Michele Del Giudice is definitely a great trekker, a guide able to walk through a big part of the Old Continent and most of the Middle East. Here's how he introduces himself:
“I was born in Vico del Gargano, one of the most beautiful mountain village of the promontory in the province of Foggia. I had various work experiences, but the one in Middle East through Libya, Iraq, Iran and the Emirates, formed me temperamentally ".
When was your interest in trekking born?
On the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. The passion for the long distances, however, came in 2000, when I got so interested in the historical research of the great Daunia Walks (northern Puglia territory).
The identification of the Via Francigena from the Shrine of Stignano to Monte St. Angelo has launched my tireless research that took me to complete the entire route of the Via Francigena in Puglia till Santa Maria di Leuca.
In 2009, to better understand the essence of a Path, I traveled to Santiago.
In June, 2012 I faced in nearly four months the Angel Path, from Mont Saint Michel (Normandy-France) to Monte St.Angelo (Gargano).
In May, 2013 I left Gargano to reach Jerusalem in September, through Puglia, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Israel. Driven by intimate needs and historical, sociological, environmental and religious research. Since then, I have traveled all the Francigena’s variants in Italy.
Your passion for "extreme" trekking is linked to your faith. How do these two elements are connected?
Walking alone for long journeys and consequently for so many days, you have the time "to think", "to observe" using all your senses, without exception. In this state of deep life you become aware of the best part of yourself and you better understand the world and the marvelous an superior work of the Universe.
Have you ever felt in danger or have you ever feared for your life during these long treks? Some anecdotes ...
I have been very lucky during my journeys. I begged often getting it and I have never been in danger. Just two years ago it was still possible to walk with a discreet security the world close to us. After the events in Middle East and North Africa everything has changed and, unfortunately, today a world pilgrim must limit his desires of knowledge, merely doing closer trips and postponing the longer ones for better times.
Trekking often puts people in contact from a human point of view and it also leads to great solidarity and hospitality. Do you remember something like that?
Walking through nature awakens the best instincts in most people. Solidarity with those in need leads people to unimaginable gestures, which give joy to those who made them and to those who receive them. They are all actions that arise spontaneously and selflessly,and so are quickly forgotten.
Tourism and trekking: what kind of potentials has our country also in view of the Jubilee?
Trekking, or hiking, means walking in the territory. A new form of tourism is the "slow tourism": it means travelling through a territory slowly, possibly walking to know it intimately. The best way to discover the emotions the territory can give you is walk through it, looking for all the material and immaterial values that it possess. The colors, the smells, the flavors, traditions and customs, the welcome, derive from the past that has shaped those lands, those societies, those foods.
Walking consciously allows to better understand what happens in that territory and get to its essence. And the discovery of intangible values enriches the “Camminanti” - the Walkers (term used by Pope Francis) and the territories too, that are received by these profound visitors who will take the experience with them by publishing it in their places of origin, as they always did the Pilgrims/”Camminanti” for thousands of years.
In which regions is this consciousness growing?
This new tourism is surprisingly growing around the world: some regions (Tuscany with the Via Francigena) have realized it and they implement investment policies obtaining remarkable achievements in economic and social development.
The opportunity to give more life to the slow tourism will come, no doubt, from the 26th Jubilee that Pope Francis held from December 8th until November 20th 2016 and it is dedicated to the theme of mercy and love. Many pilgrims will come to Italy and many will be interested in slow tourism and they will look for love feelings, to give and receive, and thus satisfy the rising and irrepressible need to feel "good" about themselves.
The territories that will understand and will welcome in a simple and genuine way these new tourists will benefit from this Jubilee opportunity. They won’t have to build expensive cathedrals but just knowledge opportunities of our wonderful territories steeped in nature and history!
In this regard, when you walked abroad have you found large differences in the systems of trekkers welcoming and path management compared to Italy?
The only country that is opening up to hiking and to Paths, in addition to Spain with the Camino de Santiago, is Italy (which in general has a mountain and an environment culture already settled in the regions of the north) which is doing good progress on the welcoming dedicated to this activity. The south regions are struggling to adapt to these new tourism products; the concerned Authorities still lack needed skills to implement an appropriate, coherent and lasting policy of sector interventions.
What kind of approach would you recommend to those who approach for the first time to... long-range trekking?
The reasons that lead to do long distances are crucial to a satisfactory success. A good physical condition is recommended if you don’t want to suffer too much, muscle aches are right around the corner. Finally, a research (also guided) of technical material that helps to prevent or limit any physical damage.
What other projects do you have in your mind?
Make my experience available in the implementation of the Via Francigena in the South and keep on walking as long as God wills.