All posts by IntentSpirits

Heartland in the News

More and more people are interested in Heartland and our Sustainable Tourism project in Abruzzo, Central Italy – enough that Heartland has been featured in 2 of the UK’s biggest Glamping magazines.

The first was the June/July edition of Open Air Business Magazine. See page 22.

Digital Issues

The next was the September edition of the International Glamping Business Magazine, which coincided with the Glamping Show, an annual event for the Glamping Industry in the UK. It runs a whole feature on Glamping in Italy and we are on page 21 – and strangely there is a story of some other people who came from the UK to Abruzzo to start a glamping project.

Ready for the media…

The Journey of Heartland

So we lived for many years on the road in trucks or on the ground in tipis, as a part of a group consciousness process. We started making yurts in 2003, and set up Spirits Intent, making yurts and other nomadic tents in 2005, and at that time there were only a handful of other yurt makers in the UK, and the word ‘glamping’ didn’t even exist. We focused more on the canvas sewing side of things, as that was what seemed to be missing in the UK— our clients included other yurt makers, and obviously campsites, who need replacement tent covers, which we do from afar using measurements, whilst also supporting them with ongoing canvas care.

We always had an idea to build a new kind of campsite, with a focus closer to the origins of these tents, and as a base for the group consciousness process which we have part of for many years. The cost of land in Britain was prohibitive, so fast forward to 2015 when we packed up and left the little valley in Wales, where we had been living and working, and headed to Italy.

Who doesn’t have romantic ideas of La Dolce Vita in Italy: good food, a rich history, beautiful language and great climate. As we crossed the border into the Abruzzo region of Central Italy, we were welcomed by a magnificent double rainbow, so knew that this was going to be our place. We had never ventured this far south in Italy, and were amazed at the extraordinary variety of the land, with dramatic peaks over 3000 m just a short drive from the beaches of the Adriatic Coast, hardly any big industry, and hilltop villages with spectacular views.

Abruzzo is a land of mystery, who has never forgotten her history and origins: traditions, folklore, festivals and ancient varieties of grains and vegetables have stood the test of time. It still stands like a stronghold against the mainstream of Italian culture, like it did when the Samnites, its nomadic people, fought with Rome and is now known as the Green Heart of Europe with rich vegetation, forests and wild life: wolves and bears, deer and wild boar, magnificent birds of prey.

We found 12 hectares in an old abandoned farm with an old stone house, as we found that having a building on the land helps considerably with any project. The farm is called La Difesa, an ancient term that comes from its prior land use, where the feudal lord had a parcel of land, defended (difesa) for the grazing of large animals, feeding on the acorns under the massive oak trees, which were not allowed to be cut. As well as oak forests, it is abundant with fruit orchards and olive groves.

It stands on the doorstep of the Majella Massif, known as the ‘Mother Mountain’, whose views are so jaw dropping we still can’t believe we live here. It’s a wild powerful land, lying between two rivers and the nature is strong — the mountain has a rhythm of its own and it’s not unusual to have intense storms, interspersed with endless sun, never mind the myths of old goddesses lying asleep next to sulphur springs that are hidden in a grove 500 meters away.

To begin with, alongside our UK canvas work, we just focused on building Heartland, our site: clearing the land, restoring the orchards, making yurts, renovating the house, and running small non-profit events with a theme of well-being and sustainability. The local people were curious and overwhelmingly welcoming, coming to meet us and bring us gifts of their produce, the local priest even came to bless the house, and recently, the mayor of the local commune came and sat around the fire and joined in the singing.

We soon realised we couldn’t just focus on our project as we could help the local region, which like much of rural areas in central and southern Europe suffers from the disease of depopulation with outlying areas of villages being abandoned as the farmers compete with big industry on the plains and youth leave the villages for jobs elsewhere, taking with them ancient knowledge of the region. We realised that we could design glamping sites as a tool for famers and land owners to diversify and supplement income and bring energy to the area in a sustainable way. Glamping in Italy is no where near as established as it is in the UK, and still in its infancy in Central Italy, so a Glamping Revolution was born: GlampItalia. It started promoting Glamping products in Italy, and got names like Featherdown Farm, Outstanding Safari Tents, and others on board.

We started sitting in meetings with famers and local bodies, eventually gathering a whole network of small eco-projects and farms in Abruzzo, for the creation of an integration between sustainable tourism, and organic farming that has roots in the rich farming tradition of the area. Abruzzo is a well kept secret, and doesn’t need an invasion of mass tourism, but a slow tourism which supports the local culture. There is an opening to put together a methodology based on a concept that has transformed the hospitality industry in the UK, but here it can actually save villages from ruin.

