Their names are Pietro, Giancarlo, Santiago, Pino and Bartolomeo. They have come to Rome to see the Pope. But they have not traveled by plane or train to get here. They have peddled on their bikes after 16 days of pilgrimage from the Lombardy region in northern Italy.
Pietro is in a wheelchair, although he does not let that get in his way. This is his fourth pilgrimage to the Route to Santiago in Spain, with the help of this customized bicycle.
And with his unique experience, he has written a book, 'Santiago per tutti' or 'Santiago for everyone,' to help other pilgrims like him to discover a route without physical or architectural barriers.
"This guide is special because, unlike the rest, it has three routes to reach different users. An original, pedestrian route; one that is completely asphalted, far from high-speed roads, as safe as possible and close to the original path and, finally, an accessible way with a number of points of interest along the route, which allows people to take charge of what they will find.”
In addition to writing a book, they formed the association Free Wheels Onlus. For example, they lend bicycles that are adapted for the disabled who cannot purchase them.
They believe that leaving home to set off on a journey is a great way to overcome barriers and coping with life. This is what Pietro and his friends have done on the Via Francigena that leads to Rome.
GIANCARLO COTTA RAMUSINO
"We chose to walk the bike path, a path for bicycles studied precisely because Pietro moves on a hand bike, pedaling with arms. In transportation we have also opted for self-sufficiency, we move around on bikes. So, we have created a cart to carry the accessories that we need with us.”
They will not write a guidebook on the Via Francigena but they want to share their spiritual experience along the way and the opportunity to greet the Pope and give him their sweatshirts, Free Wheels Onlus. They want to show that the only barriers are in the mind.