With the coronavirus threatening city life, renowned Italian architects such as Stefano Boeri are suggesting a reevaluation of abandoned villages. The Italian Villages project aims to do exactly that.
Launched by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities in collaboration with Airbnb three years ago, the project brings Italian designers and artists to rural villages, resulting in four stunning holiday homes. Each of them is set in a historic dwelling and contains a site-specific art installation, and all proceeds go directly to the local community.
The latest addition, a renovated palazzo in Molise (the region that made headlines for paying people $770 a month to move there), opened pre-COVID-19 and is now ready for its first guests.
EligoStudio, a young architecture firm from Milan founded by Alberto Nespoli and Domenico Rocca, transformed the rooms into monochrome spaces, using soft colors such as light blue and powder pink. "We wanted the design to be surprising," says Federica Sala, curator of the project. "We figured our guests would expect a rustic-chic interior. By opting for modern furniture and just one color for the walls and ceilings instead, we created an immersive experience."
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The picturesque town of Civita di Bagnoregio, about an hour-and-a-half drive from Rome, is literally crumbling: It sits on top of a pinnacle that is being eroded by water running through the canyon. It’s also almost abandoned with a current population of 10.
Alberto Artesani and Frederik De Wachter from architecture studio DWA combined contemporary furnishings with traditional materials. "We took the opportunity to work with DWA while they were on the verge of becoming big," says Sala. The firm now has clients like Salvatore Ferragamo and Furla.
The area surrounding Lavenone, about two-and-a-half hours by car from Milan, is popular for skiing and hiking. The small town itself is often overlooked by tourists, and many of its houses are empty.
"We chose this house because we really liked its cave-like atmosphere; it feels very cozy," Sala explains. The designers used warm colors and materials from the area, such as natural lime, to create a cocooning effect.
Sambuca is considered one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. It lies in the province of Agrigento, famous for its high-quality wines. Still, the town’s population is declining: It made headlines last year when it sold properties for only €1. Many buildings have been abandoned for decades.
Historically, Sicily has been influenced by many different cultures, from the Greeks to the Arabs. "We wanted that same eclecticism for the apartment, so we incorporated different colors, styles, and eras into the interior," explains Sala. "That’s what makes this project so special: The homes are all very contemporary, but they still connect to their surroundings and local heritage."
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