Meanwhile we started hosting more events: yurt-making, healing arts, green building, with personal transformation work always an underlying theme. Living as a group around the fire in the quiet of wild, abundant nature is a profound experience. We intend to host two events every year, Spring and Autumn, and this Autumn we plan to raise the central canopy of our Zodiac Tent. We have always had a passion for tent palaces and, over the years, have made or been part of making several of the grandest. This tent is a reproduction of a court tent of the Mogul emperor Humayun: a grand 20 metre central tent (representing the celestial sphere) surrounded by 12 yurts in a circle (for the 12 Zodiacal signs) – a micro cosmos, and will form a magical venue for events for all over Europe but with a base on our own site – Heartland.

The site now has 4 yurts, a tipi, a kitchen area, compost toilets, outdoor wood-fired bathtubs and a Shepherds Hut under construction. As well as running our own events, we intend to open the campsite, including the Zodiac Tent, for groups of people to run independent events such as team-building workshops, bushcraft courses, and holistic health events.

Bureaucracy in Italy is agonising and about 20 years behind the UK, but the legendary red tape for planning permission has been surprisingly not so red, and can be as easy as liasing with the local Commune. Obviously the nature of permit is defined also by the activity, but there are options that do not exist in the UK, where tents can be pitched on agricultural land, or the commune can bypass a need for a change of land use with a simple declaration from the mayor.

The Italian tax system is more prohibitive than in the UK, but like many people that have moved here, the sun, food, culture and warm hearted people by far make up for it. It is important that a place inspires your love strongly and we advise people moving over to allow two years for the leap, and to work with a solid local team of commercialista, geometra, lawyer and architect. There are an endless amount of rural properties at a fraction of the price of land in the UK, and some villages in Italy are even giving away houses to reverse their abandonment. If you have a dream of moving out to Italy to start a glamping site or similar project, it is a good time now before Brexit as who knows what will be possible then? We are happy to offer advice and bring more projects onboard to create a sustainable tourism network throughout Central Italy, and a movement of visitors between them.

Abruzzo is unbelievably beautiful, and we are finding a balance between reversing the abandonment yet loving the quiet it produces – living in a myth of ancient Italy, on the verge of a new dawn of sustainable redevelopment. It’s a full, fulfilling life and a good cause to live by.

 

The network and the cure

Summer has been somewhat hot, some people even gave it a name “The Lucifer Heatwave”.

 

Its Obvious to anyone who have got eyes that global warming is already here, I am not scared about it, The earth will look after itself it always does, its us the people that will suffer. 

Dont get me wrong I do think we should do something about it, but I have this approach to activism that is very simple, I dont believe we can change it without changing ourselves. This takes me to the core issue im dealing with these days.

We are working on the creation of a very special type of performance/event series, the idea is one we have been working 5 years to realise, is to create a sort of tented camp, based on the nomadic designs, a sort of contained travelling city with a heart. 

Nomadic tent cityThe heart of that city or performance if you wish is the Zodiac yurt palace, its a sort of tent venue that hopefully can address the real issue, that we “the white race” have lost our connection to this earth, to each other. Its a blatant opposite to our work in the Glamping world, it take an individual a sort of togetherness, its an experience that will focus on taking us into a connectivity, the idea behind this show, this series of events, is to take people back into a state of mind and of being which is primal, an hopefully to help address the real issue, that we have lost our place in society, our role as beings on this earth.

Ive been writing a lot lately about the fact that many people we know take to other cultures as a solution to move away from where the western world has got to, My experience from travelling for 16 years, and from studying other cultures is this – contact with the white race has always brought disaster, but also that the core of the issue seems to be that there is this mental disorder that affects everyone in western society, and simply being exposed to it seems to spread it to any other society or people, so I guess, to me it seems like an answer must come from the western world, from the white people, like our friends we hope to glean something that is lost here, from other cultures, and we wish to use it to find a way to help people back into a state of being that we never get exposed to anymore, in working with people on our events, we have notices that it can take over a week just for people to shed of the problems of being in society, the city, the demands, its little by little their natural inner being comes out again, thats why its all worth it, for those moments when they break through, when they go home and make a little difference.

I admire those friends that go and live with the Indians, people leave their lives and uproot into native and indigenous society but I feel like my place is here, in Europe.

And so this platform has come into being, we aim to use the biggest yurt palace ever made, as a centre to take people into another state of being, its called together.

