About Us

This site was created by David and Ursula West.

We decided to produce this website to help English speaking visitors know more about Pietrelcina and to help them to find their way around this very Italian town. We also wanted to help the town to attract more foreign visitors.

Here is our story.

We came to Pietrelcina for the first time in 1988. Our family – ourselves and our four young sons, were on a two week coach trip/pilgrimage from Whitstable in England to San Giovani Rotondo in Puglia.

After two weeks of visiting many of the main shrines in Italy, including two days in Assisi and three days in San Giovanni Rotondo, our coach headed homewards.

We left San Giovanni Rotondo with the feeling that the tour had basically come to an end. We knew that there would be one or two short sightseeing stops along the way but no overnight stays until we reached Germany.

After a two hour drive, we stopped at a place in the countryside called Piana Romana. This, we were told, was the actual plot of land where Padre Pio’s family had grown their vegetables.

In the middle of a grove of pine trees, was a small chapel which was built around the tree under which Padre Pio first received the stigmata. After a short prayer we  returned to the coach for a 5 minute drive into the town of Pietrelcina itself.

Little did we know, as we all piled off our tour bus onto a very hot and dusty parking space, that this was a significant moment for us and all our family


The temperature that late August was over 100°F and we were told we had a two hour stop so that we could see the house where Padre Pio had been born and the area where he grew up. Our group followed Anna Ley, our tour leader, along a rather rough and badly maintained narrow road which led to a small square that sloped awkwardly down to some scruffy looking buildings. People took little notice of us as we passed by them. They seemed tired and uninterested as they sat on their doorsteps or stood in their balconies, chatting and relaxing in the hot summer sun. 

We moved onwards through even rougher, more uneven cobbled roads and obediently followed her up some heavy stone steps. We were told that this area was called ‘Castello’ and had remained unchanged since Padre Pio’s time. That we could believe! This proved to be one of the more interesting parts of the tour and was like taking a step back in time. It was truly authentic and apart from the vastly improved paving, this area is still authentically conserved to this day.

As we slowly walked back through the town, something had changed. The town was the same, but we were different. This place, its simplicity, authenticity and an imperceptible spirit, had made a lasting impression on us. We did not say anything to each other but we both felt it strongly. Far from being the add-on we had supposed it to be, this had become the highlight of our whole two week journey.

We were shown into the corridor of the Friary and Brother Lawrence, (Fra Lorenzo) the only English speaking Capuchin monk at that time, took us into a series of large rooms that were used to preserve and display the vestments and belongings of Padre Pio. In the background, we could hear a young choir practicing in another room. The simple young voices added another layer of everyday life to the scene.

We walked around the exhibit, soaking in every moment of this unexpected spiritual experience. Finally, it was time to leave and we went over to say goodbye to Brother Lawrence. David shook his hand and expressed what both of us were feeling.

“We are so sad to be leaving,” he said “We will probably never come back here again.”

Brother Lawrence laughed. “You will come back here many, many times,” he said, smiling warmly as he shook David’s hand.

We returned to the U.K. and never thought about it again until 18 years later in 2006. Two years after our Padre Pio pilgrimage, we had left England to open an English language school on the island of Malta. The business had done well but we knew we would be retiring in a few years time.  So we thought about buying a little place in the country to have as a holiday home. We started looking around at places abroad where we could buy a reasonable property then we remembered how we had been so deeply touched by Pietrelcina.

Our friends, and sites on the internet, were warning of the pitfalls of trying to buy property in Italy without taking advice from local Italian people we could trust. So, heeding their warning, we tracked down Fra. Lorenzo. He was now stationed in Foggia and we agreed to meet him in San Giovanni Rotondo to get some advice before going on to Pietrelcina, where we had booked into a hotel.

Dear Fra Lorenzo, he personally drove us all of the 200 Km to Pietrelcina and introduced us to his long time friend, Cavaliere Vincenzo Molinaro and from then on things just fell into place.

Vincenzo was a good bit older than David but somehow they struck up a friendship that was very rare. It was as though he was family. His English was fairly good, having lived in Australia for many years, and we sat and talked about his life and family. He was a member of the Italian branch of the Military Order of Malta and held a senior post in the order

He also was a much loved figure in the town as he had developed one of the largest establishments in the area catering for the many coach loads of pilgrims who were now visiting this small town in their thousands.

Vincenzo told us not to worry. He assured us that he would let us know when he found a suitable property and told us we could relax and go back to Malta.

A year later, he contacted us and told us to bring the deposit because he had found just the right property. Just off the main square and about 100 meters away from Padre Pio’s birth house, it was one of the old properties in Riella, more of a ruin than a house, but was in a great position and small enough to buy and re-construct.

There is one little story of God’s timing that must be told here. The night before we were due to sign the promise of sale we became really worried. Our funds were limited and having heard how much the re-construction would cost on top of the purchase price of the house, we seriously doubted that God would direct us to get into such a financial bind at this time. It seemed reckless and foolhardy. We stood outside Vincenzo’s hotel where we were staying, and prayed for direction. My mobile rang. It was my sister in Scotland telling me that my mother’s estate had been sorted out a year before we all expected it to be. “I have just transferred £20,000 into your bank account,” she said.

The next day, in September 2007, we signed the promise of sale.

Now we knew why they told us we needed friends here that we could trust. Vincenzo then introduced us to an architect, and site manager and the house was finally bought in early 2008. We then left the re-construction in their hands under the supervision of Vincenzo who was as good as his word and kept a close eye on all the work as it progressed. 

We visited a few times over the next year and a half to choose materials and see the progress but in March 2009, we finally had our beautiful holiday home in Pietrelcina.

The Lord has his own way of working and his own timing. Without the help of Fra Lorenzo and Vincenzo, we would never have been able to do what we did. Sadly, about six months after our new house was ready, both Brother Lawrence and Vincenzo passed away near the end of 2009. Thankfully we had managed to share many good times with Vincenzo before that time.

We also visited Brother Lawrence again just a few months before and were able to express our gratitude for all he had helped us with.

Since that time we have bought a field in the valley below the walls of Sant Anna and a second home nearby the field. We now spend most of our time here and the Lord is teaching us how to listen carefully to know what he wants of us here in Pietrelcina.

The little house in the town is now used for visiting family, friends and guests. Do let us know if you want to stay there on a visit and we will check if it is available. If not, we also have some other friends in town who have places to rent for short stays. We do not take bookings on their behalf, but we can put you in touch with them.