Assisi

Story of Andrea and of his journey with wife and children

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Embarking on a journey along the St. Francis Way is an introspective experience for many people, to face alone, searching for oneself. It can also become a different experience, based on sharing, team spirit and love, if you decide to face this journey 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 enthusiasm, will probably change your mind and will make you want to start making plans and gathering equipment.

Andrea's family lives in Palombara Sabina, 30 kilometers from Rome, and they walked the St. Francis Way in July 2014. His wife Francesca Maria and children Chiara and Francesco, who were respectively 4 and 6, started off with their faithful "Motored". What's a Motored? Andrea explains, The Motored is a small bike cart, intended to pull 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 attach a small wheel as front support and it becomes a sort of stroller with shock absorbers, brake and good wheels. It's heavy, but it pushes very well and it has been our travel-mate. We also carried water and other things 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 the Rome route and the St. Francis Way 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 cart and small children we couldn't walk along the mountain paths or for too long, so I changed the route, 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 might host us. Furthermore I looked for all possible information to have along the route, mainly if you take small children".

Andrea contacted facilities to sleep in either on the same day or the day before, according to the place where the family found itself. "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, in the parish of Arrone, who hosted us in the church and offered us a meal 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 cheered us on and gave us advice about streets to take and to avoid. During the journey, we received really a lot from people we met. Thanks to the great solidarity solidarity and friendliness, we found peace with the world, because despite bad examples we see every day on TV, you realize that many good people still exist."

Facing Francis' route with children is something extremely particular, so different from walking it alone. It's an experience that ties and strengthens and Andrea explained it perfectly: "We are not typical walkers, but I walked alone along the Santiago 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 the 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 like a princess, with the welcome we received.

"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 in a downpour. This journey increased their confidence in their skills and in themselves. It also strengthened our 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 advice to everyone considering 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 the Motored online. Obviously we took final decisions at the end, but involving them was essential and very nice too.

"Secondly I recommend to carefully evaluate 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, it would be better to wait until they're 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.

Finally, 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 the St. Francis Way: www.francescosways.com