The zodiac tent yurts are all in a circle, so there is less room for each person to go into his separate self, instead we each are almost pushed into being together, than the central arena is also a place that hosts performance, but the line between the public and the show is eliminated, so its a series of lead participatory workshops, where the performers and the public are one. 

The idea behind this venue is to try and work out a remedy for this mental Illness, to use Glamping for sustainability, and inner work as the torch bearer, we teach groups about telepathy, and inner psychic ability, how to affect others in service, and work together, but more than all we teach others about this space, the group mind, where miracles seems to happen, and so this performance we have been working on is the real focus, to raise this tent as a sort of hospital, where we can connect to our real network, to open up to a state of being that is lost in the West, and to affect the cure for the separation we all hold so dear. 

If you are reading this and this is something that inspires you, we are now working on two parallel groups one in Europe and one in the USA, We are looking for people to be part of the logistics, the performance and the network that operates this show, so feel free to contact us to talk about it in detail. 

Next year we already hope to have this tent in some of the biggest Festivals, this is a way it will support this network of performers and artists, but alongside we hope to start a series of events, taking part at the Heartland in Italy association but in other European countries as well. 

Forging the Heavenly Mill

In Ancient times there was a mysterious theme the one of the sky mill, it wasn’t a motif, it was a symbol for the change the ancient viewed in the sky over the ages, through the procession of the equinox, different constellations presented themselves to the eye in the sky at different times, the change was so slow as to take hundred of years to present a new constellation all together at the time of the equinox, yet the ancients understood and saw that changed and called the whole effect a mill.

In the norse epic the Kalevala That heavenly mill is called the Sampo, its a multi coloured article, a magical mill forged by a the best Smith.

We want to use this motif and develop it into a themed event this coming September, In the Heartland campground in Abruzzo where we are researching a new type of hybrid between sustainable tourism and personal development work.

The idea is to run another of those special events which are a mix of tent making, and promotional work, cutting edge performance and inner work, but all the while in the wildest nature of Abruzzo, the mountains and the open air, we will be raising 4 yurts, and be focusing this time of the central tent portion of the Zodiac tent, the Zome.

Because the theme happens to be The heavenly mill, we want for the cooking part of the event focus on food made from the ancient grains of Abruzzo, to develop a way to feed the event participant that connects us to a gluten free or at least gluten healthy past, when the local ancient grains where still healthy to eat….. Before modern Wheat, so we will make pasta, and eat Spelt grain for staple, make bread in the fire etc. 

The focus of this month long event will be to create a sort of alternative performance geared towards change Alongside a group of other people we are developing a type of activity that hopefully will turn into a participatory show, one that takes the spectator right into the show, like a sort of rite of passage from the past, the zodiac tent is going to be a sort of oracle edifice, and so we are working to have a sort of mix between challenging the self into deeper layers of connectivity, we hope to again touch on the subjects of telepathy, and well being, inner calling etc.

Like each of our events, there will be a sweatlodge to purify ourselves, this will hopefully take place around the equinox time, the moment of change.

here is a video of the last event we hosted in the spring, we hope to be holding two of these month long events every year.

Contact us if you feel called to participate, remember we will be living only in nature and sleeping in yurts, and the scope of inner work and this level of natural encounter isnt for everyone, its for people who wish to further into their psyche, for those of us that are willing to witness the mill of change and understand how it makes everything revolve, how it grinds the new age. 

Ancient Seed in neo-integration

There is a small slow revolution happening in Central Italy, you haven’t heard of it because it isnt spoken of loudly, but its happening …….

In Italy all the subjects of Glamping and organic farming and slow nature walks are less developed, but where they do take place the approach is very different, its deeper, its like people have gone all the way back to an old life that still lingers in small village communities, villages that still hold their cultural identity and history, something which is becoming hard to find now in the countryside in the UK, not to say our villages arent special they are, its the link with the past that is lost.

Because of our work in sustainable tourism in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, we have little by little, been exposed to a host of small eco projects,  always started by young people that have gone back to the land, and started farming the old way, usually with a twist, there is a wealth of ancient grain, cereal, fruit and vegetable varieties that are being harvested and preserved by these  projects, from tomatoes to cucumbers, apples, melons, but above all in Italy, its the ancient wheat, the secret indigent in speciality pasta, some of which is almost gulten free, and if you have heard of people with wheat intolerance going to Italy and eating pasta and noticing that for some strange reason they can digest it….. well there is a reason.

