April 30, 2016

Italian Getaway

Series of unforeseen experiences within a long weekend filled with great people and locations.

About five weeks ago, a friend told me that there's a slackline meeting in Milan, Italy, later in April. So I checked my calendar and booked flights the following minute. It looked brilliant: meeting my friends, making new ones, and walking on tightropes in lovely Italy. However, just a day after this, I was walking across about 45m (145ft) long slackline in a park, and a few hours of fun later, something went wrong, and I fell in a fashion that broke my knee.

Right. But it wouldn't be me to let some injury to take away all the fun from me. I didn't cancel the booking, and about a month later, I was on my way to the airport. I arrived in time, and because of my knee, they put me in the priority security lane. Sure, it took some 15 minutes before they were done checking whether my knee brace contains a machine gun or not, but I didn't have to wait in any queue, which counts!
When I got to the gate, the boarding was already in process. There was a long row of passengers waiting to get on board, so I just sat down and let them go first. No rush, I put my feet up and enjoyed the day. This carried all the way to Italy, as when I got into the plane where they let me have a whole row of seats for myself.

"fasten your seatbelt and put your feet up"

"fasten your seatbelt and put your knee comfy"

Now, that's what they did during a tad awkward flight I had two weeks ago; however, they insisted on keeping all armrests down and my leg crammed under a seat. Not this time...

Milan is just south of Alps, and since the sky was clear, I had some sweet views on my way.
Coming from London, a city just 35m (115ft) above the sea level, one can easily forget that it's still skiing season at some places.


When I landed at Bergamo airport, I met with my friends from Czechia, and together we entered Milan.

Which tube? Red. Wait. Green.

Once in the city, we went to see the slackline meeting organizer, who greeted us with a tasty supper and was kind to let us stay at his place. What a nice guy! It was already evening when we got into Milan, so the only other thing we did was a trip to a supermarket. It had a tremendous selection of pasta, cheese, bread, and wine. Basically, that was all we needed for the next few days.

The following two days we spent in the Parco di Trenno, where the meeting took place.


In the park, we helped to set up some lines for the festival..


...and once the lines were rigged and tested..

..the place was ready to welcome the slackline community.

registration booth

registration booth

In a short time, the park was full of people enjoying the meeting.

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It was cool to chat with the community, but I couldn't just sit there watching all the people around having a blast tightrope walking.italy (12)

Since I also paid the registration fee, I thought that I might as well make the most of it. I tighten the knee brace, and carefully I step on a beginners' line. It was under 10m long meters long, and only some 1-2 feet above the ground, so it was ideal. Still, keeping the  balance without being able to use one knee, was challenging, but I ended up crossing it. Moreover, I managed a few turnarounds at its end and got to sit on some longer lines, too.


Not sure about a doctors' opinion about this early-stage rehabilitation, but it made me happy a lot.

It turned out I wasn't the only disabled member attending the meeting; another person had a couple broken ribs from a climbing accident. She told me that there's a hot air balloon festival in Monza, a city north of Milan. I've never been on such a gathering, and my friends who have attended a similar event in Albuquerque said only good things about it. The idea of a balloon ride with views on the majestic mountains on one side and a metropolitan area of over eight million people on the other, I decided to join her and her friend for a trip there tomorrow.

A major part of the meeting was a trickline competition, where those for who just walking isn't exciting enough perform various craziness like jumps and such on a 2-inch wide, 20m or-so long strap. Great stuff to watch!

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Mind you, just flying around.

Lukas Huber

After the finals, there was another trick competition, but on thinner and much longer lines.

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Sirio, the brain of the meeting, explains the rules for the competition. He then joined it as well.

It was even a better show than the earlier one.

Samuel Volery

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As the competitions ended, we had a picnic and joined an evening program nearby.

It included a concert and projection of some slackline movies later. Meanwhile, a massive storm came by, so we had to wait for it to weaken a bit. No worries thought, there was, umm, more culture to be enjoyed.

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After the storm, we went to a campsite located 15-20 minutes away from the festival by car, just outside the Milan's city limits, where we built a tent and had fun until late hours.

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Since the tent my friends brought was for three persons only and I didn't have my own, I slept on a bench outside, right next to a fireplace. It was all right.
The next morning I needed to get back to the city, where I was to meet my new friends in a train station before going to Monza together. I planned to catch a bus, but thought to try to hitchhike first; I got a car in less than a minute. The driver didn't speak English at all, but he understood the festival park's name and nodded in agreement. "Yey!" I thought and got in. Just after a few minutes later, he pointed to a restaurant next to the road and said a sentence that included "coffee." I had some concerns about whether I'd be able to reach the station in time, but on the other hand.. "sure thing.. I mean.. si, si!" I said as I had to agree that his plan on how to start a day was pretty good. So we stopped for a delicious coffee and a croissant.

In the park, the people were just starting with acro yoga workshops.

italy (36)I told them many grazie for their friendliness and begun my walk towards the tube. There, I realized that I'm actually a few minutes ahead of schedule, so I went to see the San Siro stadium, a football temple built in 1926, with a capacity exceeding 80,000 people. What an amazing structure!
san siro

In a bit, I entered the tube, and soon I met my new friends and boarded a train to Monza.

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The city welcomed us with lovely weather, people, and buildings.

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..But there were no balloons in the air. In the park where the event should be, we found out that it's cancelled due to the high winds.

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Oh well. We enjoyed the day regardless.

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Once back in Milan, we strolled through the business district Porta Nuova.

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Just as the day before, big storm clouds arrived. But it didn’t rain this time; instead, it made a neat background to the buildings around.

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Good times persisted when we had dinner later. That night I spent in a former monastery in downtown, where I planned to take a walk the next morning before my flight back home. And that's what I did.

duomo di milano

The Milan's duomo, the third largest church on the planet.

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Torre Velasca, interesting building from the late '50s. Its top-heavy shape inspired many others, such as 1101 Walnut in Kansas City and 707 17th in Denver.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping mall that opened in 1877.

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Roman ruins

The time went rather quickly, and soon I had to depart for the airport. On the way there, I was lucky to meet another friendly person to chat with, so it seemed like no time and I was boarding a plane.


What a weekend. Trips like this remind me how beautiful the world is, and that injuries won't change that.

If you liked this post, you might enjoy my previous articles about slacklines. If you’d like to stay in touch for the upcoming posts, follow me on Facebook or Twitter. And if you know someone who might enjoy this as well, consider sharing. Thanks for reading.

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories