This morning at breakfast whilst I was chatting and laughing about the cake I had baked last night for them, I discovered two of our guests were thinking of going for a trek, and being ever curious I just happened to ask them where they were thinking of walking. “We have got this route map from the tourist office and thought to check out some of the old chapels and walk to Gubbio.”
The map they showed me is the guide for the Sentiero Francescano which starts in the north of Italy and leads to Rome. The route takes pilgrims and walkers from southern Tuscany into Umbria, through our beautiful medieval city of Gubbio, and on through our beautiful valley to Assisi and continuing southwards. They asked me where exactly the route starts in Gubbio, because from the plan there is not location, no clear starting point. Casting a glance at the brochure I suggested because the three chapels they were looking to visit are actually in Gubbio itself, and as the route to Valdichiascio is mostly along the main road, that they might be better to head south from Bellaugello Gay Guest House and walk the valley route.
This tract of the sentiero passes close by Bellaugello, ambling long the quiet dirt roads the scenery is fantastic and there is a small chapel enroute before reaching the abbey of San Pietro in Vignetto, and thence the abbey of Biscina from where I believed they could take a bus to bring them back to our part of the valley.
My checking the bus timetable came up with remarkably few busses, I found that hard to believe, so asked Mauro my assistant to check. He concurred, a confusing timetable and few busses, but we were not to be defeated. Near the abandoned abbey of Biscina is an agriturismo, this agriturismo features on all the walking and pilgrimage guides, it is recommended as one of the major stopping points on the pilgrimage route, is some 15km from here a nice distance for a walk so to us seemed a logical place to call and enquire as to bus timetable and the possibility of lunch – although they had only just finished a hearty breakfast.
There was me thinking of my stomach again thinking my guests might just be in need of refreshment after a walk in this morning’s damp conditions…
So I asked Mauro to call them for the information. He was reluctant to do so but I suggested he call as, being Italian he was more likely to ask the questions in the appropriate way, ha!
To summarise the call:
M: We are walking south from Gubbio and see your agriturismo is on the pilgrimage route, are you open for lunch?
M: (a bit stunned) I see your place recommended in the guide books as a place to pause and seek refreshments. Is that not the case? Can we not get a snack?
M: (me listening now very upset and shocked, bugger lunch ask them about the bus) I understand that there are busses that pass by Biscina heading to Gubbio are you able to give me the times?
AB: No, look on the internet or call the bus company or tourist office.
M: Grazie tanto
I am left gobsmacked, service, welcome, hospitality? where are they? This place features in the guide books, is promoted by the church, the tourist office, the region and guiding organisations but just does not seem to care, so typical of the laissez faire attitude of some operators in the tourism sector. I am so ashamed and embarrassed to have to tell my guests that we have drawn no luck.
To make an interesting walk I put on my thinking cap and as the day is a bit grey I suggest that they leave their car a couple of km away at the top of the hill, it will be safe there. I give them a route to follow and point out some things that I think they might like to stop and admire and although their route is not circular, I know they will not get lost.
Later this afternoon as I am heading down to check on the stove in the sauna which I have lit and am tending, we stop and chat. They have walked 15kms, had a very enjoyable, interesting if slightly muddy day and are now heading to the sauna for a sweat before a plunge in our infinity pool.
Just a few minutes of my time is all it took, for me a pleasure to do, that is what hospitality is all about, small details, a huge welcome, that is Bellaugello.