We have made some efforts with the Heartland Association, to get all those projects unified and create some sort of net, a net that can share and offer some sort of alternative, obviously our main focus is sustainable tourism, but its there in Central Italy that a small revolution is taking place, its not Glamping, its going back to the nature of two generations ago, and its there where the old and the new are coming together in a way we believe is more wholesome, no longer camping in nature is just a chic experience, its a whole way of travel into the past, into meaning and health, into foods we forgot existed. 

Having this window opened to us through our work in tent making, we felt that we need to help share it with others, especially now, as the UK is looking to be disconnecting itself from the Mainland of Europe, there is an option we must not neglect, and possibly one worth considering before (and if) the gates are closing, is that on the mainland and especially in the southern and central countries of Europe one, one can still reach back in time and develop a new way to socially innovate in marginalised rural areas. 

I dont want to put people back home off, there is much scope of this in the UK too, and actually we who have been responsible for the glamping industry taking such an important place in countryside development, should have been a little more responsible, so yes often things did go hand in hand and organic farming and country life did get enmeshed with the this new way of camping.

But im afraid the biggest problem is that in the UK, rural identity has been mainly lost, and so the old way of farming, the culture of place can no longer be integrated as equal parts with camping in nature, and so we focus more and more on new ways and new styles to spoil ourselves in the outdoors, which is nice of course, but to me seems a little lacking. 

This blog post is already quite long, but we havent even reached its main topic, and that is Ancient grains, hope you manage to keep on, we are almost there.

The vision we are trying to develop is where sustainable tourism is based on taking people into rural areas, developing a system of slow ventures into wildest nature, inner work, personal transformation, and all taking place in the framework of small scale organic farming based on local culture and most importantly local food, its food that can heal, its been cultivated by nature for us in an unbroken chain of the love of man and his surroundings, the toil of his soil and the mountains, the wealth of health these older food verities offer us is a link, and together with the cultural aspect of living in nature, one thats still holds in Italy undisturbed, you can reach back in time to pre-Roman inhabitants of the land, and thats the experience we want to develop, to take us all back into that primal connection that was lost.

So…. on our site in Abruzzo, we have been cultivating ancient grains, other have gone into this in more detail so here is a link to read further, most of these grain verities have been grown in the mountain regions of Abruzzo for over 1000 years, Solina (grano tenero) and Senatore Cappeli (grano duro) and others, those are wheats that have not been modified so heavily, and of course spelt the mother of wheat, it seems like what is the big deal, but you wait until you eat a plate of fresh Solina pasta, when you eat organic spelt whole grain cooked like rice, when your body accepts the right levels of gluten, and isnt poisoned by herbicide, its amazing to see our small whet field shining like gold next to the modern wheat fields of the neighbours, one of which we knew was sprayed with herbicides and is literally brown, and that should tell the whole story. 

So this year having grown all of those from seed on our site, Its amazing to observe this integration with the old and the new, and I feel sorry that we have lost the chance to have the same in the glamping industry in the UK, the Vision we should offer to clients coming to nature is of slow walks, of local foods, but more than all we should be able to bring back the foods that have kept us healthy, and the culture that has made us rich, those should be key elements I think in going on holiday in a sustainable tourism destination, I feel that as we are developing the concept from the ground up in Italy, we have a chance to make it slightly different, and I hope it will be more integrated. 

The new dawn

The waves of feeling keep undulating its worm and cold…. open and close, something really big has shifted, I have been on the go forever now, the rhythm is broken, I dont sleep at nights, sometimes go most of the day without eating, its this energy like something is coming.

We spent a month this spring with a group focusing on sustainable tourism, the idea was to build a few structures together, and take it nice and easy, but something else has happened, and its a little hard to describe but lets see if we can give it a go.

I believe that perception of this world is held by the way we have been taught to perceive, so its not like we see what there is, we see what we are made to see. Alongside tent making I was also exposed to some level of consciousness work that defies some of the normal parameters, or rather it bends them.

Thats what happened to me this spring, I like to have another edge when we hold events, somewhere between personal power and work periods, where people can experience living together, usually the group dictates how far it can go, usually there is someone who wants to go further, and the rest would rather not even know that further exists.

The event started quiet, we cut a lot of tree trunks in order to make a shepherd hut to replace my 4×4 truck, the rest of the plan was to make a few yurts together, and if we get to it work on a cruck frame marquee, but what took over almost from the start is group consciousness work.

