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Camminando sul Sentiero della Via Lattea

copertina“Which is the border line between dream and reality? What are you ready to sacrifice in order to realize your dreams and what not? What is the right thing to do? The stories of Helena and Riccardo, that passionate the readers till the last page, accompany us in a journey where the destination is the discovery of the meaning of life and the achievement of happiness. Risking everything, leaving everything behind, walking along a path to the discovery of their inner self they find the answer to the questions that everyone would like to see answered, that many leave hidden, together with their dreams, inside a drawer.” (Editor’s Note)

The novel, set between Europe and Africa, narrates the stories of Helena and Riccardo, a girl and a boy geographically distant, but united by the will of struggle in order to realize their dream. They walk along two different paths, somehow opposites, which enrich them with experiences… 

The novel dominant theme is the journey, the research of the inner self, the realization of the project, of the dream that keeps us alive. 

From here the choice of the Milky Way as a symbol. Flowing from east to west, it has always been a reference point for people and convoys travelling, so to become one of the symbolism of the Santiago Pilgrimage.

A special tank goes to Mr. Giuseppe Galletta that provided the wonderful cover image taken from his paint “Via Lattea”.

Enjoy the reading...

A small gift, an unprofessional translation online of the first three chapters...


The sun had just set; the horizon was dark, covered by clouds that on that day passed over Tarifa without releasing their load of rain. From behind those clouds heaved a swirl of colors that spread across the sky all around. Patches of yellow, orange clouds, flashes of an intense blue that spread out among the purplish red that enveloped the entire sky. Colors and tones that slowly surrendered to a uniform shade of bright blue, which from above the clouds slowly faded into the darkness.As if the sun, dying behind the line joining with a magic touch the sky and the sea, was launching its own last desperate flares of life.
Just above, as bright as ever, the new moon was rising to a new life. Beside her, the first evening star, the inseparable companion, the maid-servant that will accompany and protect her with devotion during the brief cycle of this life.
As the blue turned into gray and the light of day gave way to the darkness of the night, it became increasingly clear the round, perfect shape of the moon that in twilight, as if from behind a curtain, was watching herself born again, in that perennial cycle repeated from immemorial time that for centuries has continued to accompany men’s dreams, hopes, and love.
Sitting on that rock, Helena was imagining how on the other side of the sea that night would have been a night of celebration and thanksgiving addressed to a God not so different from the one she believes in, to which those men and women had just dedicated a month of fasting, abstinence, sacrifice and prayers. So different and so alike, so far and so close ... and between them “she”, the most beautiful rising moon that Helena remembered to have ever seen.
She often went on that reef, since when, at the age of thirteen she was first allowed to go out alone, walking with her friends in the village square. But at Playa la Caleta she always went alone, initially during the hours when the sun heats the earth and the hearts, and then, at any time of day or night, even though the time she preferred the most was sunset.
Despite its name, Playa la Caleta is not a beach, but a series of rocky platforms and sandbanks which extends to the left of the old town, and continues to be, in time, an escape for fishermen and all those who are looking for a quiet corner and loneliness in front of the sea.
She loved to call that place The Rock of Dreams, she would seat, Helena, with the back to her Tarifa, and she would free her soul, leaving it free to roam and travel in those far and unknown worlds of which she had just heard about. Africa, a few kilometers across the sea, with its mysteries, its flavors, its desert and its colors. America, on the other side of the ocean, that ocean that her ancestors had challenged to realize the dream of discovering new worlds, new spaces, new lands. The same new land where its inhabitants now want control the entire world. But most of all Europe with its history, with the great men who were able to realize their personal legends by challenging laws and customs of their time, with small and great inventions, with great and small revolution, philosophy, art and music, with the desire of looking ahead without fear of what would be left behind. It was from The Rock of Dreams that Helena’s spirit used to begin its journey every time more wonderful, every time more adventurous.
Her body was left there, on the southernmost tip of Europe, where she was born, where she had her roots, but her eyes closed could see camel caravans crossing the desert, men in turbans, sandstorms. Then turning the gaze to the north, she could touch the tip of the Eiffel Tower and see a city full of light and color, cross the Channel and plunge into the green plains of Scotland, and running down along the warm and hospitable Mediterranean shores, where old ladies dressed in black were sitting outside the door of their houses, exchanging smiles and words out loud.
But then, inexorably, the flight would end, and accompanied by that east wind that always caresses Tarifa coast, her soul would came back and wake her up with a sweet shiver that disruptively shook the whole body.
It was certainly not difficult to indulge in flights of the soul for her, born and raised in that small fishing town. A cluster of white houses almost reflected onto the African coast from which it is separated only by a small portion of sea. The place where the sweet waters of the Mediterranean blend with the impetus and the majesty of the ocean.
Tarifa had already paid a high price for its proximity to the land of the Sahara in 711 when the Moors began the conquest Spain from that small town. This was certainly one of the reasons that had made the people of this village a population so attached to their roots, to their land, to their coast. A legend has it that in 1295 the Moors imprisoned the son of Guzman El Bueno, the leader who was entrusted to defend the city, and threatened to kill him if he, as head of his troops, did not surrender and hand over Tarifa into their hands. In response, Guzman threw them his sword so that the son would not be killed by an unfaithful sward. A population of fishermen who had abandoned the fish nets to take up arms to defend their land and their faith. Today, this village is known as the "Windy City" a favorite destination for surfers who meet on the white beaches of the coast to challenge the wind, and tame it with the caresses of their sails. A fierce wind at times, which raises the sand and sprinkle in on the streets, forcing residents to close doors and blinds and find shelter within the walls of their homes.
Helena knew well the story and the legend, since the early years of school each teacher repeated it with pride, and she knew the wind, its majesty, its sweetness, and to that wind she used to entrust her thoughts, her dreams, her flights. But she also knew very well how the roots of that fishing village, had made that beautiful city popular with tourists and surfers, port of connection between continents, a village anchored to its own traditions. Watching out to the world, but with the shutters always half closed.
"Tourism is the future of our land," said her mother when the time came to choose the University.
She wanted to argue, she tried. She tried to explain how strong her love for dance, for flamenco, for the theater was.
She tried to convey to her parents that feeling of life, of fullness, of communion with the world, that only the opening a curtain was able to make her feel. When all of a sudden the darkness becomes light and the eyes are blinded by the headlights of limelight, and there is only you, with your art, your music, your body. Performing. It does not matter if in front of you there are only two people, two hundred thousand or none, because you are not there for them, but for yourself.
"Life is not a dream; you need a real job, a profession, a future. How many people before you have dreamed of becoming great artists and have since got lost in the everyday life. Do not waste your time Helena, focus on something real. Flamenco and your dreams will not fill your fish net, not your plate."
By how many different voices had she heard those words, how many wounds had they inflicted in the depth of her heart, but she did not want to surrender, she would not let her dreams vanish, but see them accomplished and walk along the path of life with them. So she had completed her studies and she had finally graduated as tour operator. She knew all about handling hotels, she knew accounting, history and legends of her land. But she also got to learn languages, and above all, she never abandoned her dream. She continued to dance, beautiful as ever, sensuous as no one else.


