“To lose the donativo is to lose the essence of the path”

“To lose the donativo is to lose the essence of the path”

Matteo Scalise is a volunteer at the Hospital de San Nicolas de Puente Fitero. This “Donativo” hostel, located on the Camino Frances in Spain, welcomes pilgrims on their way to Compostela thanks to a system of donations. A symbol of generosity and hospitality specific to pilgrimage routes.

You are a volunteer at a hostel. Can you tell us more about yourself and this one?

I'm 39 years old, almost 40, and I'm from Calabria, a region in southern Italy. I was called by the Confraternita di San Jacopo di Compostela Perugia (Brotherhood of Santiago de Compostela, Perugia) to volunteer in March 2023 at the Hospital Ermita San Nicolas De Puente Fitero.
This brotherhood is the current owner of the inn since 1994. It has completely restored the building. At first there were only the exterior walls.

The rest had been destroyed by time and wars. Originally, this structure was a church to welcome pilgrims who needed care before continuing their journey to Compostela.

This place has a particularity. Apart from the choice of not having electricity The evening, we offer a ceremony for those who wish it, called “foot washing”, accompanied by a blessing. It is an ancient tradition of pilgrimage. Then we organize a magnificent community dinnerlit simply by candlelight.

What is the daily life of a volunteer in such a hostel?

In the morning, I prepare breakfast for the pilgrims, then I greet them one by one, before their departure. Once everyone is back on the road, the real work of hosting begins. Everything must be cleaned and prepared for the next walkers who will arrive during the day looking for a comfortable bed for the night.

Then during the day, I speak with the pilgrims, I share with them my advice on the next steps of the path. I always volunteer to heal the blisters or legs of those who need treatment so that, in the morning, everyone can face the new day of walking in great shape.

In the evening, we prepare dinner for everyone and we enjoy this moment together. It’s a moment when I saw so many stories of friendship and love born! I was lucky enough to have witnessed the birth of love stories that continued over time.

A volunteer lives completely in the hostel he manages. It becomes his home. I chose to become one, because I like being with the pilgrims. I like to help my neighbor. Everyone is born with a purpose in life, mine is to help people however I can. This is how I feel good and happy. I only ask one thing, to extend a helping hand to those who need it. This is the price of my services.

This hostel is a donativo. Explain to us what this type of accommodation on the trails consists of?

A donative means, in a simplified way, that the pilgrims present today in this inn eat thanks to the donations left the day before. If there are few donations, those who arrive the next day will have little to eat. Otherwise, the pilgrims will have a sufficient dinner to replenish their energy.

Donativo exist thanks to donations. Does this system work correctly?

Unfortunately, nowadays the word donative is often confused with the word “free”. Which is not the case ! Donative means “I give you, you give me”. In reality, many hostels donative are closed and some are on the verge of going out of business, because of this mentality. It's really a shame. Because the donative is an important artery of the spirit of the path of Compostela.

Why do you think it is important to preserve these donations?

Lose them donativeit's like losing the essence of the path. A lot of great experiences are had in hostels donative. In that of Grañón for example, dinner is prepared by the hosts and the pilgrims together. Then all together, they help clean the dishes. Everyone laughs and has a wonderful moment of sharing.

In the hostel where I volunteer, we eat by candlelight and have a traditional ceremony. In Sant'Anton, pilgrims sleep in the heart of the ruins of a church. Each gift has its own particularity.

I can guarantee you that every time, it is a unique and unforgettable experience.

It seems that the hosts are often pilgrims themselves. Have you ever walked the paths to Santiago de Compostela?

Almost all of the volunteer hospital workers are pilgrims who have made the journey to Compostela. Then, they wanted to be part of this world by giving others the most precious thing: time. They made the decision to dedicate their time to serving others. Whether they treat them well or badly, it doesn't matter, because the volunteer is here for them. And he will continue to do it with a smile.

The hiking season will soon resume, do you have a message or advice to pass on to future pilgrims who plan to take the road?

Take the Camino de Santiago at least once in your life ! To open your eyes and your mind to the world, to truly know yourself in depth, and to make your life better.

When you do, put aside everything you have learned so far, and absorb everything the path will bring you. Whether good things or bad things. All this is a lesson that you need to live better with yourself, and therefore, with all the people around you. Come here, and open your heart and mind to the path. Speak to the path, it will listen to you. Because the path is not just a hiking trail, it has a soul. The soul of all the pilgrims who have passed through these paths. You may decide to go on a pilgrimage alone, but know that you will never be alone when you are here on the path.

Buen Camino de Vida to all !

Find Matteo and his photos taken during his adventures on the trails, on his Instagram account.

Similar Posts