I like to see group work like a field that can take individuals into a non-seperate state of awareness, I call it a tribal setting, we drop the boundaries bit by bit, sometimes people go as far as telepathy, things like empathy (feeling each other) is quite common, sharing dreams and so on. This month long event defied them all, its like the group was willing (mostly) to explore further, towards the end I find myself with some people on the edge of losing the plot, because of the amount of openness they shared with each other. I didnt expect that, it was like a mirror opened up and the exact replica of what happened to us 21 years ago in the mountains of Portugal, happened again, but it was even more than that, I realised that some of the people that have attended were like copies of our former selves, that really knocked me out.

I guess as a group we went further than shared awareness, we explored the esoteric side of tribalism, verging on sorcery even, the art of controlling time and space, its hard to describe now in the here and now of the everyday, and even if I could, who would understand me. There was loads of love, but also pain and fear, it was intense to share so much with a group of strangers, yet stranger to understand that they are us from another time, a window has opened up to another time and place, its eery but there is a magical message with it.

A Spring in the Wood: Sustainable Tourism Event at Heartland

Burning holes in Yurt Wheel

This will be a month long event, tying together some amazing wood work projects, wild outdoor living (in yurts), and fire side cooking. We will explore the creation of some products to help Glamping in Central Italy take off: making yurts, a Shepherds’ hut, a cruck frame marquee. We well know how beautiful and versatile yurts are as a living space, and are introducing the others, the Cruck Frame Marquee being more suited to a kitchen/dining room/workshop/event space. We will be living as a little tribe around the camp fire, and alongside all there will be the the Beltane celebration, conscious cooking, a sweat lodge, and some energy work exchange, maybe even a small participatory performance.

One of the structures we plan to make is a Shepherd’s Hut, a wagon which was, since the 15th century and into the 20th Century, used by shepherds during sheep raising and lambing, primarily in the United Kingdom and France. It has become a popular accommodation on UK glamping sites. We intend to construct an oak chassis and frame with prefabricated iron wheels. 

Shepherds Hut

Shepherds Hut Chassis

Another structure is a Cruck Frame Marquees a traditional timber framed marquee, based on a 13th century Gothic design. 

Cruck Frame Marquee

This mini festival is laying the foundation for the Heartland spring festival, where we come to celebrate the sacred marriage and the start of the season. This year’s theme is Sustainable Tourism, but with a twist – we will explore the role sustainable tourism has in helping to create economy in marginal rural areas and the role well-being practitioners and organic farming plays in this.

But mainly we will be having fun, living togther in a tribal setting like we always do, exploring nature and our inner connection, eating good food and working outside.

Sweat Lodge

Admission is free, the event is run by the Heartland Association which is a small non profit, but we suggest a donation of about 12 euros a day towards food so we can keep it flowing with honey from the hive of the queen bee herself.

We will be hosting from around 16th of April up to 10th of May.

See Facebook page for more information.

Brexit while you can and Italienter?

 

Roccascalegna, Abruzzo

Brits : If you have long had a romantic rural dream and are thinking of jumping ship as Le Grande Divorce approaches – howabout starting a Glamping site in Italy? (Also for non-Brits, just the Brexit thing is so loud…)

There is a rural regeneration revolution happening in Abruzzo, Central Italy!
Abruzzo, the Green Heart of Europe is a magical secret. Most people have heard of Tuscany and Umbria but Abruzzo is almost unheard of, even though it has the most magnificent mountains just a short drive from the beaches of the Adriatic Coast, national parks and ancient villages with rich tradition. It is not, however gonna be the next Tuscany or Umbria full of ex-pats with holiday homes, who create a surge in the house prices, but has a new culture full of people who want to integrate with and learn from the local culture, whilst bringing new ideas and sustainable projects. As written about in previous posts, much of Southern Europe is suffering from the disease of rural depopulation and a cure is needed. As talked about in the previous post, development of sustainable tourism projects is one such cure, and our speciality is the building of glamping sites so we want to connect the places with the future guardians.

Even though it is possible to find gems of places in the mountains for shockingly low prices, I’m not saying it’s all easy to set up a campsite in Italy: Italian bureaucracy is somewhat medieval with processes that would be just a click away in other European countries, needing patience-testing repetitive paperwork. Also, planning permission for a campsite can take time although the Italian administration is slowly waking up to new forms of land use.

That said, the increasing call for a greener future is putting pressure on central and local governments to provide more sustainable industries and the EU has more and more grants to support such industries. Alongside this, it also recognises the need to stop the trend of rural depopulation spreading and there are grants and schemes to support sustainable development in marginalised areas.

