Petrarch, the great Italian Renaissance author considered the precursor of humanism and the most important and influential of modern European poets, is also credited with being the first to write a travel book, in fact a long letter to a friend telling him about his ascent of the Provençal Mont Ventoux, now famous in the world of cycling, which has in it one of its toughest stages…
Petrarch’s account of the ascent to its summit, which he wrote with his brother Gherardo, is considered the first contemplative text in European literature, since, apart from the fact that Petrarch wanted to imitate the famous ascent to Mount Hemo of King Philip of Macedon to contemplate from it the Pontus and Adriatic Seas, as recounted by the historian Titus Livy, and that he was moved by a religious intention (Petrarch carried with him the Confessions of St. Augustine and continually compares the feelings of the latter with his own in their respective mystical ascents), what really drove him to climb Mont Ventoux was to contemplate the landscape from up there. In his own confession, he climbed the mountain “because it was there”.
Many centuries later, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Marquis of Villaviciosa, a pioneer of Spanish mountaineering, still tells how hard it was to convince the shepherd Gregorio Pérez, alias “El Cainejo”, to guide him to the summit of Pico Urriellu (the popular Naranjo de Bulnes), in the Picos de Europa, because man did not understand that someone wanted to climb the mountain without a specific reason, just for the pleasure of climbing, but today we all accept that the contemplation of the landscape is as valid a reason to climb a mountain or look out over a beach or a cliff to see the sea as any other. Contemplating is already part of our culture and we dedicate a large part of our time to it without considering it a waste of time, on the contrary. To contemplate a landscape, whatever it is, is something so pleasant and so enriching that any justification is superfluous, there are even those who consider it a right that should be recognized by law, especially when it is continually interrupted by others or its contemplation is hindered by those who consider that everything must be filled with noise, because the world without it makes no sense.
Now many begin their vacations and will once again feel the need for the sensual and spiritual pleasure that comes from the simple contemplation of the landscape and the aesthetic perception of nature, as well as the time at our disposal. May they be able to walk, like Petrarch, “with the soul that path for which I sigh day and night, as, having overcome the difficulties, I have walked with the feet of the body the path of today”. Contemplation is an art that requires, apart from willingness, a wisdom that is not acquired from one day to the next and that needs time, that time that we waste so much during the year going from one place to another and that now opens before us like a blank page full of light and sunshine. Filling it with our thoughts is the best gift we can give ourselves and the world to which we belong. Even if some people think we are wasting our time.