Hiking, a boom in female presences on social networks and on the trails

The stories of Italian women in a documentary that tells the beauty and courage to set out on a journey

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There is a network of women on the move who, backpacking, travel the length and breadth of Italy, often alone at other times in company and, step by step, find themselves, meet new people, experience freedom. How many women exactly decide to set out each year – for the sake of being in the midst of nature, for religious reasons or simply to find shape – do not know exactly as there is no official census. However, you just need to connect on Facebook to the Rete Nazionale Donne in Cammino page or to the group connected to it, Ragazze in gamba, to realize that there are so many women who want to get involved and walk along paths in Italy and abroad.

Ilaria Canali, anthropologist, walking expert and founder of the National Women on the Way Network, tells us about this phenomenon, who recently collected the experiences lived by her and many others in the documentary Il cammino è donna, presented at the latest edition of the Mònde Fest – Film Festival on the Paths in Monte Sant’Angelo, on the Gargano.

“I had the desire to tell the stories of many women who decide to set out so that they could inspire many others. My passion for cinema led me to converse with Annalisa Mentana, who looks after the communication of the Mònde Fest, and with the director Luciano Toriello who invited me to participate in this year’s edition. So I proposed to make a video contribution that would tell the world of walking from the point of view of women and that would reach as many people as possible, bringing a message of strength, courage and respect for nature “.

Ilaria Canali has always been a walker and activist in the world of environmental policies. He deals with slow mobility and ecology. In March 2019 she conceived the project of the Women on the Way Network which then turned into a very active Facebook page.

“Then the group of Smart Girls was also born – says Ilaria – which today has over 23,000 members. The group was born mainly to share walking experiences but also to exchange practical advice, for example, on the type of shoes or clothing to use or on the difficulty of the routes “.

In the group there are also men: “Their contribution is precious. If you want to aim for greater gender equality in Italy, the first thing is to make sure that there is an authentic and palpable example of inclusion and dialogue. The men present in our network listen, give advice and suggestions, propose excursions; their presence is useful and harmonious “.

The extraordinary capacity of the group to grow in such a short period of time makes us realize even more that the theme of the journey and sustainable tourism is now very much felt by people. The desire to experience the slow and sometimes introspective journey increased even more after the lockdown and the protagonists of this accelerated journey were precisely the women.

“There was an incredible boom – confirms Ilaria – which is undoubtedly explained by the desire for nature that exploded from May onwards and which prompted many women to set out, often alone. The journey for women also means recovering their autonomy, carving out time for themselves, putting themselves back at the center of their lives. It is also the freedom to live an experience as it feels in that moment. Often important choices are made along the way, self-esteem grows and you go home a little richer”.

The question that many ask Ilaria Canali is: is it safe for women to walk alone? “Yes, that’s for sure – he replies without hesitation – Also because in the paths, in the end, you are never really alone. There is a wonderful Italy where in reality women can walk safely: trusting others allows you to take the steps of your life with much more serenity. You then return home with the confidence of being able to manage your daily life, with an inner harmony that you did not have before”.