Also the global populist trend is asking the Italian administration to look at reducing taxes and help small businesses, which would make it easier and cheaper to establish a small business.

We have many years of experience in setting up and maintaining glamping sites in the UK, other European countries and Israel, so have seen what works and what doesn’t and especially enjoy coming up with the perfect vision to suit the place and the predilection of the owners.  We have a network of glamping business specialists who can help with the various challenges of setting one up. Our Heartland Association is focusing on sustainable tourism projects to share this beautiful, powerful land with responsible tourists and is working with regional planning departments to make planning permission for campsites easier. There will be more information coming later about our latest projects in Italy, but for now as well as making our UK yurts, tipis and other nomadic tents, we are now the sole agents in Italy.for Outstanding Safari Tents who make beautiful safari tents at affordable prices.

Outstanding safari tents

Outstanding Safari Tent

We have also got Featherdown Farm on board who, if you haven’t heard of them, have a network of locations which are working farms that offer accommodation in wonderful safari-style tents with rustic furniture. They have diversified into land which isn’t a working farm as such but could be an olive grove or other rural location. If you choose to go with them, you become one of their sites and get bookings through their website. It was very well established in the UK and Holland, then expanded to France, South Africa, USA,Germany, Belgium and Ireland – now we are putting it on the ground in Italy. 

Featherdown

So if you like the idea of establishing a campsite in Abruzzo – now is the time!
(Nevermind mountains, sea, good food, warm people, amazing weather…)

Get in touch if curious..

Glamping as a Solution with The Glamping Revolution

Ready for the GlampItalia Revolution…? 

After 10 years of so, the Glamping (glamorous camping) trend in the UK shows no sign of cooling off, with new campsites popping up all the time and there are hundreds, maybe even over a thousand of such sites in the UK. By glamping I mean the holiday experience of staying on a site which has structures (mostly nomadic canvas tents), with a level of comfort above that of ‘traditional’ camping. (Personally I dislike the word ‘glamping’, with its connotations of drinking martinis around a fire and a sanitised experience of nature, but it has become the all-encompassing term for this type of holidaying). Of course, living in luxury in nomadic tents isn’t a new thing by any means: the Mughal Emperors, for example, in the 16th century travelled with entire cities of nomadic tents with a large and opulent palace tent  for the Emperor which had the most ornate decorations and was sumptuously furnished. (To give you an idea of the standard – the Taj Mahal was built by one of the Mughal Emperors).

The market for these sort of holidays is big in the UK as the UK has a strong tradition of outdoors and camping holidays and many know the experience of pitching a tent in the rain or taking a caravan park with rows of identical caravans, so the glamping idea presents something more comfortable and closer to nature, and now has become a mainstream vacation. These sort of sites, also lend themselves to spa-type of retreat or a luxury resort with a natural edge.

Over the years we, as tent makers, have been involved in the setting up and/or maintenance of a very many of these sites in the UK, other countries in Europe and Israel. After looking for many many years to find a place where we can build a campsite of our own –  Abruzzo, known as the Green Heart of Europe, called us into its heart of hearts two years ago and we have been  building up Heartland, our own wild, yurt campsite in the Majella Mountains.

Kissing Yurts at Heartland

The Italian rural mountain villages in this area are generally very traditional and conservative with few foreigners, but the local people have been overwhelmingly open to us from the start. (A while after we first arrived, even the local priest came to our little house on a dirt road, in full ceremonial dress and blessed us and the house with prayers and holy water. And local farmers drive by in their tractors and deliver boxes of fresh produce). The main 12 hectare site is in an isolated place a few km from the village and is not yet accessible without a 4×4 vehicle, which means that it is only the adventurous and/or inquistive who make the journey. The locals might have not fully understood what we were intending to do down there but the support and positive reports given by visitors and participants in events, have created a sort of excitement in the village, about the ‘English’, who have brought new energy to the area.

glampitalia

Torricella Peligna

However, as you may have read in previous posts, these mountain villages are suffering from the disease of rural depopulation, which means the outlying farmlands have become overgrown and abandoned, and the younger generation have left, meaning that there is no one to continue the traditional ways of agriculture..
The are old ways still there : the families going out to pick their olives at harvest time, the old people getting their wood for the winter taking a picnic into the fields, the guy going out at first light all summer to look for truffles, the knowledge of the day in June when, if it rains it will be a bad year for the olives and the day in September when you can tell if it will be a cold winter. The traditional recipes, of sowing seeds. These old ways are disappearing as the village collapses in towards the centre leaving the outlying properties and lands to be taken over by the overgrowth of forest and wild boars. There are whole olive fields abandoned and classic stone houses and barns falling into ruin. 

