One of the main themes that underlies my work is hospitality, making people welcome, and in particular making people feel welcome into the house of God and introducing them to his generous hospitality. This travelling experience has put me on the receiving end of many different kinds of hospitality, but my experience at the rather wonderful Ostello Bello in Milan has been such a fine example of it.
I arrived at about ten o'clock last night, tired and dirty after twelve hours on French and Italian trains. My feet were hurting and my backpack felt heavy on my shoulders. I found the address of the hostel and thoughts I'd made a mistake - it looked like there was a huge party going on. I stood in the middle of the crowd of people talking, drinking, laughing, and wondered if I'd made a mistake-I felt like I was somewhere I didn't belong.
The check-in guy saw me across the room and rushed over saying "You must be Sarah, here let me take your pack off. I undid the straps and he lifted it of and tucked safely behind the reception desk. He handed me a form and led me over to a table where a load of people were talking. He introduced me and then said "I bet you could use a drink and a plate of pasta. Sit here and fill in your form and I'll bring it over" The beer and pasta duly arrived- simple but delicious and just what I needed. After I had finished, I took the form back and he checked me in. There is a guest tax for everyone staying in Italian guest houses and hotels, and he explained that they pay that included in the price so I didn't need to worry. Then he picked up my pack and showed me where everything is in the building, finally leading me to my bed.
The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and the staff seem to naturally create an atmosphere that encourages people to talk to each other. They do things with love and care, so they did my laundry, and returned it neatly folded. There is food in the guest kitchen that you can help yourself to - it's pasta with a sauce but take as much as you want. Happy hour is 7-9pm and includes free dinner, breakfast is 7-12 and is a generous and tasty selection of things, with good coffee, scrambled eggs and chunks of brownie.
This place is so nice that the locals come and drink there in the evening - hence the party atmosphere when I arrived. Despite that there are a couple of tables reserved for the folks staying in the hostel, so there is always a place for you. The whole thing makes me feel at home, makes me want to stay, and be with these people, to join it with what they have.
So what words do I tag for this blog entry? Generous, open, love, care, community, welcome, free, kind, thoughtful, responsive, inviting...