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.