Riflessione sulla felicità

Mi avevano detto che dovevo essere felice. Che quello era il mio compito. La mia missione.
Ma non mi avevano detto che la felicità non era il punto di arrivo, ma il percorso.
Per me la felicità non è l’attimo di gioia, ma il viaggio.
La stessa differenza che intercorre tra dolore (acuto) e sofferenza (cronica).
La felicità non è il brivido estemporaneo, la felicità è piuttosto essere contenta.
La soddisfazione delle piccole cose che accadono ogni giorno, la riflessione sulle relazioni che piano piano crescono e maturano.
La felicità è una sensazione diffusa di benessere.

Diego Contento



November 2016.

Cuba touched my heart.

It enters straight in the top 10 of my best trip adventures.

It was the first time for me departing on my own with a group of unknown people. I have to say we were a cool group of people, well-matched, and our tour leader was a navigated traveler and this always makes the difference. If someone would ask me: things can go really bad or really well in a group like this, it depends on your attitude. If you are prepared to share space and time with people that might be very different from you, then you will get along. In the end it’s just for 2 weeks. Keep it relative.

We had a little bus and a local guide taking us around for 2 weeks.

Wherelse in the world can you stop on the highway (carretera central) and have mojito or a pina colada in a palm kiosk???

We slept in the casa particular almost everywhere and ate the food the restless ladies would cook for us for dinner and breakfast. It was fantastic to enter their houses and sometimes sleep in their own beds (you have to imagine that for a one night stay you pay an amount corresponding to an average month salary, so you can understand what a good deal this is).

I have been to other 3rd World countries before, but Cuba was different. In other places (Thailand for example) you slightly feel assaulted, you feel most of the time like a walking wallet, like a scam target. To the point of asking yourself if your presence there is really appreciated, if it actually does anything good for the people, for their economy, if it’s worth it, if it is not just the arrogant dream of the western man to go around the world and put a check on the map he has at home. (I do have a scratchmap myself by the way, just to keep it honest. And I do feel I want to see as many places as possible in my life… but sometimes I ask myself these questions.)

But Cuba is a peaceful place, and quite safe. We never felt in danger nor the people who asked us things bothered us or invaded our personal space. It is quite surprising though to realise that no one asks you for money directly, they actually can’t buy the things they wish because they don’t have them there. The shops look pretty sad. Shelfs and shelfs of the same 2 or 3 items.


shelves full of the same product

So, instead, they ask you for t-shirts, make-up, soap, shoes, candies… I think I have seen the highest level of happiness ever into the eyes of a kid to whom we gave some candies, it made me think of my niece at home and all the toys she has and still wants more, and a candy is just a candy to her – not a treasure.

I give you an example: at the end of the trip I wanted to throw away my worn out sandals but my host lady asked me to give them to her instead. Can you feel proud or generous about something that? I felt a bit ashamed to be honest. But the dignity and the pride of the Cuban people really impressed me. They are very creative and reinvent constantly objects because they cannot throw them away; they have the best mechanics capable of repairing 100 times these old fashion colorful cars. Once I was riding a taxi that had my age! Rolando the driver was amasing. He took us on a moskvich up to the Sierra Maestra all in first gear. It was magical.

Culturally also Cubans are quite rich: such a mix of different origins and traditions and genetics. Cubans are blond as well as dark, they are white as well as mulatto. They can be quite different one another, but they are all integrated. Maybe living on an island and under a special regime helps to create cohesion, so it seemed to me quite a positive example to look at nowadays. I admire the way the aboriginal tradition managed to survive in a mélange with the imposed Christianity creating unique religious forms. (You know the story of this old Italian lady whose niece discovered she has been praying for years to a statue of a Star Wars character that she was believing was Saint Antonio? Well a bit like that, it made me think it’s not the form that counts but the meaning you put in it. In the Cuban Santeria in order to worship secretly their Orishas (semi-god and goddess) the people used to pray to the Christian saints, in this way they managed to keep their own beliefs alive and not being caught.)

