An original guide to Santiago

by Ilaria Lonigro - 2014.08.06
An original guide to Santiago
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He has travelled the Camino de Santiago de Compostela twice on a handbike and now he is preparing a guide for all disabled people - and not only that, they want to follow in his footsteps.

Pietro Scidurlo, 35, from Somma Lombardo (Varese), has been paraplegic from birth, a condition that he never accepted with serenity until, as told on his website, while lying in a hospital bed, he read a book that he had been given: ‘The Road to Santiago’ by Paulo Coelho. It was an epiphany. Pietro decided that, after surmounting the challenge of living alone, he would tackle the most famous pilgrimage in Europe, travelled every year by more than 200,000 people, only 15,000 of which were from Italy.

The man kept his promise and did the Camino in 2012 and 2013, with a handbike, where the cyclist has straight legs and the arms do the pedalling. On his return he founded Freewheels, the website dedicated to 'breaking down barriers’. And the biggest barriers, as the slogan of the site suggests, are those in the mind.

West spoke to him by phone while he was in Spain where, along with other volunteers, he is following the French Cammino, which goes from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago and Finisterre. He is producing the first full European guide dedicated to all: those with motor and sensory disabilities, families with young children, dialysis patients, the elderly, diabetics and coeliacs. It will be called 'Santiago per tutti' (‘Santiago for Everyone’) and will be published by Terre di Mezzo in spring 2015 in print and digital versions and in other languages.

"For me, the journey was a challenge. As I have always admitted, I did not know what it involved, nor the route to Santiago nor why people would want to do it. But I realised that I couldn't continue on my path of self-destruction. So I tried this experience, not knowing what it would mean to me. At one point of the Camino I burst into tears on a hill; I didn't know why, and I saw myself from the outside. And from there my life changed forever," says Pietro. The self-funded project can be supported by purchasing one or more copies of the guide on the website of the publishing house 'Percorsi di Terre'.

Fountains, bars, restaurants, pharmacies, supermarkets, but also doctors' surgeries, hospitals and orthopedic shops, podiatrists and physiotherapists will be found in the guide; and the tracks which can be covered by handbike or manual and electric wheelchairs will be marked. Even accommodation details will be reviewed to ensure accessibility.

"I like what I'm doing. I understand that the journey is a tool to change the psychological profile of a person, building character, overcoming personal problems and problems with relationships. And now I'm ready to put it in writing. And this applies to all people, not just those with disabilities," says Pietro, who is not alone on his journey; with him are Luciano Callegari from and other volunteers. "We are surrounded by woods and trails. We are in the middle of nowhere with no mobile signal. Everything is going fairly well. I have sores on my legs because I decided to lock the wheelchair which caused friction burns: and with the little circulation in the legs that I have, they will take a while to heal. But I'm not complaining and I do it all the same!" assures Pietro. One thing is certain: "This guide is the essence of the journey, which is taking part. Sharing information with others makes a difference, because tomorrow there will be others like Pietro Scidurlo who will travel this or other paths."

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