So GLAMPING TO THE RESCUE…we are bringing the glamping model to local land owners to start initiatives with anything from a single yurt B&B in their field, to complete campsites with several units and a restaraunt. This sustainable tourism allows farmers to supplement their income and brings people and energy to these abandoned areas.

yurt in abruzzo

Yurt B&B in Abruzzo

Italy is ready for a GLAMPING REVOLUTION with the idea already caught in the North and slowly filtering down from the North to Abruzzo which is surprisingly undiscovered as a holiday destination, with its wild mountains, medieval villages perched on the mountaintops, national parks full of wildlife and the Adriatic coast with its endless beaches. We certainly don’t want to encourage a massive influx of tourism to this magical area, but slow, sustainable tourism is a needed to boost the area, and bring life to the lands.

As pioneers in the industry, we are enflaming this revolution in Italy, and alongside Heartland, our wilder site, we are working with an Italian partner to set up a campsite at the top of Torricella Peligna, the local town to Heartland, which will be a shop window of sorts, for the glamping scene. People who are new to the glamping idea and interested in setting up an initiative can experience it first hand, as well as experienced site owners getting some new ideas. This site will feature examples of the possiblities for a eco-site: yurts, safari tents, tipis, shepherd’s huts, wooden saunas, hot-tubs, compost toilets, off-grid energy solutions as well as access to experts in the field offering business advice from geographical considerations to finance and marketing. 

The GlampItalia Revolution is on. Get in touch if you are looking to start a new eco-tourism initiative in Italy, or want to expand an exisiting site with new ideas or are have suitable product to put out to the Italian market.

The Sybil

It was late afternoon, I was a little tired and the smell of sulphur was hanging strong over my skin, I looked at the map, I wanted to find a place to stop for the night soon, but wanted to head towards the monte Sibbilini national park a little more first, we were drawn to the place because of its name, the mountains of the sybil (the oracle) I remembered reading at some point over the summer that there used to be a cave up one of the mountains where the oracle used to live.

Anyway the day was getting old, and much have happened It felt like if I can drive us of the main road in the direction of the national park, and we can simply find a resting place that would be best, I stopped relying on google navigation at some point because of all the closed roads, so whilst driving a quick look at the edge of our map showed me mount Sibbila, there seemed to actually be a road that went up the mountain, I guessed that it wouldn’t be drivable to cars, and anyway all roads seemed closed.

But heading towards that name place seemed the goal for the night, I thought we were leaving the earthquake centre, but even here on the small roads, there was a lot of damage, at times it seemed that there was even more, small villages nestled on the Ridgeline, very beautiful, but even here many houses were collapsed, and it seemed that any road but the one I was driving was closed, I was heading towards the village of montemoncao, I thought it being a little late we can park there for the night, maybe in the morning we can see if we can find the road up that mountain, and ask the locals if they heard about the cave too.

I almost got to the village, but the road was closed, it was funny because we also reached the end of the map (its Abruzzo and Molise map) I couldnt drive through the village and there was no where for our sizeable camper either, I drove back and took the first turning, it was a small road, I was tired, I remember saying out of exhaustion It seemed we arent meant to find that mountain, the road is closed, I came to another small turning, the road sign in brown said …. MONTE SIBBILA….!!! the road to the mountain wasnt closed after all, in fact, it was the only one I could have taken, that was getting a little strange….

I drove on, something seemed to have a mind of its own, and it wasnt mine, I got to the bottom of the mountain, there was a 4×4 parked, by a barrier, this was the small road I seen on the map, the road to the Oracle mountain, as it seemed something led us here, I just drove passed the barrier, it wasnt really blocking the road and it seemed too late to do anything else, It was a small gravel road, and we were in a 7.5 ton truck, it snaked up the mountain, with drops of 1000 meter at either side, the valleys in front of us and the surrounding peaks of the monte Sibbilini were something else, a cloud hung up above, and I was relieved when we drove into the fog, because I was scared someone would see us driving the big yellow monster, at one point there was a massive boulder in the middle of the road, the earthquakes must have lodged it free from the mountain, but here too I could pass through, I felt like the something really wanted us up that mountain.

the road up sibilla

The view going up the 4×4 road

We got to the rifugio Sibbila just before dark, I was relieved to see a couple of other cars, it seemed the Italians like me dont bother with barriers, I parked the truck at the edge, below us the whole land laid like a map, it was such a strong day, looking down on all that area, and knowing how shaken it was, having been working to promote sustainable tourism in the rural mountains of Abruzzo we know what it must have felt for the locals, it seemed fighting abandonment was so much more of an issue now, but it also seemed that there is ancient myth right under our feet, a sleeping entity who is awakening.

