To create a network of reception: this is the spirit that moves the French associations that are involved in supporting pilgrims who walk towards Santiago and Rome. Some spokesmen of “Les Amis des Chemins de Saint Jaques et de Rome PACA – Corse” explained it at the 15th Compostellano Meeting in Liguria that took place in Genoa the past 25th and 26th February 2017.
The association was created in 1998 and counts today more than 600 members, divided into the six departments of the PACA (Provence-Alpes- Côte d’Azur) region. It locates at the beginning of two paths that connect Arles to Italy: GR 653 D, that retraces the ancient Roman road via Domizia (Montgenèvre – Arles) and GR 653 A, that traces the via Aurelia (Menton – Arles).
“The important thing for pilgrims that walk from one place to another is to find continuity and that people willing to welcome them know each other – tells Marc Ugolini, manager of the French-Italian connections of the association – There are bonds with other associations, but the important thing for us is to work on our own area to be ready for the people who will cross it”.
Once in contact with the managers of the association, the pilgrim is followed step by step along the path, entering a chain of accommodation services in families, churches, monasteries/cloisters that adhere to the association. These are private locations, only known between volunteers. An alternative to the traditional accommodation system, partially signalled on the website of the association that has been recently renewed and enhanced with details and information (www.compostelle-paca-corse.info).
“The website offers practical information and whoever wants to organise a trip can find direct information, but we also have other data passed down from person to person that accompany pilgrims” confirms Marc Ugolini. The chain of accommodation put into practice by the French association is, as a matter of fact, a system that travels through a word of mouth and allows to fully live the true spirit of reception, safeguarding the people who open the doors of their home to the daily guest. The French routes are also organised at a signage level. The indication along the trace, that are valid for both directions, have been applied according to the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre.
A unified language for reception and signage that becomes fundamental for a transnational path as the one that connects Santiago and Rome. A necessity to create a network between associations and volunteers that is even more necessary in the border sections, as the one of the coast side that connects to Italy, where it opens up on the Via of the Coast and it encounters the Via Francigena.