I was surrounded by strong women every day of my life.

The simple act of reading allowed me to get to know some of them. When I was a child, books were my most trusted companions: nothing changed when, years later, I turned into an adult. Anyone who knows me is perfectly familiar with the notion that my suitcase is always struggling under the weight of the outrageously heavy tomes I usually carry around ?I do not mind at all if there is not enough space for clothes and survival items in my bag, after spending some hours at the bookstore. It is a never-ending story, as my best friend would put it. In my younger years I enjoyed greatly those long afternoons I spent getting acquainted with the heroines that populated my novels. There was Fulvia, the beautiful high-society girl with tempting hazel eyes, with whom Milton, a lonely and ugly fighter of the Italian resistance movement during WWII, is desperately in love. Fulvia, though, falls in love with his strikingly good-looking and rich best friend, leading Milton to madness and a tragic fate. Then there were Anne Shirley, the lively orphan girl of Green Gables, with her freckles and red hair, and Madicken, the brave and imaginative child, who lives in the wild and adventurous Swedish countryside and whose name in the Italian translation of the books is rendered with mine, ?Martina?. I do not know why I chose these heroines among the many I read about. Maybe it is simply because the books featuring them ?Una questione privata by Beppe Fenoglio, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Madicken by Astrid Lindgren? are still kept with great love and care on my bookshelves. These fictional heroines were the companions of my childhood: they were so real to me that I used to talk with them in my head.

I also met other remarkable and valiant women in person, when our paths crossed in real life. My mother, sweet, indispensable and stubborn; my aunt Alba, who, like the dawn, accompanies me every single day; Sonja, my best friend, with her blue hair and sharp aversion to housework; and many more. In one another we found a travelling companion, be it for life or only for a part of the journey. Travelling together, however, is not always easy, and especially so when you are doing it with strong, opinionated women. Sometimes, it is simply impossible to keep going, because our very persistent and defined characters are bound to collide. Sometimes, the destination of our journeys is not the same. And when this occurs, we have to find another travelling companion and keep going. However, we must not forget, but rather cherish, those, who shared our personal journey with us before.

When I met Gloria, five years ago, I knew with utmost certainty that she was going to be one of the remarkable women of my life and that she was going to share with me part of my journey. What I did not imagine was that her friendship, her affectionate presence, and her astonishing strength were going to accompany me way longer than the two weeks we spent together in Ireland, where we got to know each other. As it turned out, they were going to stay with me until this very day, at the beginning of 2019. On top of that, in Gloria I discovered an exceptionally supportive travelling companion: she always has my back, be it when we are hiking in the deep canyons of the Wadi Mujib, diving into the river that flows up to the Dead Sea, or when we are about to explore the wild and rough district of Connemara. And this is what really matters to me, at the end of the day: to be privileged enough to have a good and trusted friend, who is supporting and looking after me in every single situation, whether in life or during one of our adventures all around the world.

Who are your most faithful and valiant travelling companions, real or fictional?

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