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Between the mountains an unexpected hermitage.

There are unexpected places and people that you come across along your path. A chance glance, a bit of curiosity, a promise and here I am, I write a post about it! During the story, I will not mention any kind of geographical reference that could allow the identification of the place I am talking about; you will understand why.

Going downhill on a mule track, surrounded by green grazing, I glimpse a small rocky built up area of ancient charm. These little robust and grey houses, clinging to the mountain slope between the woods, immediately wake up my photographer curiosity. After stopping, we notice a small wooden signpost pointing out the direction to a hermitage.

The curiosity is now overwhelming so we walk on the small track leading to the centre of the rocky village where a middle-aged man welcomes us. We ask him if it is possible to visit the hermitage and the answer is positive.

That man in work suit is actually Father Raffaele. Showing all his kindness, he asks us just a few moments wait and he comes back with the ecclesiastical suit, black cloak and white collar.

He leads us to visit the hermitage. A wonderful altar made of rock and local wood. The light slightly enlightens the rooms giving a mystical aura. Between religious symbols and the open Bible, Father Raffaele describes us with particular care the huge work that has been performed to bring the hermitage, set in the almost empty little rocky village, back to its ancient and religious splendour.

Behind the room with the wooden altar, opens a little but full library. A place where Time is still in its meditation.

Father Raffaele’s hospitality is typical to those who live in harsh places, often in solitude and knows the meaning of sacrifice. Life in the hermitage is not an easy one. He tells us that during summer there is comings and goings of pilgrims, thanks to friend’s suggestions, come to the hermitage to live experiences of meditation and work. After five o’clock pm, Silence is the ruler. No one is allowed to speak.

Father Raffaele lives with the fruits of its work. He breeds a flock of hens that every evening are gathered in the henhouse by the village dog that performs his duty with diligence.

Father Raffaele welcomes us in his kitchen-living room. Everything is built to face the long and cold winters that, even if not that high in altitude, cover the entire valley and the village with snow. He tells us of the ex-prisoners who come to perform a rehabilitation path, sharing with him the fatigue of work and mountain life. A true Christian charity experience. He also tells us of the people of the valley, who pay him a visit during winter to make sure everything is alright. He shows the hoven were everyday bread is cooked and offers some delicious biscuit. He narrates his story, and asks us to do the same.

We sign the guest book, noticing with surprise that pilgrims come from all over the word to this small village far from every modern reality.

After a while talking amiably, he lead us to the field where he breeds two donkeys who just had a cub. The male donkey understands immediately the presence of biscuits in the bag that Father Raffaele is holding in his hands, who then starts to hide it behind his back. But the curious donkey doesn’t stop to sniff around, trying to catch the bag.

It starts to rain, so we decide the moment to start the way back has come. Father Raffaele follows us until the mule track describing some secular tree along the way, while the donkey still follows the biscuits with the stubbornness typical of its species.

We thank Father Raffaele for his hospitality. I promise him the post I am writing not mentioning where this place is. Place where, between devotion, hospitality, prayer and sacrifices he leads a mountain life of ancient times.

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