The hands gliding across the piano, the last note of a concert that gave the public strong, unforgettable emotions. The applause explodes full of warmth and enthusiasm, Riccardo gets up, in his soul a feeling of fullness, of triumph and satisfaction that only his music can make him feel. He takes few steps forward towards the limelight and the spotlights, a long bow to thank all the spectators who for more than one hour have gone along the streets, landscapes and the colors drawn by the notes of his piano. The red cloth of the curtain closes slowly in front of his face wet by one tear. That was the end of his last concert, far from home, in the auditorium of the University of Bologna.
This time there was no one waiting for him behind the scenes, this was his desire, and perhaps for the first time, all his family had observed it.
He walked slowly toward his dressing room, ignoring the comments and compliments of all the technical staff came in and took off his jacket; the decision was made.
Music, art do not fill the plate.
The applause of his parents were still coming from a side box from where, without his knowledge, they followed the concert mixed with the public to respect his request, with eyes filled with emotion. They had seen him grow up in front of the piano, spending there his afternoons while other children were playing football, evenings while his friends were living their age, sleepless nights, and they could still not understand why Riccardo was ready to give up his music, his sacrifices.
"Why? For love? For Marianna? No, my God, please. That cannot be love and she cannot be the woman of my son's life. I'm not a hysterical mother and this is not a cry of jealousy, but only the deep thought of a woman who loves her boy, her husband and couldn’t find love in the eyes of that girl. Those eyes ...».
"Come on Rosa, we have to leave, better go together with all the others."
Alfredo handed her a handkerchief, put his arm around her shoulders and helped her to get up, embracing her with all the sweetness he could.


