Roman tales: RUN, BABY, RUN

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2024 21:29

Roman tales: RUN, BABY, RUN

By Jerina Zaloshnja

Will you come running with “Camminata Tonificante” group, through Rome, this Tuesday? - Sabrina asked me.

Sure, - I said, knowing that if I didn’t go with her, my Tuesday would not feel terribly different from most others, where for hours on end I might end up nestled on the couch, next to my laptop, safe in that routine, and certainly not pouring over a good book.  The “running” thoughts that dart across your mind when you’re sitting in front of a computer screen combing the internet are not enough to fulfil the spirit, nor the body. After all, if something is running it’s a given that legs start moving.

An hour's drive later, laden with the characteristic chaos and traffic jams of Rome, we somehow arrive at Gianicolo, one of the seven hills of Rome, at exactly 19:30. The view from Belvedere del Gianicolo captures the spirit of the city, as well as any art piece from the 1800’s would. Then, five steps from Garibaldi’s statue, at the top of the hill, we meet Francesco, who will guide the “Camminata Tonificante” session for our group of 20. With a pair of headphones at hand, through which at times it was Francesco’s voice that would pour in and out, and at others his carefully curated music, we began our two hour run through the streets of Rome.

We leave behind Bambino Gesú hospital; make our way through San Pietro square, with few tourists abound, as is normally the case for these late hours; we traverse Via della Conciliazione and finally reach the walls of Castel Sant’Angelo. We stick to the walls like ants in a colony, one after the other, just as Francesco instructs us through his microphone. At the bridge in front of us, some tourist are excitedly taking pictures and laughing. Other stare with fascination and a tinge of bewilderment. In Francesco’s group, you stroll at times and run at others. This was the rhythm of our little colony as we made our way around Via della Conciliazione time and time again, all the while waving our arms and taking in the fresh air of San Pietro square. The more we walk, or run, the more laboured our breathing becomes, and the more our thoughts drift away. It’s peaceful. Nightfall closes in and drowns out the remaining sound of cars roaming the streets: the air is lighter, cleaner; the mossy walls take more of the ancient city. It’s quiet. The city is withdrawing. 

How come? What time is it? 

It’s still early. But Rome has retreated. The clockwork around the city, hanging next to the lamp posts stands still, lagging behind the timepieces of the “Camminata Tonificante” group. It looks like the eternal city does not bother with time, and neither do its residents, they are not beholden to it. The timeless architecture draws you in. And with the generous sun beaming down, it’s all too difficult to keep your eyes on the clock when living a Roman life. There’s locals that leisurely stroll the cobblestone streets, sit down for an aperitif, a long lunch, dinner “cena” or even a “dopocena”, after dinner. But on the other hand, there are also romans, like those from our little group, that look at the clock intently, that arrive at Gianicolo at 19:30 exactly, and that choose to Run.

In the end, the two-hour trail that our little group walked under the direction of Dr. Francesco Castiglione, was no more than six to seven kilometers. The impact that it had on me on the other hand was truly special. An organized passage through the varied alleys of Rome soothes the body and the mind, and serves as a way to appreciate the city differently. Just as tourists see the beautiful city of Rome in a different light each time they have the good fortune to visit it, so too can the romans discover its beauty as the late hours pour in, by opting for a run in place of that oh-so familiar aperitif.

So who was it that created “Camminata Tonificante”?

Three years ago, when the pandemic took over the world and our faithful gyms were closing off, Dr. Francesco Castiglione, a roman through and through from Aurelia, a professor of exercise science and physical education in two different universities, decided not to give in to the stark reality that the pandemic brought. Instead, as an alternative to training with a group of volleyball enthusiasts, Dr. Castiglione started his first nightly running session through Rome. He invested not only his time, but also his resources into securing the headsets and microphones, needed to safely conduct his class during the pandemic. The “Camminata Tonificante” website, which is a part of the “Sport Project” association where Dr. Castiglione is president, served its purpose and classes started taking off. People were taking note and, for the last three years, over 70 people are taking part in the twice, or even three times weekly running expeditions on the streets of Rome. 

The week after this one, the “Camminata Tonificante” group will conquer yet another track; they will descend Gianicolo and make their way to Trastevere. Trastevere stands for “across the Tiber (river)”, and participants will make their run alongside the third longest river in Italy. From there Francesco leads the group past tiberina island to the Via dei Fori Imperiali, Piazza Venezia, the Colosseum and finally back to Gianicolo.

What about the Tuesday after that? - I asked.

Francesco comes back with the very appropriate. - “Who knows? There’s no end to Rome”.

What I know now for certain is that you can’t stay frozen in place; you need to get out and get going. The city too cannot stay frozen in place. It needs to run and get going.

Run, baby, run!

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times March 15, 2024 21:29