Before Google Maps and Google Earth, when travelling was a luxury for few, my imagination craved for new places to discover. I was born in one of the tiniest towns in Italy. As a matter of facts is the only one featuring an apostrophe in its name: Castelnovo ne’ Monti.
750 meters above sea level. CnM encompasses one of the weirdest mountains in Italy. It is called Pietra di Bismantova and when seen from a specific angle, it totally resemble an old iron. It was also described in Dante Alighieri’s Devine Comedy as a comparison to the Purgatory.
During the nearly 6 months long winter, the most exciting this to do in my early teen ages, was visiting to the library or playing cards with friends. The first Atlas I received as a gift was a true blessing. First of all because it saved me countless trips to the library. Secondly because there were far more countries in it, than cards in a deck. I resolved to absorb everything I could.
While the first Atlas was great for pure cartography purpose, such as learning borders and capital cities, the second one I got was more of a geo-political tool to get to know the countries from inside. I am sure most kids would have to receive not 1 but 2 Atlas as birthday and Christmas present (me born in December get to experience gifts overdose once a year). To me the world discovery became a mission from the first day with the first Atlas. And it is still going on.
When the Soviet Union split up, my Atlas was left behind, and with Yugoslavia following with its own schism, I urgently needed more resources. At school we started talking about the new Republics being constituted and overnight I memorised all of them. I decided that I would have visited all of them, but it was one of those dreams that we usually leave to our imagination.
Now that my mid-life crisis in ongoing, the good old dream kicked back in and my exploration resumed. I counted over 30 countries visited. This year I ticked South Africa and Mozambique on the map. Next month I will finally visit China. Now I feel unstoppable and I decided to start writing about my trips. This was the first of many entries to come.
With the goal of 150 country to be visited before 2025, Stefano Virgilli is an avid traveller and expert connoisseur of the cultures of the world.