Before departing, I found some people reacting a bit weird when I mentioned I was going to Cuba. People like insinuating things and being malicious, but I understood that the same geographical place can hide multiple types of destinations. Cuba is a typical example of such a bias.

All my friends who have been there before me and have similar points of view, where really enthusiastic. Most of all I wanted to go there before everything started to change too much. Well, timing couldn’t have been better because Fidel died while I was in the middle of the tour (we’ll get back to that later)!

On the same plane there were people going to a resort to spend 2 weeks at the beach during the day and with free alcohol at night. Each day the same. But holidays like that could be everywhere on earth, no??? Why bothering to go far? Other people (old people) going to meet their local partner for a relationship that is consumed few months per year. The habitual customers. And then people like me, the modest adventurous travelers.

You might already know I have a thing for the places I like to call “fucked up”, i.d.: falling apart, decadent and shabby (like certain Eastern European cities). Cuba has this flair throughout. But Havana especially. Havana avenues for me could easily beat the glamorous Champs-Elysees, no joking. There are so many beautiful palaces with that colonial style that everywhere else has been knocked down to make space to modern stuff, but if they ‘d just receive a little attention and care… and then there are little hidden gems, like restaurants and bars inside certain buildings that at first sight you would bet they are closed for imminent collapse danger. It’s all there to discover.


The local mountain taxi – photo by Lucio P.

And then Fidel died. It was at the crack of dawn when we got up to depart for the tracking in the Sierra Maestra. And the rumor started spreading in the group as people from Italy were sending text messages about this epic event. We could not believe it, it was such a special day. We visited the camp site in the forest and got exhausted by the 6 hours trail. Unfortunately the downside of being part of Cuban history while it’s developing is that the atmosphere totally changed, they stopped playing music in the casa della musica of every town we visited, and also stopped serving alcohol in most of the places, including those for tourists. In any case you can choose only between 2 beer brands: Bucanero and Cristal, but still we were craving one of those at each dinner after long and hot days walking around or after 6 hours transfer on the bus.

sierra maestra

Sierra Maestra panorama

We bought the local newspaper as souvenir which was quite an adventure per itself, we watch the local TV which broadcasted with no pause all the events and all the interviews ever recorded on Fidel. We talked to the people and we felt their grief. Because despite all you can say to criticize this government, Fidel was one of the most important leaders of our century, a powerful symbol of a dated ideal. It’s not easy to judge what is good or bad. You have to see it with your eyes. You have to understand the value of freedom like we perceive it in our part of the world and that we give for granted most of the time. But really isn’t.

If I just can tell you one thing would be to take time to go see places like this in your life, where things work different than in our reality, because you come back with eyes wide open, you come back and you re-asses things, you re-weight your values. It’s like a mental reset to me.

Finally, the only few days at the beach for me were enough. The weather was mostly cloudy and windy – which is ok being during their winter, but not to really enjoying swimming or even sunbathing (occasionally raining).Don’t get me wrong, Caribbean sea is indeed wonderful and crystal clear. It all made me feel like I want to discover much more of Central America now. I hope it will inspire you too.

Oh, sorry, wait a minute, I was about to leave you without talking about food!!! I loved all the exotic fresh fruits and juices and things I never ate before like guayaba. We ate a lot of lobster as well, meals consist mainly of white or black rice with beans plus chicken or fish, some side dishes like platano chips, tapioca and yucca. Interesting fact: red meat is rare and quite expensive, reserved for tourists, because there is an actual law that forbid the population to kill cows.

Ok, You can go now.

Havana view terrace la Guarida


Camion con le tendine di pizzo.

Campi di girasole.

Non riesco a smettere di sorridere guardando il mondo da questo finestrino, il mio autista non parla inglese nè tantomeno io il turco, eppure abbiamo comunicato.

