Villages and castles at risk of abandonment, to be rediscovered

NoNot only the great, brazen beauty of Rome, Venice and Florence: in Italy there is also a small beauty, so elusive that it risks disappearing before your eyes. Literally. It is the minor Belpaese of villages, of small centers spread throughout the peninsula, of special places to be rediscovered. If many are well-known and have an acclaimed ability to attract travellers, curious and gourmands, for many tourism is a gamble to be played.

The revenge of abandoned places, villages and castles to be rediscovered

There are famous villages, from San Gimignano to Ravello, capable of attracting coaches of tourists, but there are many pearls set in the Sicilian or Piedmontese hinterland, or perched in central Italy, known to few or still to be discovered, for which the fight against depopulation is an emergency. In no case is it easy to relaunch a village, in many cases the challenge is almost a gamble, within reach only of those who know how to look far: local administrators, entrepreneurs, men and women in love with their country, or with the country that chose them to return to live. Here is a rundown of some of these incredible realities.

1. Among the villages of Molise, the rebirth of inland areas

Instead of focusing on a single product, it is always better to network all the typical features of a territory, to create an alchemy. Thus Castel del Giudice, a town in the Molise Apennines that was in danger of disappearing, has become an example of recovery. The typical depopulation of the villages of the internal areas of the Apennines was compromising the future of the territory. Until the Municipality, with the mayor Lino Gentile, calling together inhabitants, entrepreneurs, institutions, people linked to the town, gave way to a participatory sustainable development strategy, which rekindled hope, transforming marginality into a laboratory of rebirth of the internal areas. Disused structures and land now host a widespread hotel, a RSA (health care residence), an organic apple orchard with shared management.

Today forgotten fruits are grown in the Ancient Apple Garden and theBorgotufi widespread hoteltotally integrated into the landscape, is the hub of experiential tourism: from here you can go on tours of the apple orchards with tastings in the agricultural brewery, poetic-rural walks with the country’s peasant poet among donkeys and goats, excursions through the woods and mountains, beekeeping, rafting and slow holidays.

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2. In Umbria, the medieval village saved from the earthquake

It’s a journey through history what you live in Borgo Campello, relais of Campello Alto (fraction of Campello sul Clitunno PG), a stone’s throw from Spoleto and Assisi. The 1997 earthquake destroyed part of the town, which Vincenzo and Daniela Naschi, leaving behind their previous life, recovered to create an accommodation facility that respects and enhances the identity of the place. Guests stay where the nobles of the Castle once lived or in the cells of the monks of the Convent. To relax there is a Private Spa created within the ancient walls. All around, expanses of olive groves candidates to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the whole strip that goes from Assisi to Spoleto. But also woods rich in precious truffles, to be discovered following expert truffle hunters, and then savoring the dishes of the Sapori nel Borgo restaurant.

The relais is made out of 14th-century palaces, tower houses and stone fortifications and is located where the imposing castle that dominates the entire Spoleto valley rises today. And which gave its name to the entire inhabited area, being in the oldest area: it preserves its medieval structure intact, thanks to various restoration interventions, showing itself as one of the most characteristic villages of Umbria.

There is also the Convent of Saints John and Peter, renovated in 2011, with important pictorial works related to the medieval and Renaissance periods.

3. In Campania, a natural oasis of illegal sand quarries

Once upon a time, in Castel Volturno, there were 150 hectares of illegal sand quarries. By reclaiming and freeing the area from waste, replanting trees and with an enormous work of environmental redevelopment, today a protected place has arisen where nature reigns supreme, aquatic birds allow themselves to be scrutinized, and inhabitants and tourists come to live experiences in contact with water. Are the Nabi lakes, the first Natural Oasis of Campania, on the Domizio coast (CE). There are many activities that can be done, from canoeing to kite surfing, but also cycling, hiking, bird watching, yoga. You can sleep in tents and in floating glamping lodges and relax in the Nabi Water SPA with thermal infinity pool on the lake at 35°.

4. The Museo del Mare Antico on land confiscated from the mafia

In the vast agricultural area confiscated from the mafia in the Stirone and Piacenziano Park, work camps and voluntary work by the Libera association have been taking place for years. There is a recovery center for wild animals and the MuMAB – Museum of the Ancient Sea and Biodiversity. A special museum, a short distance from the splendid spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme (PR), in the heart of Visit Emilia. There are fossils and artifacts that date back over 7 million years, canyons dug by the Stirone stream, corals, shells, shark teeth, whale remains.

5. The Castle reborn thanks to a collective restoration

Since 1965, when Count Salvadego, the last owner of the Castle of Padernello, died, the manor in the Bassa Bresciana has begun its decline. In 2002, the collapse of part of the kitchens was the alarm bell that recalled the determination of a group of inhabitants and the mayor of Borgo San Giacomo Giuseppe Lama to recover the castle and return it to the community. With Domenico Pedroni at the forefront – president of the Castello di Padernello Foundation – and the collaboration of public bodies, associations, citizens and foundations, a large crowdfunding effort has won the challenge of restoring the manor and making it the hub of cultural, tourist and economic.

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Today the Castello di Padernello is a place for guided tours of art and history, events focused on sustainable development, exhibitions and displays, but also new projects: the village adjacent to the manor is also being redeveloped, creating high-end craft schools-workshops training in what was inaugurated as Cascina Bassa, and a widespread hotel that will open in 2023. It is still possible to contribute to the restoration of the life of the Castle and rewrite the history of a recovered and re-functionalized village: with the fee of 100 euros, you participate to the shared purchase of Cascina Bassa and you can experience a holiday for 2 people.