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La Via di Francesco | La storia di Simone e PiccolAccoglienza Gubbio

Story of Simone and Gubbio's Small Welcome

Sometimes what makes an itinerary unique is not just the landscape beauty of places or the perfect organization of the route, but the humanity and sensitivity of people you meet, who help those nearby, offering their work and willingness, and opening their heart. 

This is the story of Simone and Gubbio's Small Welcome (PiccolAccoglienza), a project started in 2013, aiming to help and support pilgrims walking along the St. Francis Way. "It all started in March 2013 – Simone, who coordinates the Gubbio Small Welcome group of about 15 people, tells us – when we created with Gubbio's dioceses the Office for the Pastoral Care of Leisure, Pilgrimages, Tourism and Sport. We quickly realized that pilgrimage was a very wide and extraordinary world and therefore we developed our project. Gubbio Small Welcome was launched on 1st March 2014."

At the beginning, supporting pilgrims meant providing mainly technical information, but the activity soon widened to include other services.

"Over time, we created the pilgrim's information line, a mobile number covered by our group according to each person's availability, so that someone was always able to answer. We started to coordinate facilities devoted to the humble welcome of pilgrims in the territory of Gubbio's dioceses, keeping always in mind that each pilgrim is first and foremost a person, and must be treated like that. For this reason we thought about the "Pilgrim's Postcard", a gift to hand to everyone stopping by the places of the poor welcome. Every year postcards portray a different artist's work and since 2013 over 6000 have been handed out".

The Gubbio Small Welcome Project (http://www.piccolaccoglienzagubbio.

it) is based in the Dioceses' premises located in Gubbio, via Baldassini and involves a group of about 15 volunteers from Gubbio, who do other jobs in their life. Simone is surveyor, there are housewives, clerks, students, self-employed professionals, but they all share this passion of helping pilgrims, listening to their needs and mainly doing everything with their heart.

In its first year of activity, Gubbio Small Welcome provided information or came in contact with 500 pilgrims, the year after with 1500, in 2015 with 2500 and in 2016, already 2800 by August. These numbers demonstrate the increasing number of pilgrims along Francis' Itinerary, but also how the work of Gubbio Small Welcome is appreciated and important. Since March 2016 Gubbio Small Welcome has also been sending the Pilgrim's Credential to those who request it.

Gubbio Small Welcome's activity contributes to supporting many pilgrims in transit through Gubbio, and also plays a fundamental role in increasing awareness amongst inhabitants of the area.

"For us it's very beautiful to see the growing interest in the St. Francis Way in all the area – Simone continues enthusiastically – People are increasingly available to welcome and help pilgrims. It often happens to me, for example, to see people go helping pilgrims during violent storms, to give them a lift in their cars and welcome them in their homes or take them to one of the dioceses' facilities. Other local associations provide support, such as Gubbio's 100 Brooms (, a volunteer group in Gubbio that organizes spot projects to clean up areas around town, and that in 2015, on the occasion of the event "Vivi la Via", cleaned up a long stretch of the Way from Caprignone to San Pietro in Vigneto . It is this spirit that makes the Way authentic and unique".

The participation and sense of belonging among residents has slowly increased, in part thanks to activities and events organized along the itinerary, always with the committment of Gubbio's Small Welcome. The project "Getting to know the Itinerary", for example, organized together with the Gubbio May Association and the Dioceses, started in October 2014 and aims at showing the territory and places of St.Francis to many Gubbio inhabitants who may not know them. A walk of approximately 15 km is organized every 4-6 weeks along one of the Itinerary's stages and there are always between 40 and 90 participants.

Simone and Gubbio's Small Welcome group give a lot to pilgrims through this initiative, in terms of both technical information and human relationships. But his stories and his enthusiasm reveal that he receives a lot too: "It's very beautiful to see the human relationship developing during the Way amongst pilgrims, who happen to meet, get to know each other and become friends at last, telling each other in a few days things they have never said even to their best friends. Something special often develops in the relationship among our group of Gubbio's Small Welcome and pilgrims too. They start by asking for technical information, but we end up becoming friends and sharing parts of our lives. The keywords are always friendship, welcome and inner well-being".

By sharing his life's experiences, Simone had the chance to discover many beautiful stories of people along the St. Francis Way, all different but equally important and infused with the spirit of friendship. Examples are a group of teenagers who, after finishing high school, accompanied a friend who, before joining the Seminary, walked the Way as a preparatory act, or an engaged couple who, together with their best man, bride's maid and friends, celebrated their hen and bachelor's party walking from Gubbio to Assisi over three days. Another story is of a Fiat employee who, in exchange for help received, and without a word, sent the necessary part to fix the Dioceses' bus a few days later.

These stories of friendship, humanity and solidarity can be experienced along the itinerary and exist thanks to the activity of people such as Simone who, all along the St. Francis Way, put their hearts in what they do.

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