Tag Archives: Glamping Italy

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.

 

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.