The town of Servigliano in the Le Marche region of Italy is unusual for the region. It is not built atop a hill with a commanding view of its surrounding domain. Instead it lies on one of the few flat areas of this undulating landscape.
The old part of town is enclosed within a fortress of sorts. Its high walls have small houses and shops built into them. Once through one of the three gateways, you pass along cobbled streets and emerge into a large central piazza. Three sides are taken up with the shops and houses of the external walls. The centre is a combination of marketplace and urban park with memorial statues. The centrepiece of the piazza completing the fourth side is, inevitably a church.
Visit the town on market day and you will probably be so focused on the stalls you will not look up at the church. But come here on any other day and you will notice a large white plaque on the front of the church. The majority of the plaque is taken up with a vertical sundial – something you see on many churches in Italy. While this is fascinating enough, my eye was drawn to the inscription at the bottom right – a quotation from Pope John XXIII…..
“Quando sei per strada e incontri qualcuno, non gli chiedere da dove viene ma chiedigli dove va, e se va nella stessa direzione, cammina insieme a lui”
With my improving Italian, I translated this as….
“When you are on the road and meet someone, don’t ask him where he has come from but ask him where he goes and if he goes in the same direction, walk together with him”
The other day I was showing this to some new friends I had just made. Fellow travellers and housesitters Alan and Karaina of Back Skip Go had just arrived in Montappone to housesit for neighbours of my housesitting client. I’d taken them to Servigliano for a coffee at my favourite bar before heading to the supermarket. I pointed out the quotation to them, remarking that I guessed that’s what we were doing. We’d met each other on the road and were walking together for a while.
What none of us expected was that that chance remark would develop into hatching a crazy plot to turn our walking together around the supermarket into become travel companions for a little while.
I had already made plans to make a short visit back to “home” in Cyprus. On the way I was going to visit my friend Johanna in Crete. She had just finished renovating and constructing her new B & B accommodation, Villa Oreastro, and was open for business. Alan and Karaina were planning on making Croatia their next stop. They said they’d never been to Greece and it was silly to have come all the way from Australia and not see any of it.
A quick chat with Johanna and a group huddle around phones and tablets and our plot was hatched. We got them booked on the same flight as me. We decided on trains to Rome and planned to spend the day there. A couple of nights at Villa Oreastro for them to see Crete then ferries identified for them to head up to Athens and back on track to Croatia.
That is one of the things I love about this lifestyle. When you move at a slower pace and walk with your head up instead of your nose to the grindstone, you notice things and meet people you might otherwise have passed by. Whether those people turn out to be lifelong friends or just temporary travelling companions, who knows.
But either way your life is enriched by the encounter and by asking “where are you going?”