Palazzi in costruzione.

“Siamo in Turchia” dice buttanto il mozzicone dal finestrino (qui si fa cosi).

In questo preciso istante so perchè adoro viaggiare.

La stessa sensazione che si prova quando fai un tiro di sigaretta dopo molto tempo, ti fa girare la testa, un pochino.

L’energia che entra nei miei occhi ad ogni incontro con una cosa nuova.

Pensare in un modo diverso, e che le cose si fanno anche in un modo diverso.

Un tramonto.

Il mare alla fine di una strada in discesa.

Se ci pensi questo in fondo é lo stesso mare, solo da un lato diverso.

Un matrimonio con 500 invitati.

Eppure la sensazione di festa ha lo stesso sapore in ogni posto, celebrata con ogni ballo, pronunciata in un SI declinato in tante lingue.

Si adesso me lo ricordo perchè mi piace viaggiare.

Un nuovo aeroporto, una nuova valigia.

Una storia d’amore con una nuova città.

La luna piena sopra le nostre teste, esattamente sopra il mare.

Fumo denso, dal sapore di mela e menta ci avvolge.

Luci di navi in lontananza.

Henning’s theory

Money, Physical condition and Time are the three variables of this theory which really explains the course of the life of the modern human being. I am not going to waste time and will simply expalin the theory which speaks for itself:

  • When you have time and physical condition as a young individual, you have no money.
  • When you have money and physical condition as an adult, you have no time.
  • When you have money and time in your mature age, you have no more the best physical condition.

This axiom is so true for everyone who has a deep deisre to travel the world and go globetrotting from time to time… so what’s the sense of life then? Where are we all rushing to?

For me entering the worklife was a sort of release and i enjoyed not to study anymore. I enjoy in particular not to feel a constand underground pressure which accompanied my university years. I could do many things indeed but in the back of my mind I was always thinking about the exams to come. If i mange to exit the office at 5 pm nowadays, I just breath deeply and think: now it’s my time, what am I going to do now? I really leave all the worries behind, but I have to cope with the fact that this time is too short. On the other hand, it is also true that if you manage to go away even just from friday to sunday, the weekend magically has a flexion and appears to last sooooo much longer! I keep thinking about these things in these days: I look back and I am so happy I took the decision to quit Lucerne, I am so happy I had the courage to go travelling for 2 months. I defenetly will start planning my weekends ahead for this wonderful spring and go visit my friends scattered all over Europe.

WARNING this theory is unfotunately not universally valid, because for example, if you are a young italian you can find that at the end, at the time of your pension, you are still missing all the 3 variables at one time!!! So handle with care.

All rghts reserved to my friend Henning.


Budapest- 3 days. the alarm rings at 5AM, the lake is beautiful and shines in the rising sunlight. I go with my small trolley polly. I am an advanced traveller already: check in on line and miles on more in my wallet. I sit next to a rich Pakistan man who lives in Dubai (here i think is already the destiny who is calling me, this is a certain sign of my future plans coming to life) and a swiss-hungarian woman. As it happened regularly on the train, he starts spying in the papers I am reading: my negotiation notes. I feel good, a bit excited for my first business trip totally alone. in the end he obviously wants to talk: he tells me about his daughter who lives in switzerland, he asks me about my life and he invites me to Dubai. Can this be a coincidence? Well just two months later this episode I will go to Dubai for real… He also offers me ajob saying that with my master my first salary in Dubai will be around 5000 USD a month. Should I send him my resume?! I eat fornetti in the subway station, I discovered fornetti for the first time in Croatia, summer 2007. I ask always a mix of them and I love picking them up and discover what’s inside, one by one, sweet and salted. i get lost and I am late for my second meeting: I take a cab.

