Manuela and Luca's story
In our journey to discover faces and people making Francis' Route a unique itinerary, we had the chance to tell stories of people walking through the Route, of volunteers and engaging participants willing to improve pilgrims' welcome and of the deep meaning of Assisi's Statio Peregrinorum.
Along Francis' Route, though, you can meet many people who work on it, who offer services and welcoming activities, maybe not in a "poor" way, but anyway with a deep empathy towards pilgrims and the land. Here we will tell you the story of Manuela and Luca, who opened at the foot of Citerna a B&B suitable for pilgrims. But along the route you will have the possibility to meet many people like them, able to combine their work with pilgrims' spirit and needs.
Manuela was born in Chieti, was a professional volleyball player until a few years ago and at the young age of 15 she left her homeland to tour Italy chasing her sport dream, moving from one team to the other one. Luca was born in Anghiari, a few kilometers from Citerna, and now is a physiotherapist. They met thanks to their passions, since they knew each other within the national volleyball team, where Luca was a physiotherapist and Manuela a volleyball player.
Two children were born from their love, crowned with their wedding in 2013. One is 3 years old and one is 1 year and a half. This beautiful story has apparently little to do with Francis' Route. Yet Manuela explains us everything better:
"Luca had a building land exactly in this area and so 7 years ago we built the house where we live now and that presently is also a B&B along the Francis' route. It has been a life choice, since Luca continued 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, beyond commercial purposes, has been to create a facility suitable for pilgrims, focused on hospitality, sharing, and desire to listen to stories. Indeed the pilgrim is not like other travelers, he brings with him a wide range of experiences as well as particular and interesting stories. It often happens to us to 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 their different journey's motivations, ranging from the wish to find again themselves, the need to forget life's disappointments, or simply finding again a tight bond with nature and escaping from a too hectic life. Certainly meeting people who stop by here periodically enriched us a lot".
Manuela tells us that people of every kind come to their B&B: independent travelers, couples, but often pilgrims who met each other along the route and who maybe will continue together. Manuela and Luca share their lives' stories with these guests, also exploiting proper "places" they created around the central facility. "Here – Manuela tells us while she accompanies us outside the B&B - we created some areas of social interaction, especially the pilgrim's hammock and a space where in the summer evenings, we light the "pilgrim's fire": a bonfire around which we gather and talk with our guests as well as with our neighbors maybe. 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 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 village's people and stop by to chat, maybe with the bar's owner, who is an enthusiast producer of walking sticks, knows stories of "ants'" and "witch's" miracles made by St. Francis in Citerna and looks forward to tell them to someone. There is also the young and enthusiastic parish who knows how to vehicle messages to pilgrims and parishioners".
Manuela and Luca, as well as many others who happen to work or live along the Francis' route, are also precious people for the Route's maintenance and for information they are able to give to their guests.
Manuela, indeed, walked through the itinerary from Sansepolcro to Gubbio so that she can live and know it better. She walks periodically in some parts of their area to check if everything is all right, if there are works to be carried out, reporting them promptly to people in charge of maintenance.
This is an example, such as many other ones along the Francis' route, that pilgrim spirit, welcome and sharing can be ideal to follow also for people who decided to live and work along the Route. This is another added value making Francis' route a unique and extraordinary path.
For information about Francis' route: www.francescosways.com