In Italy, tourism is both a blessing and a curse. It’s one of the most visited countries in the world and has some of the most visited sites in the world, but several of these are suffering under weight of a never-ending stream of visitors. Meanwhile, other areas that are just as beautiful and historic are at risk for the opposite reason- lack of people, both tourists and locals. Government and businesses are stepping in to ease the burden in places such as Venice, and to promote tourism in new, “undiscovered” areas. The goal in all of these locations is to create a more sustainable tourism.
One project initiated by the Tourism Council of the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) in 2001 is I Borghi piu belli d’Italia (The Most Beautiful Hamlets in Italy). It’s a private association with the aim of “valorizing and promoting the great historic, artistic and cultural heritage of the Italian small centers.” Many of these small towns are at risk of disappearing due to dwindling populations and lack of visitors.
From the website:
"The literal translation of Borgo in English would be “Village”. But the term Village does not fully explains what a “Borgo” is. A “Borgo” (plural: “Borghi”) is a fascinating small Italian town, generally fortified and dating back to the period from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It usually rises around a Castle or a Noble palace and it is often surrounded by defensive walls and towers.
"Whether Medieval or Renaissance, sea or mountain, rural or lake, all of our certified Borgos represent the best of Unknown Italy: a journey through art, history, artistic treasures, beautiful landscapes, traditions and savors, for a unique and memorable travel experience."
To become part of this list a town has to meet certain criteria, including having an intact historical center and also a willingness to promote and develop tourism, among other things. There are currently 281 towns on the list and each region of Italy is represented. These towns are aesthetically beautiful, have strong, rich cultural traditions, and the local people welcome visitors who want to learn and experience a more authentic Italy.
These towns are ideal places to experience the slow-paced Mediterranean lifestyle and “la dolce vita” without long lines or crowds.
I recently spent some time in Calabria (the toe of the boot) and visited two of these towns:
From the website: Altomonte, with over 300 ceremonies a year, is defined as the hamlet of weddings, as weddings from all over Italy and abroad decide to celebrate here the happy event for the beauty of these places. Among the streets and alleys of the village you can find typical products and local craftsmanship: from wine to craft products in clay, wood, wicker etc. Remarkable are the curious wooden postcards, the old embroidery, the refined liqueurs, sweets and typical products, including the Bread of Altomonte, for which the village has become a symbol of typical Calabrian cuisine.
The church in Altomonte, scene of hundreds of weddings each year
From the website: The beauty of Morano lies in the delicate combination of art and natural beauty: a unique scenario is created by the stone of its archways, watch towers, buttresses and houses all embracing one another to match the majestic surrounding hills. The dense, intricate mesh of roads make of Morano one of the most charming historical centers in the whole Calabria region. The Borgo looks like a nativity scene, with its humble houses descending to the valley and the red tiled roofs and labyrinth of alleyways leading to the Castle.
Beppe and I checking out the ruins of the Norman castle above Morano Calabro
To see the full list, visit http://borghipiubelliditalia.it/en/
To plan your next visit to Italy (including to any of these beautiful hamlets), get in touch!