a view of the danube and the parliament

In these moments I always feel exactly like Carrie in sex and the city! The funny thing is that when I ask for directions in a bar where no one speaks english, i find my self in the street instead of in the square with the same name. Anyway this old man, could be my grandpa, says he wants to drive me there. For one second i start thinking that actually also

when i get on taxi there is no real way i can assume i am gonna be safer, and that the driver won’t take me soemwhere unknown… but anyway I decide to be careful even if my heart always shakes a bit whenever I see a grandpa. I miss mine too much. In fact I want to adopt one sooner or later. I visit 4 hotels in a row and I feel so good for my longest business performance ever! Then it rains, suddenly. I go to a laser show in the evening, sounds cool, but is actually pretty poor, I kind of fal asleep, but enjoy also the things that go wrong.

Part of the journey -I say. Finally at 22.00 I sit in a super nice restaurant outside on a small table. I am alone. and waiter gives me this short look of compassion. The food is gourgeous, there is a spiced indian carrot and corn soup just delicious, with some fried carrots in julienne on top. Tenderlion beef with vegetables as main course. Eastern EU is so cheap. I think about going to the hairdresser and maybe do some esthetic treatments.

Since I have to stay here all alone, at least i try to make the best out of it. This morning on my flight I thought that if I would be a hostess -which was one of my childhood dreams, besides becoming an english teacher-  I would give to my first passenger of the day a big responsability in influencing my working mood. So I decide to smile convincly to mine, since this is the first morning flight and i am her first passenger. She smiles back, just a second more than necessary: maybe we understand each other. On the second day I end up in a strange area of the city eating at the restaurant chain Thanks God it’s Friday: fried mac and cheese I could not believe something like that existed.

My alfredo noodles are just too much after my visit to the oldest thermal bath of town. My local agent takes me to the marvellous strudel factory, no need to tell you how gourgeous the strudel is. But what is curious is actually the sour cherry soup that I order as main dish!

the thermal baths

The Hungarian parliament is the third biggest parliament in the world, because of course it was meant to serve the whole Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time. It was build super modern with a system of heating and air conditioning. There St. Stephen stands in the form of a statue in the central hall, embracing the krown, as the very first King of Hungary. Trattoria Venezia cuddles me a bit with some nice italian food before flying back home. It is the end of july 2010. And I do a little step forward in direction of me as a woman (business woman).

Attraversiamo – eat pray love

Maybe just because i am in this mood, and I just quit my job for real, and for real I am going travelling to Asia, I simply loved this movie. Maybe, yes, but also because besides the romance and the pictoresque images of this american movie, I recognized myself, and all the time that a story is able to open a door in my head I can’t avoid to love it.

“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead. That way, you will know God.”

At the beginnng of the movie Liz opens up her box with all her dreams and wishes about travelling and journeys and she takes the courage to go, leave, break everything she had known before. She wrote a piece about her past (unhappy) love experience called “permeable membrane” and i got immediately touched by it:
“If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will protect upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.”

the movie

This is the journey we have in front, all of us, nowadays. When love is not imposed by our parents in our consumists societies (pretty different from the destiny of the indian friend of Liz, who has to get married at 17 with someone she does not know at all, and she just can figure out after how to live with it and find happiness)  and we pass from one boyfriend to another like changing pair of jeans. If it doesn’t work we just go for a new one, commitment lost his real sense, maybe is just too difficult, maybe is just not possible anymore with the lives we live now in the western world. We are surrounded and overwhealmed by opportunities and freedom, so we are paralized. And is not like we do not love, or we do not feel. We do throw ourselves into these stories, but we do it so much, so eager to believe that romance and happy ending still exist, that we just consume and burn them all, too fast. So we turn to the next one, and so we grow. We go underneath new layers of our personalities. And so the real journey begins.

“The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.”

