidden gems of this gorgeous
place.  The ‘before and after’ pictures of a room in the village, hung up in the kitchen hint at how much blood, sweat and tears must have gone into creating this slice of Italian paradise.  By the time dinner is served at 7.30 I am starving and we feast on a wonderful spread of Italian cuisine.  Baked vegies cooked in a tasty cheese sauce, brown rice, fresh salads, lentils as well as a choice of cold meats and cheeses.  Carafes of red wine are on the table together with an assortment of fresh breads.  After dinner, we enjoy ripe figs from the garden and sweet pineapple.  The juice trickles down our hands and the looks of contentment on our faces testify to the fact that perhaps we saved the best for last…

We have been here only a few hours but I already love the vibe and the positive energy generated by the people in this place.  Perhaps the warm Mediterranean climate is a contributing factor but the 
Italians are a lively bunch and dinner is a gregarious affair with lots of loud laughter and discussion. It’s something that makes me feel at home instantly, even if I have no understanding of what is being said.  After dinner, the sound of music and singing fill the air, adding to the cheerfulness…and I wish we were staying more than the two nights we have booked. 

We sleep well and I wake up early to see pink streaks across the blue sky - it must be sunrise, but I am still half asleep so that image is only captured in my memory.  After breakfast, we meet with Massimo a long-term community member, originally from Genoa, who shares with us his story and that of this community.  It is the story of how a dilapidated medieval village owned by a 100 or so different people was restored to become became a viable space for a vibrant community.  I had read previously that the ‘tower’ structure of villages in this part of Italy stems from a need to conserve precious land, as well as to act as defence against the dangers from marauders that the medieval pioneers faced.  I learn that the structure is extremely complex, having been built over a number of generations by the villagers themselves.  The buildings techniques and extensions to the structure were refined over time to withstand the rigours of the climate, the demands of the inhabitants and natural phenomena. 

Massimo tells us that the idea to create an eco-village germinated with an Italian couple from Turin, who dreamt of restoring an abandoned village around 1989.  She was familiar with the area as her grandmother had lived in Torri Inferiore – the lower village nearby.  The abandoned and derelict upper village they settled on was split between a hundred different owners as was common in Italy.  Parents often divided the land and property between their many children, which worked fine as long as everyone continued to live and farm in the area.  Yet, as people start to move away, tempted by bright lights and big cities, many of these traditional villages and their simple lifestyles were discarded. 

The complex process of negotiating and buying the property from owners who no longer even lived in the area started in the 1980s and took years to accomplish.  It was not a task they could accomplish
alone so they tried to generate interest locally without much success.  It was not till he started to travel and talk about this idea at conferences that they finally met up with a man who gave the project momentum.  A Cultural Association was formed and interest in the project took off in places like Turin.  Finally, they were starting to gain some momentum and the dream was beginning to be a reality. 

Massimo’s personal involvement with the project eventuated quite by chance.  He has always had a deep love of the mountains and it was this initial passion for mountaineering that led him to dream of ultimately exchanging a life in the city for that of living in the mountains.   In 1990 he received a brochure in the mail, which led him here, to have a look at this village.  By 1993 he had formed friendships with the group and become a resident.  The group would meet on weekends and have long discussions about what could be done.  A lot of energy was expended in the first three years during these initial discussions and planning sessions.  It took them 20 years to realise their dream and he admits it wasn’t easy living in what was essentially a building site for such a long time! 

The reason the project took so long was financial.  Finding money to build the project had been a struggle.  Much to my surprise I learn there has been no help from the regional or national governments
for restoring abandoned villages.  Unfortunately, this village was considered part of the coastal area because it is part of the coastal town of Ventimiglia, so most of the money provided by the EU for the district flowed into the tourist hotspots along the coast.  Some small grants were made available for installing solar panels and introducing cultural activities but these were not substantial. The restoration was done through the sheer hard work of the future residents, some of whom had made personal investments, as well as some dedicated volunteers.

Although it was not ideal in terms of generating funding, the fact that the village was largely ignored by the authorities was a good thing when it came to supervision by the local building control authorities. They could carry on their restoration work with little inspection and regulation, so perhaps overall it was a blessing in disguise.

Today, there are 162 restored rooms, approximately half of which are communal spaces and the rest divided into 20 apartments, which are privately owned.  The eco-village is now home to about 15 residents who are mostly Italian and a few Germans.  In the summer the population soars with visiting guests and volunteers from around the world.  The common areas include a communal kitchen & dining area, laundry, outdoor patios to hang out in, a library, an office, meeting spaces, and of course the guest accommodation.  While the GEN course in eco-village design was once offered here, it is no longer viable to do so.  However courses from yoga, to Italian cooking to permaculture are still offered and attract many international visitors. 

As we look around the restored village, reconstructed with sustainable materials in a very authentic way, it is obvious that their investment of time, money and emotional energy was completely worth the effort.  Massimo tells us how one of the builders had put his hand in a crack and said, “as long as it does not reach my shoulder, it can be fixed”.  He says they learnt that almost anything can be renovated if you take time and care. They made a conscious decision not to use plastics, aluminium or other modern materials and they used stone quarried nearby, local timbers and natural lime as plaster.  I read that lime plaster can breathe well, allowing the walls to remain dry with all of the cooking and washing that takes place in a communal area that supports so many.  Today, Torri Superiore stands as testament to what can be achieved, despite the massive odds against them. 

