“What to fear? Nothing.
Who to fear? No one.
Because? For those who unite with God obtain three great privileges: omnipotence without power; Drunkenness, without wine; And life without death” St. Francis of Assisi

I remember going from Nice to Genoa in a car with three more Italians who live in France on business. I met them, a guy and two girls, through Blablacar, a hitchhiker’s website that works very well in Europe.

We talked about what I could not miss in Italy, such as food, places, museums, gelatos and hiking. The Italian guy at my side commented that in the country it is possible to find innumerable pilgrim’s routes and one of them was the Assisi’s Way.

I had never heard of it, but I memorized the suggestion, not least because a 400 km path that passes between National Parks and whose route is the same as the St. Francis of Assisi did for himself is not easy to forget.

I stayed in Genoa for two days and in one of them I made the Cinque Terre. Soon afterwards I left by train to Florence where I stayed for four more days. Florence is a very touristy city and as much as the European summer was in its final days the city was still extremely busy. I did tours, wineries, museums, gelatos, pizzas, more gelato, more museums, gelato again and finally … I could not stand it any more. I looked around and saw an imbalance, how can so many people eat that much, and I am part of this group, while others were begging and starving. There was no sense on that!

I remember that I woke up, I meditated and when I opened my eyes, I decided: I WILL DO ASSISI’S WAY. I researched where it begins, how many days it would take me to complete, and where I could stay the first night. After the rest, I knew for certain I had to follow my heart. I packed, bought the train ticket to Bologna and left the hostel.

To get to Dovadola, a village where the path starts, I had to go by train to Bologna, then Bologna to Forlí and another bus to Dovadola. In the section Bologna-Forlí was happening a strike of the machinists and many trains were not leaving the platform. A female voice announced something in the searchlight that I could not understand a word and I only saw the crowd running from one side to the other in the hope of getting a train coming off the platform. I saw the time passing and my concern growing, I could not by any chance reach my final destination during the night.

I stopped a young man who looked to be in his mid-thirties and asked in English which train was going to Forlí. Sometimes I think I’m very lucky in this life, or I wonder if it’s this belief that everything will work out that makes things really work. He not only helped me as he accompanied me throughout the trip as well, going beyond his final destination just to show me which way I should go. However the most interesting was the subject he approached during the thirty-minute journey, extremely esoteric. That meeting was something else!

I arrived late in the afternoon on a rainy day, autumn was already showing up here, with my backpack, alone and without much information. In the neighborhood no one spoke English which made the communication turn into a mimic, but I managed to get to the first hostel, a detached house situated next to the church. I rang the bell and nothing! No one answered. I thought, I thought, I sat and wondered, ‘Why did I do this?’ I rang the bell again and still no answer! It was cold but in fact I was sweating, my thoughts were: if no one answered, what would I do? Where would I sleep? And I swirled around myself, plotting all possibilities, until I discovered another bell and ugh! A man replied. Thanks Universe!

Three minutes later the door opens, a priest appears and asks me “Can I help you?” Bang! Thank you Universe again! I answered “Io no parlo Italiano. Io pellegrina. Camino de Assisi.” And so he received me, sold the credential of the way, I paid for the night and went to my comfortable accommodation: a room on the second floor with eight beds, between low and bunk beds, a free towel, a bathroom that splashed cold water everywhere and on the end of the long hall a kitchen. I was alone at this hostel, and he told me that the last pilgrim who started the journey had left four days ago, in other words, I had no chance of finding anyone on the trail, not least because the next scheduled pilgrim would start only on the next week.

After a shower, I lay down and talked to St. Francis: “I am here. I followed my heart. I am afraid. But I trust. I have the will.”

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Rifugio Benedetta Bianchi Porro di Dovadola

To be continued…

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