Eat is fot IT= ITALY. I see the movie and I am proud of my country, like I have never been anymore since quite some time… I like the way she -purely New Yorker woman-  digs into our typical italian stereoptypes: pasta e salsiccia, cute little streets, non verbal communication (the italians can tell stories just with gestures and no single words!) and big monuments, pieces of art and pieces of our imponent roman past. The Augustinean Mausoleo in Rome is the twist in the tale: Elizabeth understands that ruin is precious, because only after fall we can build up again, we can change ourselves and adapt; decadence is the basis for development, adaptation, discovery. I totally feel like this, I enjoy every single moment I suffered in my life, i put my both hands into the mud to shape a new me again, every time I needed to. And I am a warrior, because the key is: no matter how much you suffer, you have to keep going and you will born new, sooner or later. Nothing is everlasting in life. neither love, neither pain.

In India Elizabeth explores her spiritual dimension, when she does not know how to meditate, she starts dedicating her prayers to her friend, she starts to imagine her happy… and then she suddenly realizes that praying and meditating is exactly just about that, rather than a pure contemplative exercise. Each of us has to find his own temple in his own life, in his own simple house, among his simple everyday gestures, just within himself. “God dwells within you, as you.”

“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”

And finally she finds peace and balance: “not too much God – not too much selfishness”. But as the guru says: “To lose balance sometimes for love is part of living a balanced life.”.  I say: Oh MY God, seriously, am I just too much in this cheesy mood?! But i do seriously think that is exactly what i have been through in the last year and a half, since i moved to Switzerland. I came here to collect pieces of myself and forgive myself, forgive him- most of all- too, because he left me-us without giving me the chance to fix our love. And so I finally did: i recovered, but i was always so cinical towards men for long time. Then a new HE finally came into my life, and of course we were both freaking scared. He just took my hand and convinced me, that to be happy again there is no other way than trying again, no other possibility than trust again, in order to love. I opened up like a blossom in spring in his delicate embrace. And now I am finally so deeply happy. I discovered new things about myself just because I gave him the chance to look them up inside me. I lost bad habits and change some attitudes I did not like, because I observed my image reflected in the other person. I just accepted our love like something indeniably present and consistent between the two of us, day after day, and it happened than it grew, we fed it. Because i just did let things go, finally, and this made new things possible again, this made good things real. (Thanks Diego. I’ll be for ever grateful to you for teaching me again how to open my heart and let love flow through it.)

“This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something. ”

the book

Of course this movie made me cry. I just could not help it anymore, when Elizabeth thinks about her past love and the pain she caused him, but also the happiness they shared. It has been real for a while. And they dance together: dance as a form of reconciliation before final separation…

Now I look back and I look forward. I can’t wait now to leave for my 52-days-journey by your side. I can’t wait to see you and wonder about things with you and be curious, and feel that we are making something good out of our small lives.

Besides all of this being emotional, I got seriously hungry now. I got nostalgic for my country when i saw her eating all those spaghetti, pizza margerita, gelato and antipasti pored with some good red wine. This movie is also a celebration of my culture and of my proud roots. She says she is having a relationship with her pizza, well if I could I would cheat on you with one of those real napolitan gorgeous pizzas right now… and I know you would do the same! What is also cool is that she talks about all this food and the acceptance of her body that comes with the pleasure of it. She just wants to enjoy it in a healthy way and forget about diets! Apparently americans can’t enjoy, even when they go on holidays they do not know how to relax. So Liz she defenetly learns the dolce far niente in my country.

When they are in Italy they all play a game, trying to find susbstutive words to describe and call things: like New York = ambitious, Stockholm = conformist, Rome= yeah well… sex! And so on. Liz she is still searching for her own word, she is a writer, just like the one i want to be! And at the end of the movie she finally finds it: the word is ATTRAVERSIAMO = let’s cross over. A word that -she says- embeds all the beautiful charachteristics of the italian language: the open sound A, the rolling R, the sweetening S. And well, I am exactly going to cross over soon, I will cross the ocean to meet you. Andiamo, together, attraversiamo.

good night

(original quotes from the book of Elizabeth Gilbert, 2006)

