Story of Simone and Gubbio small welcome
Sometimes what makes an itinerary unique is not just the landscape beauty of places or the perfect itinerary's organization, yet it's humanity and sensitivity of people you met, who help people happening to be nearby, by offering their work and availability as well as by opening their heart.
This is the story of Simone and Gubbio's small welcome, a project born in 2013 aiming at helping and supporting pilgrims walking along Francis' route. "All is born in March 2013 – Simone, who coordinates the Gubbio Small Welcome group of about 15 people, tells us – when with Gubbio's dioceses we created the Office for Pastoral of Free-time, Pilgrimages, Tourism and Sport. We realized soon that pilgrimage was a very wide and extraordinary world and therefore we developed our project. Gubbio Small Welcome was born 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 managed by our group according to our time's availability, so that we can always be at work. We started to coordinate facilities devoted to the poor welcome of pilgrims in the Gubbio's dioceses territory, keeping always in mind that 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 in to everyone stopping by the poor welcome's places. Every year postcards portray a different artist's work and from 2013 onwards beyond 6000 have been handed in".
The Gubbio Small Welcome's 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, that 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 anyway came in contact with 500 pilgrims, the year after with 1500, in 2015 with 2500 and last August with already 2800. These numbers make us understand the increasing number of pilgrims along Francis' Itinerary, but how much it is also appreciated and relevant the Gubbio's Small Welcome work that, since March 2016, has also been dealing with sending the Pilgrim's Credential to whom asks for it.
Gubbio Small Welcome's activity contributed to support many pilgrims in transit through Gubbio's district, but also played a fundamental role in increasing awareness amongst inhabitants of the area.
"For us it's very beautiful to see the increasing interest for the Francis' route in all the area – Simone keeps narrating enthusiastically – People are increasingly available to welcome and help pilgrims. It often happens to me, for example, to see people who during violent storms go helping pilgrims hit by bad weather, give them a lift in their cars and welcome them in their homes or in one of the dioceses' facilities. Such a supporting activity is also carried out by other associations, such as the 100 Gubbio's Brooms (http://www.100ramazze.org/), a group of active citizenship in Gubbio that organizes piecemeal projects to arrange some town's areas and that in 2015, for the event "Live the path", cleaned a long segment of Caprignone Road in San Pietro in Vigneto. This spirit makes the Itinerary authentic and unique in its genre".
This local people's participation and sense of belonging slowly increased, also thanks to activities and events organized along the itinerary, always thanks to the Gubbio's Small Welcome commitment. The project "Getting to know the Itinerary", for example, organized together with the Gubbio May's Association and to the Dioceses, started in October 2014 and aimed at showing the territory and Francis' places to many Gubbio's inhabitants who are not aware of 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. The next two concluding appointments of this event will be on September 18 with the stage Via Maggio – Pieve Santo Stefano and on October 30 with Valfabbrica-Assisi.
Simone and Gubbio's Small Welcome group is giving a lot to pilgrims through this initiative, in terms of both technical information and human relationships. But his tales and his words' enthusiasm reveal that he receives a lot too: "It's very beautiful to see the human relationship developing during the itinerary amongst pilgrims, that happen to meet, know each other and become friends at last, telling each other in 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 to ask for technical information about stages and itinerary, but we end up becoming friends and sharing parts of our lives. Keywords are always friendship, welcome and reconciliation".
By sharing his life's experiences, Simone had the chance to discover many beautiful stories of people along Francis' path, all different but equally important and always led by the friendship's spirit. Examples are a group of teenagers who, after their diploma, accompanied a friend along the itinerary as preparatory moment to join the Seminary, or groom and bride who, together with their best men and friends, decided to organize their bachelor's party walking from Gubbio to Assisi in three days. Another story concerns a Fiat's employee who, in exchange of the received help, without a word, after a few days sent the necessary spare part to fix the Dioceses' bus.
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, along all the Francis' route, put their hearts in what they do.
For information about Francis' itinerary: www.francescosways.com