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As the world’s population embraces green issues more and more, there are increasing opportunities for travellers to take exciting eco friendly holidays.
Italy has always been a popular holiday destination for its culture, the arts, the sunshine, its food and wine. It si also true that Italy is not widely known for its environmental care.
We have been travelling Italy in the past few months meeting those Italian owners of holiday accommodation who are sensitive to ecology - in all forms this may take - whether it is a town house in an art city, an ancient farmhouse in the countryside, a modern building on an organic wine estate. What we found these places and people to have in common, is the extreme beauty of the place and the owners’ love and respect for life. Very warm, welcoming, sensitive people whose house reflects their views on Hospitality, an ancient and sacred concept.
Attention to ecology really can take many forms. Some properties have used only natural materials in the restoration, others have chosen sustainable power to run the house, some recycle rain water, others have chosen building materials and methods that reduce power usage in winter like floor heating. Some owners keep an organic garden at the house (with all that entails, like avoiding transportation and petrol costs), others use strictly natural cleaning products on the premises.
These choices have a twofold meaning and reason. On the one hand they are meant to protect the environment and the health of both owner and tenants, and on the other it reduces costs in the long run and allows the owner to keep prices down … even in winter.
So here is a selection of our favourites eco-friendly places.
We adored this truly special town house in Modica, Sicily. Sicily is well known in Italy for the reckless building speculation of the past 30 years that has destroyed most of the land. We therefore feel even more excited to have found a Sicily eco-friendly house!
Southerns Souls is where old and new emotions discourse together, where you’ll find elements saved from the old house and where ecology, contemporary art and urban design also have their place. The owner is a well known painter of Bologna who lived in Modica for a while and felt the need to leave part of his soul down South. The house is very elegant, yet very comfortable and welcoming. Green wise, the house recycles rain water for the toilets, has a contract with Edison-LifeGate which guarantees that the electricity supply comes from renewable sources. Household appliances and lighting are energy efficient. Traditionally styled wooden shutters, double-glazing and inverter heat pump air-conditioners mean comfort with energy savings. When restoring the house Luca used solvent free products and only local materials such as artisan Sicilian terra cotta and pitchstone, and wherever possible reusing the original materials of the house.
The result is a charming tourist accommodation in a period house with an enchanting view over the historical centre of the delightful Baroque town of Modica – an incredible the cradle of painters, borderland and a mooring for culture.
The other factor that completely conquered us about Southern Souls, is the warm yet professional welcome given to us by the house manager Amalia, a knowledgeable, sound, very communicative lady who will open up Modica and Southern Sicily and hand it over to you as if it was a bar of their famous chocolate!
A more modern, stylish example of Tuscan eco-friendly accommodation is this barn in Chianti, part of an excellent young wine estate, the house was recently completely rebuilt using the finest eco-friendly materials, a water recycling method and solar panels. The views are spectacular, the hospitality of Marcella and Mauro is exceptionally warm, elegant and highly informative. They love drawing guests into Siena’s culture – do not be surprised to be invited for dinner or wine tastings of their excellent Supertuscan by the pool.
A very similar approach, yet more active is to be found at Alina’s farm in Umbria, right on the border with Tuscany. Alina and her mother Lucia (plus the men in the family) run one of the best olive oil producing farms in the whole of Italy. It took them 40 years to get to the highest possible standards both in oil production and hospitality. There is so much to say about this place that it is difficult to be concise. The first thing that strikes upon arrival, even at the end of November after a very long season, is their genuine friendliness and passionate way of drawing you into their farm activities. Next is the speechless beauty of the place. Every single detail is so tendered yet so natural looking that one cannot imagine so much work actually goes on behind the scenes.
Their respect for intimacy and privacy of the guests is great. Their enthusiasm is infectious, but not intrusive at all. Alina, who is also a sommelier, may invite you for a wine tasting in their very charming cellar and draw you into the beauties of Umbrian and Tuscan wines with passion and knowledge… or maybe organise a cooking class with a local chef or just throw a pizza party.
As far as eco-friendliness, the houses are all built with a water recycling system, floor heating, solar panels, the farm is strictly organic, the olive trees are fed with the leftovers of the olive pressing. The farm also produces excellent honey. All activities can be joined by guests – it is great for children who can see the whole process of honey making and olive oil production (the olive mill is inside the farm).
Holidays here are fantastic both for couples in one of the 2 romantic cottages, and for families and groups in the larger accommodation.
Among our all time favs are these houses on a Tuscany organic learning farm. Holidays here offer terrific experiences for those travellers wanting to have a hands on experience in green living on a farm. Powered by solar panels and a wood burning boiler, the farm also recycles rain water. The sheep on the farm are solely fed on their own forage – strictly organic. Giovanna and Giovanni’s hospitality is very genuine – and Giovanna’s cooking is blissful!
Not only do tourists get the chance to stay in comfortable accommodation in a beautiful part of Italy, but they can also get hands on experience of farm life. Whilst enjoying the panoramic views, guests may have the opportunity to feed the farm animals, make cheese or even get some cooking lessons.
These are just some of our green properties, you will find more in the top box on this page (called ‘structures’).
Before I leave you to your house search – I’d like to point out that a green holiday is also a slow holiday discovering the small, less famous pearls in the area, cycling or walking rather than driving, buying locally at the market/producers rather at the supermarket… I am also aware that Italy is far behind in this awareness compared to the northern countries, and it is not always easy to find information on local producers … this is why we are producing our booklets .. look out for them!