«Your thoughts seem to be as deep as the ocean and your dreams fly as far as those seagulls." That evening Helena was so deeply immersed in her soul, that she didn’t even notice the man who was now sitting next to her. After all, after so many years, this was the first time that someone had approached her on that cliff. She turned, almost lost in thoughts, as if she had just been awakened from a deep sleep. Beside her were two blue eyes, intense, full of mystery, gazing with a smile that inspired sweetness, set in the face of a stranger. Helena knew almost all the inhabitants of Tarifa, but those eyes, that smile, no, she was sure to have never seen them before.
"Forgive me, it was stronger than me. I saw you sitting here, alone, and I came close to you, but your glance was lost in the empty space, absent. So I decided to sit down here by your side and wait for you to come back."
"Come back ... and from where, didn’t you see me, I was always sitting here."
"You may fool your friends, your parents, maybe, but you should never try to fool yourself. Your flight was so high, so intense that only a fool would not have noticed it."
"So that means that in my life I've always been surrounded by a lot of fools." Helena whispered with a sigh, gazing on the sea slowly darkening by nightfall.
She didn’t have the habit to give confidence to a person never seen before, but something in the eyes of that man of an indefinite age, had immediately inspired her confidence. She never felt in danger, and he had indeed made his entrance in the scene, in her thoughts with such delicacy, that it was impossible to feel disturbed. His face was clean, his smile serene, the beard unshaved at least since a couple of days, long and slightly wavy hair that rested on the shoulders, a pair of jeans and a sweater dark green color. His voice was firm, but sensitive at the same time, and he was saying things that no one had ever spoken before.
"It is not a crime to dream," continued the man, "but the fiercer crime that a person can commit against himself is giving up his dreams. There is a phase in everyone's life, in which the everyday routine, imprisons us in a kind of trap that makes us convinced that after all our dreams were only childhood illusions, and they get slowly buried in the dry desert of everyday life. "
"And what do you know about my dreams, my life, my routine? I don’t even know who you are...». She kept quiet for a moment; those words were penetrating not only her mind, but her own soul.
The wind caressed her body and made her hair flutter back exposing her beautiful face. A slight tear slid from those dark and deep almond shaped eyes. Helena wiped it trying to hide it from the stranger and deceiving herself blamed the wind and turned around.
"Dreams do not fill your plate ..." she whispered.
"No, but they fill the hearts and souls of men and women and, if genuine, they give them the strength to fill the plate and the serenity of a happy life." Replied the stranger.
"Tomorrow I will go to Madrid and enroll to the University of Economics. They tell me I have to think about my future, so ...».
"So you surrender and let the everyday life take over ...'.
"You see, if you stop to think about it, and believe me I do it often, they do have a point. I dream of a future as an artist, I want to dedicate my life to dance, to music. But what if I will not succeed? What if I am not good enough? Who says that the world is there just waiting to see Helena dancing on a stage?"
"The only person who can answer these questions, dear girl, is only you. Only if you try you will know if you will be up to it, running away you will never know, and a sense of anxiety will always remain in a hidden corner of your soul and it will be there to torment you when you least expect it, it will find you in your dreams, and will become stronger day by day. And when one day you'll be sad, or lonely, or disappointed about something that has happened, it will emerge and your heart will pain as you will wonder once again how your life would have been if you followed your dreams. "
The darkness of night was slowly erasing all those colors that had inflamed Playa la Caleta at sunset and in the sky all the stars that would have lit up the night and guide the fishermen were lighting up one after another.
"When someone tries to really achieve his dreams, all the forces of the universe conspire to help him, have you ever experienced it? It is as if an occult director starts suddenly to work to ensure that everything goes just as it needed to go. Of course, there are always obstacles and difficulties, but if within us there is the right energy to react, the world of the Angels row by our side and fight for us, with us.”  Helena listened in silence to the man words, intrigued by that look.
"You use words that I have read in some book. Who are you? Where are you from? I've never seen you in Tarifa.”
"Once you used to see me and talk to me every day, we played together, we ran on the meadows, I was the companion of your childhood, but then one day suddenly, growing up you stopped to talk to me, to seek for me, and slowly you let me disappear before your eyes and you delve into the world. Yet I was always there besides you, suggesting thoughts, guiding your steps, protecting your way, invisible as you wanted, until now, until you asked me to make you fly over unknown worlds, and to help you to look beyond Tarifa, beyond this rock, and inside your spirit."
Helena felt a chill down her spine and a feeling mixed with cold and fear came suddenly over her.
She looked up at the sky now dark and starry trying to understand. A thousand confused thoughts and a thousand memories suddenly crowded her mind. She saw herself, young girl, running along the meadows with long hair open to the wind and she saw beside her the inseparable companion she loved so much, the true friend that the adults called “invisible”, forcing her to deny him while growing up because a mere invention of her childish imagination.
Her fear vanished, she almost felt it leaving and moving away from her like a breath. A sweet and gentle heat began to warm her, and she was taken by a feeling of serenity that she hadn’t felt over a long time.
She turned back to the stranger, the companion found, with the face open with a smile full of happiness. She turned and did not find him anymore. Beside her there was no one, she was alone again in the night of Tarifa, on The Rock of Dreams. She stood up, with her legs trembling, and she went home in silence.
Was he really back? Was it just a dream? And if it was true, then who was he? Where he had been? Where did he go again? While these and other thousand of questions ran fast trough her mind, the wind caressed her hair and her cheek, and she was certain that the caress came from his invisible hand.
She smiled, and resumed her journey. Now she was feeling happy and confident as never before.

Author: Paolo Pagnotta