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 humble hospitality and therefore, in the preparation stage, I also collected as much as possible contacts and telephone numbers of local tourist offices, municipalities, Churches, convents, monasteries and other places that might host us. Furthermore I looked for all possible information to have along the route, especially if you take small children".
Andrea contacted facilities to sleep in either on the same day or the day before, based on where the family found itself. "One of the most beautiful experiences of our journey was the welcoming spirit of these 'poor' hospitality places" Andrea says with enthusiasm, "because all the people who hosted us opened their hearts 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 the hospitality and welcome of everyone along the Way was extraordinary: people, when they met us, offered us breakfast or went home to get biscuits or milk for the children. Some cyclists we met along the ex Spoleto-Norcia Railway section cheered us on and gave us advice about roads to take and to avoid. During the journey, we received so much from people we met. Thanks to the great 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."
Confronting the St. Francis Way with children is a special adventure, so different from walking it alone. It's an experience that builds and strenghens strengthensj ties, 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 be guided by 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 reinforces the family's strength".
This kind of experience will remain in the 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 made an important accomplishment for his age, since he walked for more than 50 kilometers, including 9 kilometers-long climbing stages in a downpour. This journey increased their confidence in their abilities 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 must be ready for any circumstance. Let's listen to Andrea's advice to everyone considering such an adventure: "First, 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.
"Second I recommend carefully evaluating if the thing is feasible, and how you can carry your children when they can't walk anymore. Otherwise, it would be better to wait until they're older and will be able to walk for themselves along the route with you. Then, obviously, arrange everything in advance, planning the time needed for each stage, collecting contacts about places to sleep and as much information as possible, because it's never too much.
Finally, be sure to set off 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