La via di Francesco e le sue storie

The Via di Francesco and its stories

We have talked to many pilgrims and people who live and work along the Via di Francesco, because these people, especially when they do so with passion, constitute a treasure chest of extraordinary stories and tales.

Annarita, who runs the Ostello di Valfabbrica, is certainly one of the most important guardians of the values that the Way can communicate and the stories that pilgrims experience while travelling along it.

"Every evening the world arrives here, I don’t need to travel", Annarita tells us, showing us the table where the pilgrims meet for a convivial dinner and explaining the whole meaning of her activity with these few words.

Annarita has been running the hostel for 4 years and here she does a bit of everything from receptionist to cook. A tiring experience but one that enriches her and that allows her to have a beautiful picture of the pilgrims who walk along the Way: "Since we opened," she explains, "about 3500 people have passed through here. Most of them are pilgrims, a few are 'normal' tourists. About 50% are foreigners even though since 2016 the number of Italians has been growing. There are many Germans, Austrians and Dutch, then also Canadians, Brazilians, Americans and this year also some pilgrims from Bulgaria".

As evidence of the origin of the pilgrims, Annarita has placed a series of flags outside the hostel (and there are really many), representing the nationalities of the people who have passed through here.

Their visits are full of meaning, since for many it is the last night before their arrival in Assisi.

But Annarita not only cites numbers and statistics, she tells us assorted and beautiful stories of the life of pilgrims, of people from all over the world, because in her hostel, completely accessible including to differently-abled guests, hospitality and conviviality are two fundamental values.

"Here we try to welcome pilgrims and make them feel good, in a warm and family-like atmosphere. Dinner is made up of typical and genuine things and is served around a single large table where the meal is shared. It's nice to see how people who don't know each other, who don't speak the same language, can get in tune and exchange their experiences. What language do we speak? Pilgrim language... And we understand each other very well.

"In the hall there is also a guitar available and every evening a warm group atmosphere is created".

In this convivial atmosphere Annarita has the opportunity to listen to the pilgrims and to discover something of their lives, getting in tune with them. With great enthusiasm she shares some of those that have impressed her the most:

“One of the most indelible memories I have,” she tells us movingly, “is that of Silvana, an Austrian lady who travelled by handbike, completely alone, the way from La Verna to Assisi: a woman with an extraordinary spirit.

"Then I remember a family from Alaska who travelled the route from Florence to Rome with two small children, and another family of Germans, with a 2-year-old daugher they carried in a bicycle cart and another 8-month-old girl they carried in a sash. The morning of their departure, there was a very strong storm and I offered to take them to Assisi by car, but they did not want to, and with great tranquillity they put the two children in the bike cart, covered it and left in the pouring rain, like real pilgrims.

"I remember a girl who walked the path together with her best friend, before entering a cloistered convent. I remember how this girl was beautiful, serene and happy.

"There are also successful managers and entrepreneurs, who decide to take the Way to disconnect from their daily routine, ‘detoxify’, find the true values of life. Or many groups, often made up of people who met each other along the Way and started as strangers.

"The truth is that each pilgrim represents a story and each one deserves to be told."

It is clear that Annarita puts her heart into what she does, she likes to open up to the pilgrims, and understand them. And like many of the people we have spoken to over time, she gives us some advice to improve the Way, based on her experience:

"In my opinion, it is fundamental to work to build a single Way, with identifiable information and signs, because people are confused by the different information and signage along the Way. The variations should also be better explained.

"It also wouldn't hurt to provide a few more places to sit and rest for a while, made even of a tree trunk resting on the ground".

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