Story of Andrea and of his journey with wife and children
Embarking on a journey along the Francis' route is an introspective experience for many people, to face alone, searching for oneself. It can also become, though, a different experience, based on sharing, team spirit, love, if you decide to face this journey together with your family, particularly with small children.
Do you think is it too hard or challenging? Are you afraid that your children could get bored? Andrea and his family's experience, as well as his tales' enthusiasm will probably change your mind and will make you want to leave more than before, obviously with the proper precautions and the right organization.
Andrea lives in Palombara Sabina, 30 kilometers from Rome, and walked along Francis' route in July 2014 together with his wife Francesca Maria and his children Chiara and Francesco, who at that time were respectively 4 and 6, and also with the faithful "Motored". What's the "Motored"? Andrea is explaining directly to us: "Motored is a small bike tray, thought to carry children, and we adopted it to "carry" our children when they couldn't walk anymore. When it's not attached to the bike you can apply a small wheel as front support and it becomes a sort of stroller with buffers, brake and very sliding wheels. It's heavy, yet you can push it very well and it has been our travel-mate. We also carried water and other objects on it to reduce the burden of our rucksacks. Young Francesco gave it the name Motored because it was red and its brakes made the noise of a motorcycle…".
Andrea and his family left directly from home, adapting Roma's Path and Francis' Path to their travelling needs and reaching Assisi after 13 stages and 240 kilometers. Indeed, walking the path with small children obviously demands a careful preparation and planning to avoid useless risks.
"I started to plan the journey 4 months before leaving – Andrea tells us – because first of all I had to re-arrange stages according to our needs. With the bike-tray and small children we couldn't walk along the mountain's paths and walk for too long, so I changed the Path looking for alternatives yet parallel roads, as close as possible to the "original" itinerary. Our idea was to walk along the path in the simplest way, using poor hospitality and therefore, in the preparation stage, I also collected as much as possible contacts and telephone numbers of Pro Loco, Municipalities, Churches, Convents, Monasteries and other places that could have hosted us. Furthermore I looked for all possible information that are never too many along the route, mainly if you carry with you small children".
Andrea contacted facilities to sleep in either on the same day or the day before, according to the place where the family was located. "One of the most beautiful experiences of our journey was the welcoming spirit of these "poor" hospitality places" Andrea tells enthusiastically "because all people who hosted us opened their heart and behaved in an exceptional way. A lot people didn't even want any offerings, because they said that we taught them something, with our family journey. Extraordinary.
"I can't forget the humanity of Don Franco, Arrone's parish, who hosted us in the church and offered us to eat at his home, or the welcoming spirit of Spello's nuns. But generally hospitality and welcome of all people along the itinerary was extraordinary: people, when they met us, offered us breakfast or came home to get biscuits or milk for children. Some cyclists we came across along the Former Spoleto-Norcia Railway's section incited us and gave us advices on streets to take and to avoid. During the journey, we received really a lot from people we met. Thanks to a large solidarity and availability we made peace with the world, because despite bad examples we watch every day on TV, you realize that many good people still exist."
Facing Francis' route with family is something extremely particular, so different from facing a path alone. It's an experience that ties and strengthens and Andrea made us understand it perfectly: "We are not usual walkers, but I walked alone Santiago's route in 2006. Well, starting this kind of journey with your family is a completely different thing because you can't just listen to your needs, but you have to get used to your family's and children's needs. You need to follow their rhythm, their demands. You leave as a family, but during the journey you become a team, in which everyone is ready to help each other, to "sacrifice" to meet others' needs. It enhances family's strength".
This kind of experience strengthens and remains in children's memory: "Francesco and Chiara enjoyed it a lot. Everywhere we went Chiara felt to be a princess, thanks to the received welcome.
Francesco is aware he did an important step for his age, since he walked for more than 50 kilometers, also facing 9 kilometers-long climbing stages under the flood. This journey enhanced their confidence in their skills and in themselves. It also increased the sense of belonging to a family, the ability to work as a team and to do something together".
As we said, of course, preparing a journey like that with small children demands considerable attention and planning, because you have to be ready in each circumstance. Let's listen to Andrea's advices addressed to everyone willing to start such an adventure: "Firstly, it's important to involve your children from the beginning, starting from the preparation stage of the journey, to make them understand what you will do together. Our Chiara and Francesco "took part" in drafting the itinerary, we listen to their thoughts, they were together with my wife and me when we bought online the Motored. Obviously we took final decisions at the end, but involving them was essential and very nice too".
"Secondly I recommend to assess carefully if the thing is feasible, understanding in detail whether your children's weight is enough limited to carry them on when they can't walk anymore. Otherwise, I believe it's recommended to wait until they'll be older and will be able to walk along the route with you, but autonomously. Then, obviously, it's necessary to arrange everything in advance, planning in time stages, collecting references of places to sleep in and as much information as possible, because it's never too much.
Lastly what is needed is leaving with the right attitude, aiming to share an adventure with your family, being aware that every day will be a surprise".
For information on Francis' Route: www.francescosways.com