After the travels in South America that I detailed in my last articles, I headed back to Europe to continue my wanderjhar in Italy.  Since I only had a month in Italy, I was able to cover nearly the same geographic span as in Brazil, but did get to work with 3 organizations of particular note.

My adventures started in Milan, where I spent 2 weeks training with Laurent Piemontesi in his adopted city.  Training with Laurent is always a “special” experience, something that I had known from early on as my very first parkour training sessions were with him during a visit to France in 2009.  I spent most of my time in Milan shadowing Laurent’s daily routine and trying to absorb as much of his thinking and thoughts on parkour/l’art du d├ęplacement as possible.  Compared to the training that I had been doing in South America, Laurent’s training was hard in a mind-numbing and blister-causing way, but in the sort of way that leaves one stronger after completion, both mentally and physically (and builds character of course).  Getting up each morning to be greeted by a 2-hour block of quadrapedal movement is certainly grueling after a few days, despite the fact that he is in his mid-thirties, Laurent’s training is by far some of the most physically demanding that I’ve encountered on the trip.  A typical day while I was there would usually start with a 2-hour quadrapedal movement session followed by an hour or two of more dynamic movement before heading back to the apartment to do a quick handstand session before lunch.  This was followed by an afternoon siesta and stretching and then the 8km run to the Formainarte facility (more about Formainarte later).  There Laurent would teach anywhere from 2-3 classes after which he would run or take the metro home (running home was optional, depending on how spritely he was feeling).  Repeat 6 days per week…  While I survived the first day fine, I found that the next morning my body was much more reluctant to participate, a feeling that persisted for a few days afterwards as adjusted to the volume of training.  However, after two weeks of training with Laurent, I now know that I can push my training even farther and have a new perspective of a “hard day’s training”.

The Formainarte facility where Laurent teaches classes was opened in October 2010 and features a very cool twist on the idea of a “parkour training space”.  The facility is based in a beautifully converted warehouse and functions both as a dance studio and as a parkour training facility.  While this definitely leads to a different atmosphere than in many of the other training environments that I’ve seen, it also lends itself to the exploration of new styles of movement.  The parkour classes offered at Formainarte cater to a wide variety of students, and include classes for children, adolescents, adults, and even ones specifically for dancers.  One thing that really stood out to me was how Laurent had managed to create a “team” or “family” connection among the participants in the classes, something that I hadn’t seen many classes do, and which is so fundamental to the philosophy of parkour/ADD shared by the founders.

After Milan I took the train to Rome, where I met up with Chris, Alli, and Forrest for a biannual event hosted by ECCE parkour features workshops run by PkGen instructors amid the splendid setting of Rome’s architecture.  Since I still had a few more supervised teaching hours to finish up on my ADAPT certification I volunteered to help out at the event.  The event went really well and the participants seemed to enjoy training with the PKG guys.  In order to get to know the Italian traceurs better, I stayed with a number of the other guys from out of town in the basement of a church that had volunteered to host travelers during the event.  While far from the most comfortable living conditions, being locked in a windowless and crypt-like church basement each night definitely helped the bonding process.

The event itself was very well run and like the Italian train system, defied all preconceptions I had about Italian efficiency and orderliness.  Not only had the organizers found a great spot to train that was located just below the pope’s window and the watchful lenses of Vatican security cameras by the outer walls of the holy city, but they had also set up scaffolding to train on, and offered discounted lunches and lodgings for the participants coming from farther afield. 

During the event I was struck by the stark contrast between the training program I had just witnessed with Laurent and those of many of the other Italian traceurs.  While both resulted in a very high level of parkour, most of the basic warm-up exercises that are routine in Parkour Generations classes had many of the Italian traceurs crawling to the sidelines with muscle cramps and heaving chests.  After a bit of tinkering with the conditioning levels, we found a happy medium that seemed to suit the general group, but it did set to me thinking about how much the values and emphasis of the sport differ between groups, even when they are within the same city or country.

After doing a bit of sightseeing in Rome in the days following the event I headed to the town of Schio, a short train ride from Vincenza, to check out some of the work being done by the KRAP Assc.  I should note that the members of KRAP are entirely aware of the English meaning of their group’s name, and their response to my queries about the rationale behind it usually began with a devilish grin.  The KRAP Assc. is an “amatueur sports as

sociation” that was created to give youth in the area the opportunity to practice various freestyle sports in a safe and constructive environment that emphasizes the values at the core of most of these activities.  Membership in the association provides insurance coverage for a number of sports, including parkour/freerunning, skateboarding, skating, biking, snowboarding, and juggling.  It also allows access to the KRAP facility, called the Krapanonne, which opened in 2010. 

This facility, located in a huge renovated warehouse, includes one of the best parkour training environments that I’ve encountered on the trip, as well as training spaces for the other disciplines, a reception area with a viewing platform and mini-kitchen, a dance studio, a fully equipped media lab, and workshop from which all sorts of cool stuff appears on a daily basis. 

 KRAP’s activities aren’t limited to the Krapanonne, as they offer weekly classes in the various disciplines to the youth of Schio, and have already started doing classes for various schools in the area.  The group also hosts a variety of events, most notably their annual “KRAP Invaders” tour, which features the “invasion” of an Italian city for the day by an “army” of traceurs that moves from spot to spot.  The 2010 and 2011 events were extremely popular and featured guest traceurs from all over Europe.  For more information and some great footage of the past events, check out the site HERE.

The thing that impressed me most about this organization was that from its creation to the everyday management, everything has been done by a group of young people that, out of context, one wouldn’t necessarily expect to be so organized or impassioned.  Through our conversations during my visit I learned just how much of a learning experience that the whole process has been, and was blown away by the organization, planning, and forethought that had gone into it, and also by the massive quantities of grunt work, paperwork, and bureaucracy that had been done to achieve it.  For me this was not only testament to the benefits of parkour and other activities in terms of getting people motivated and working hard for something that they were passionate about, but it also opened up a world of opportunities with collaborations between parkour and other sports.

My visit in Schio was limited by my tight schedule and all too soon I was back on the train heading to Venice, where I would spend a few hours mulling over my time in Italy before flying to Copenhagen for the next stage of my journey.  While I had only seen parkour in 3 Italian cities, I was really impressed by what I had witnessed and am anxious to go back to see more of this wonderful country.