Before we went it to make dinner, I went to read the tourist map, I was somewhat shocked to find that the cave I was after was up that very mountain!, the sign said that in medieval times people used to come up the mountain because its mystery power, that it symbolised the earth mother, and that they came to dream here, it seems very auspicious  to me.

This mountain range, Monte Sibillini is named after the sibyls, wise women, priestesses who could read the energy of things, see into the future. The sibyls are also known as oracles, the most famous being the Oracle of Delphi and the difference being that the oracles would speak the words of the Spirit, like the Oracle of Delphi speaking for Apollo: “He says…”, whereas the Sibyls would speak the words of the Spirit directly as themselves. The first story of the sibyl can be traced through Roman folklore to the 5th century BC in Greece. There were several sibyls, but this story is about the Apennine Sibyl, who lived in a cave in the heart of a mountain, which became known as Monte Sibilla. The cave could well have been the entrance to an underground labyrinth where the sibyl lived and worked on the mysterious side of things. Wandering knights of medieval times would come and seek counsel with the sibyl and people would come to the cave to dream. Supposedly people would come to seek her advice, of course we no longer know how the ancients view it all, the power of place for them was the first religion, the spirit of the mountain and its connection with the deep (through the cave) was why the oracle prophesied there.

mount sibilla

An old map of the oracle cave

The Mountain is believed to be the centre of the earth, the Navel, there are other spots like that, like the above mentioned temple in Delphi, the same goes for Cusco in Peru, the tibetans too believed the earth was a goddess, and in order to achieve super natural abilities they would travel her body, in search of the mysterious waterfall that would transport them to other worlds, In India it is believed that meditation on certain spots can advance you spiritually as much as doing the same work for years in any other place.

Anyway we get the gist, its the power of place, and its affect on the spirit of Man (or in this case Woman).

mount sibilla

The ring road of the mountain, and the cave at the top

The next morning we climbed up the mountain……there are two possible roads one can take, in fact its like a ring, and you can approach the mountain from both directions, we vouched for the way up Monte Zampa, this proved to be a good choice, because although the ascent to Monte Zampa is a little devoid of scenery, once you get there, to are confronted by a long dragon back of monte Sibbila, and the valley below was so breathtaking, I decided on the spot it was in my 5 top places ive ever visited, the view reminded me of how it felt looking down from Mt. Sinai, its pristine.

the secret valley below mount sibilla

The secret valley below the mountains

There is a convent the other side of the valley. I thought that this must be the most amazing place in Europe, the half moon was right over the Sibbila mountain, and it seemed like we were walking in the footprints of a legend, like we were brought here for a reason even, our Abruzzan shepherd loved the hike even more than us, we decided it was time teach him to carry loads, so every km or so we tied another bit of clothing around his waist, hoping that one day he can carry our loads for us, or at least learn to carry loads as part of his work, he didn’t seem to mind the pile of woollen jumpers around his middle, he was in the mountains and he felt like home, we all did, especially now he was carrying more of our clothes.

Abruzzen Shepard

The Shepard of Abruzzo carrying our clothes

After some steep ascents and some bits we had to almost carry the dog, we got to the top, the cave itself was closed obviously, There is rumoured to be a labyrinth under the entrance, with halls and magic, where the oracle used to live, the cave entrance was also blown in an attempt to try and open it, which actually made it even harder to enter, there is however a little opening that borrows down, for the brave of heart.

There are secret stories in the area rumours the locals spread, and how they believe it is best the cave is left alone, the witchcraft left untouched, maybe it was them taht blew the entrance to make sure the secret of the caves would never be explored, to dissuade people from stirring the earth again, but the strongest punch line of it all, is that once we climbed that mountain that seemed to call us, whilst we explored the area, we have come to realise that every one of the hundred or so earthquakes that occoured in Italy in the last months, seemed to be centred around the cave, some of the biggest shakes were not 15km away as the crow flies, so it seems that maybe the locals were right, or maybe they were wrong, because it seemed no one can keep the Oracle from returning, the mountain that held her for 1500 years is now shaking the area is all adrift, it seemed she has decided it is time to come out, it is time for her to find a new Woman, one that would heed the call and be the voice for the spirit.

oracle

Spirit’s voice