We learn that this intentional community came together for cultural/social purposes and for the love of restoring an old village.  While sustainability was not a main theme we realise as we wander around they are doing OK in this arena as well.  They have solar panels for generating hot water; they grow a large proportion of their own fruit and vegetables, they harvest and manage spring water for irrigation and other purposes.  While they are by no means completely self-sustainable I am impressed by the terraced gardens and the scale of the agriculture practiced in the hard terrain.  Massimo explains that due to the local terrain this village was never self sustaining even historically and while they aim to constantly lower their ecological footprint, being completely off the grid is not a realistic goal for this community. He made the valid point, though, that the embodied energy of the restored buildings means that homes for 20 people do not need to be constructed.

We also discuss the economy and learn that each member is individually responsible for his/her needs.  People work in the guesthouse, out in the fields growing fruits and vegetables and in the olive groves as well as in the office.  They ensure that money is kept circulating locally before it leaves the village as people are paid for these jobs.  The money generated from the guesthouse pays for the other activities.  A few of the residents work in the nearby village of Torri Inferiore.  They have an internal team of builders, plumbers as well as a yoga teacher, all generating their own income. 

While some members choose to work longer hours because they want the security of a better income, others have the option to choose a simpler lifestyle and enjoy the benefits of having time to engage in more creative pursuits.  The collective goal is to keep their budget low.  Massimo explains that he can live on what it would cost to send a child to a kindergarten in Milan. With the same income, he would be poor in town and would need government assistance.  We learn that each person pays approximately 230 Euros a month for their food, services such as water, sewerage, telecommunications, electricity and
other necessities such as wood.  As in many of the other eco-villages, the community supports the children.  Each resident volunteers his or her labour to the equivalent of 2 turns a week either preparing food or cleaning.

While their initial intention in coming together was a cultural purpose rather than for the purpose of creating community, they eventually realised they did need a common identity and purpose to live together.  Many of the people who came together to build up this place had individual dreams of what they wanted to achieve and this dream was not always the same.  Conflict was inevitable but they sat around the table to discuss and negotiate and out of this was born their common practice – that of eating together. 

During our time here we become aware that, rather than formal meetings, a lot of informal discussions are taking place across the dinner tables, much as it does in the kitchens of some of our workplaces.  The community at Torri tried to find a common spiritual/ritual practice such as meditation, dance, reading a prayer before meals or singing but nothing quite clicked for them.  Eventually they realised that eating together was their common practice and the ritual they needed to help create bonds in this small community. 

Massimo says that every community needs shared spaces and explains that the market place, the square or the church provided these spaces and forums historically in other towns. This community is a smaller
scale and the kitchen and dining areas are their shared spaces. They also had their ‘Cultural Association’, which was the original organisation that they formed and included all the people who shared the interest of restoring the village. Together, the physical spaces and the legal structure have provided the platform on which they have built their community and formed the identity of Torri Superiore. They meet in these communal spaces to eat, to discuss, to negotiate, to fight to laugh and to dance…and for us it appears to be working really well.  They do also have more formal meetings to nut out any issues that arise with running their community. 

We ask Massimo if he had his time again would he still follow the same path today.  What if they had a benevolent developer or benefactor who could have helped them realise the vision sooner.  He is quick to answer that they would still follow the same path.  Restoring Torri in this manner could only have been done if they had the freedom to do as they wished. Anyone who may have given money would have applied restrictions or wanted a return for their investment.  Now they are not obligated to anyone
– there are no strings attached.  They have created a place that is exactly what they want.  They’ve learnt lots along their journey, more from intuition than from professional training and are happy with what they have created.  They have created a structure that they are also comfortable with.  They have the freedom to leave if they wish, as the private spaces can be sold on.  They do however have an agreement that they will sell to the association first, to ensure that any new owner will fit into the community.

We both really enjoyed our stay at Torri.  The Mediterranean climate in September is perfect and we love the village feel of this place, surrounded by spectacular countryside.  During our two days here we also had the chance to meet some interesting travellers.  We spend time with Christiano, an Italian man who recently quit his job in the corporate world to go on a journey similar to ours.  He too is in hoping to learn from already established communities and believes that at the end of his journey, he may have some answers as to where his skills could be used best.  We learn lots from Christiano about the resources and groups already out there and realised that despite being on the road for nearly 4 months, we have only just scratched the surface.   

During our journey, we have been exposed to far more radical communities with ideas at the far end of 
the spectrum when it comes to spirituality, living communally or the measures adopted for an ecological life.  Torri Superiore is perhaps I think a perfect compromise for a more mainstream person, who wishes to live in a manner that has a positive impact on the planet but having the freedom to carve out his own spirituality while maintaining a good balance between his private time and his shared activities.  Perhaps even the word ‘compromise’ is not appropriate because this village is sustainable and aims to increase the level of self sufficiency where possible but also provides financial freedom for individuals and does not impose religious rules.

While Massimo admits their biggest achievement is in the social arena, he says their ecological achievement is that they recycled a dilapidated village that would have otherwise fallen into rack and ruin.  It is a great ‘big recycle’, that perhaps could be a wonderful example to many similar villages dotted around the countryside of Europe, abandoned for less sustainable lifestyles.