2009/2010 con Erodoto

« Questa è l’esposizione della ricerca di Erodoto di Alicarnasso, perché gli eventi umani non svaniscano con il tempo e le imprese grandi e meravigliose, compiute sia dai Greci che dai barbari, non diventino prive di gloria; in particolare egli ricerca per quale ragione essi combatterono tra di loro. »

Molecole di formaggio si spargono nel vagone del treno, perchè i formaggi svizzeri sono buoni ma tutt’altro che discreti. Del resto la maggior parte di quelli che noi crediamo essere sapori, quando mangiamo, sono in realtà odori. Gli svizzeri sportivi e organizzati, quelli del weekend in montagna, in bici, al lago, tornano in treno con la sportina di pane formaggio e wurst… L’altra cosa buffa dei treni è quando il tuo vicino sta leggendo un giornale, è più forte di me, mi metto a leggere anche io pezzi di articoli che spuntano, al contrario e di fretta prima che la pagina venga girata. E si raccolgono mille diverse reazioni: da quelli stizziti che sbuffano e ti nascondono il foglio a quelli simpatici che te lo offrono o ti chiedono se hai finito prima di girare. Ma scusa, come se leggendolo pure io te lo rovinassi con lo sguardo. E poi il giornale è un mezzo di informazione pubblico, neanche ti stessi leggendo nel computer. Mi piacciono quelli che scrivono lettere in treno, perchè io lo faccio sempre! Alcuni veramente si mettono a guardare il film che guardi tu sul tuo schermo. E non fanno neanche finta. Ho allenato la mia capacità alla pazienza e alla tolleranza dei caratteri e delle personalità dissimili grazie al mio collega x. Andiamo in Germania insieme. E lui parla, parla, parla… A parte il vocione possente che mi stordiva ogni mattina, e l’odore dei piedi liberati dalle scarpe sotto la scrivania (ricorda il formaggio svizzero!) c’è poi quel modo di fare super macio… ma gli voglio bene. Il tutto accadde nel 2009/2010. L’anno in cu ho viaggiato di più nella mia vita.

i crossed this corridor for 20 months

Mi sentivo spesso come il primo giornalista della storia: l’Erodoto descritto da Kapuszynski alla scoperta delle popolazioni europee con le loro stranezze e abitudini. Erodoto classificava, raccoglieva, studiava, pensava, commentava, osservava. I tedeschi sono così, gli austriaci colà; i polacchi invece… Ma senza pregiudizi di sorta, solo come un libero esercizio di racconto della mia esperienza, mi sono messa anche io a fare spesso come Erodoto: dal confronto ho imparato tanto. Erodoto viaggiava e descriveva i barbari e le guerre. In tutto ciò la mia vita ha subito una brusca accelerata nell’ultimo anno e mi sono diventati insopportabili i ritmi pigri e statici. Qunado torno a casa a trovare i vecchi amici mi sembra di aprire un vecchio cassetto polveroso. Ah guarda! mi ero dimenticata, è tutto uguale. Ma non è che io vada in giro a dar sfoggio di chissà quali avventure, ma dopo un po’ non c’è più molto da dirsi, perche le nostre vite hanno preso strade opposte. Un po’ soffro sempre della sindrome dell’abbandono, ed è reciproco, perche qui tutti al contrario pensano che sia io che li ho abbandonati. Ma alla fine come si fa, perchè deve essere solo colpa e responsabilità unica di chi se ne va? Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Budapest, Krakow, Berlino, Londra, Parigi, Varsavia, Rothenburg, Koeln, New York e Boston… e poi da capo!!!

« Poiché, se si proponesse a tutti gli uomini di fare una scelta fra le varie tradizioni e li si invitasse a scegliersi le più belle, ciascuno, dopo opportuna riflessione, preferirebbe quelle del suo paese: tanto a ciascuno sembrano di gran lunga migliori le proprie costumanze. »

(Erodoto, Storie – libro III, 38)