In its fifteen years of life, the Club I Borghi più Belli d’Italia has been able to preserve, valorise and recover all those realities that were likely to end up caught in the folds of geographical marginality and in economic interests: that is to say the hamlets, architectural pearls of Italian beauty and caretakers of memories tied to a past that has passed synchronized to Earth’s cycles and to the simplicity of a frugal life.
If our grandparents had abandoned them, attracted by the economic opportunities offered by cities, villages are now a place to rediscover a life completely counterposed to cities’ frenzy and dispersion. But they are not unmovable realities: the initiatives organized by the Club I Borghi Belli d’Italia, which are now followed by those organized by MIBACT, ENIT and ICE, prove their indisputable dynamism in reinventing themselves and in knowing how to meet inhabitants and of the community’s needs.
It is the latter that, recognizing itself in the place’s stylistic features, characterizes it; at the same time, however, it is the village that gives an identity to the community, which is no longer a secondary character, separated by the great cultural flows that animate the cities, but is a real leader in creating a new storytelling.
Born from the ribs of ANCI, the Club is made up of complementary compartments dedicated to the development of different areas. There is the Association, nationally recognized, which includes 250 of the best Italian tourist villages and the 21 hamlets safeguarded by UNESCO. Then, there is the Ecce Italia Consortium, which gathers the best companies of typical agro-food and handicraft products, placed, of course, in the village; a tour operator – Borghi Italia Tour Network – promoter of international relevance routes, and the company Borghi Servizi & Ambiente, whose main aim is to realize works and services needed to improve the environment, the organization structure and the territory’s resources.
The Club is now a recognized entity, not only as a res tipica of the Peninsula, but also as a fundamental component of Les plus beaux villages de la Terre, a transnational organization that includes villages in Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Belgium, Romania, Korea and Canada.
With twenty-six certified villages on two hundred and seventy national ones, Umbria is the region with the highest proportion of associated municipalities, counting one in four.
No surprise, if we think about the region’s conformation, where villages have become centers of high-quality agro-food production and specialized handmade crafts. They are also equipped to accommodate companies belonging to the tertiary sector, if they want to produce in a quiet and harmonious place.
In order to enhance these unique characteristics, in February 2016 the Association of I Borghi più Belli d’Italia in Umbria, the territorial variation of the national club, was founded in Spello. The goal, as President Antonio Luna states, is to become a Tourist Planning Center to promote Umbrian villages’ attractiveness and hospitality services, integrating agri-food, innovation and tourism sectors.
All of this with the approval of ANCI Umbria, which houses its headquarters, the provinces of Perugia and Terni, which provide the Press Office, the TGR Rai 3 of Umbria, which has presented one by one the twenty-six associated villages, the Regional UNIPLI, partner in the organization of historical events, and the Department of Economics of the University of Perugia, who signed a protocol for the research and development of the hamlets.
The password is an acronym that could only be UMBRIA: Unicity, Mysticism, Hamlets (borghi), Relationship, Identity, Environment (Ambiente), just to find out its identifying elements.
Achievements and Purposes
On the horizon, then, there are purposes with evocative names: a landscaping economy project, an economy for villages in the advanced tertiary, a cataloguing work of one hundred identity festivals in Umbrian villages and a prominent presence at the Rural Tourism Show, organized in Bastia Umbra on October 6th-8th, 2017.
Some initiatives come easily, if we think of the results achieved. Since 2015, new holiday packages have been developed, marketed by Borghi Italia Tour Network tour operator, in order to show St. Francis mystical Umbria, St. Valentine’s romantic one, the Etruscan territory and the Middle and Upper Tiber Valley. These are routes that unwind not only among the hamlets, but also among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among the archaeological and religious sites, as well as places remarkable for their beautiful landscape and historical richness. The same routes were then promoted at EXPO 2015, through the thirteen representatives present.
The conferences were not lacking, as they are useful to discover not only the Association’s work, but also the characteristics of the villages themselves, which are crucial in defining the landscape in turn. Significant was the management of the event, Borghi, Viaggio Italiano – Giornata dedicate all’Umbria (Hamlets, An Italian Trip – Umbria’s Day), held on May 10th, 2017 at Terme di Diocleziano, under the aegis of eighteen regions led by Emilia Romagna and MIBACT to celebrate 2017, recognized by Minister Franceschini as «the year of the villages».
Finally, the Association created the national event called The Romantic Night of Italian Villages, that sees Umbria in its first place thanks to its twenty-three participant municipalities. The romantic night will be an opportunity to admire the boroughs hug by a unique atmosphere, animated by cultural and entertainment events.