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The Hitchhiker's Guide to Italy

by Marcello Parmeggiani last modified 2008-06-20 15:14

"What's your road, man? -holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road." (Jack Kerouac - On the Road) We talk to Nicola De Gregorio, the organiser of the first ever hitchhiking race around Italy.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to Italy"Sure, you can't look too weird, but that's not all you need to know if you want to start some serious hitchhiking. Come on, let's go."
Nicola De Gregorio's dream is going to come true this summer. The 23-year-old from Cammarata (Agrigento) has organised a hitchhiking race around Italy. The race is organised in 400 km day-long stages which the participants will cover in pairs. "The race is from July 29th to August 7th. Each stage is against the clock. Accommodation has been kindly offered by the ‘cantieri sociali’ (self-financing social centres) on route, they're oases of freedom and justice that fortunately still exist in our country. ".

Nicola travelled the length and breadth of Italy, going in person to all the cantieri sociali to tell them about his project. The cantieri opened their doors to both him and all the hitchers who plan to take part in "Carovana in viaggio. "It goes without saying that we'll pull our weight when we get there. We all believe in the same thing - the importance of meeting people, getting to know new places and cultures - and we hope this will rub off on any newcomers."

Can anyone take part in the 'Caravan'? Yes, and even better, you can take part in just one of the stages of the race. Each team is made up of two people (usually a male and a female) and the stages start and finish at prearranged points. The rest is up to the participants. "Now we're talking . . . " says Nicola, "you cross over dialects, regional borders, countryside, and meet the most extraordinary people, all with extraordinary stories to tell." All this plus the pressure of being first over the finishing post. "The time printed on a receipt from the autogrill (restaurant chain in Italian motorways - ed.) is what counts," adds Nicola.
You can't argue with that. Where are the hitchhikers going to stay? "The cantieri are something else. Take for example "Solesud" in Casal di Principe, (Caserta). We'll be arriving in time for ‘Libera's’ meeting (Libera is the anti-mafia group fronted by Don Ciotti. Guccini's playing the night we arrive. In Fiesso Umbertiano we'll be staying with the "Emmaus" gang. They've even given us bikes to get to their place from the motorway, and that evening we're to play against the locals in a football match. It should be fun!"

However, despite what Nicola says, hitchhiking seems to be on the decline in Italy. Nicola has been thumbing his way around the country for years, here's his advice for getting a lift. "First and foremost put your driver at ease. Approach him or her at the autogrill, and carry a map with you, even if you know exactly where you are going. And don't forget to check out his/her numberplate - in 90% of the cases, that's where you'll be going!"
So, what are you waiting for? Thumbs out and off you go. the race starts off in Messina at the end of July, but you can join anywhere on route.
Ring 339-5860028, or write to for more information.

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