Francis Way. It has been a life choice, since Luca continues to do his job whereas I decided to stay at home with my children and at the same time to open and manage this B&B, located just a few meters from Francis' route.
"Our philosophy, in running a business, has been to create a facility suitable for pilgrims, focused on hospitality, sharing, and the desire to listen to stories. Indeed pilgrims are not like other travelers, they bring along a wide range of experiences as well as particular and interesting stories. It often happens that we chat as if we have known each other for years, because pilgrims are very open and keen to talk if you want to listen to them. So you will discover the different motivations for their journeys, ranging from the wish to rediscover themselves, the need to forget life's disappointments, or simply re-establishing a close bond with nature and escaping from a too-hectic life. Certainly meeting people who stop by here has enriched us a lot".
Manuela tells us that people of every kind come to their B&B: independent travelers, couples, and often pilgrims who meet each other along the route and who maybe will continue together. Manuela and Luca share their life stories with these guests, enjoying different "spaces" they created around the main house. "Here – Manuela tells us as she accompanies us outside the B&B - we created some areas for social interaction, especially the pilgrim's hammock and a spot where, on summer evenings, we light the "pilgrim's fire": a campfire around which we gather to talk with our guests and maybe with our neighbors too. We create empathy, we share experiences, that is exactly the spirit we started this activity with."
This sense of friendship and welcome represents what you can find within small communities and villages you meet along Francis' itinerary, such as in Citerna, where all inhabitants know each other and pilgrims are welcomed with open arms, and they have the chance to discover the authenticity of these places. "In Citerna – Manuela tells us – pilgrims often meet the villagers and stop to chat, maybe at the coffee bar, whose owner is a hobbyist-producer of walking sticks. He knows stories of St. Francis's miracles with ants and witches around Citerna and is happy to tell them to visitors. There is also the young and enthusiastic parish priest who really knows how to address pilgrims and parishioners".
Manuela and Luca, as well as many others who happen to work or live along Francis' route, are also invaluable for maintaining the route and for information they can give to their guests.
Manuela walked the itinerary from Sansepolcro to Gubbio to know it better. She periodically walks some parts of their area to check if everything is all right, or if there is work that needs to be carried out, reporting it promptly to people in charge of maintenance.
This is an example, one of many along the St. Francis Way, of the pilgrim spirit, welcoming and sharing among people who live and work along the route. The community along the Way is one reason why Francis' route is a unique and extraordinary path.
For information about the St. Francis way: www.francescosways.com