The UN declared 2017 the Year of Sustainable Tourism, an issue that is gaining increasing awareness among Italians. According to the report from the environmental protection organisation Fondazione Univerde, before choosing holiday accommodation, 42% of Italians seek information about its sustainability and 75% use the internet for this research. This awareness had led to an increase in Italy, as elsewhere, of the number of buildings built to eco-friendly standards showing concern for the environment and for safeguarding natural resources. Here are some you just cannot miss.
The San Luis Private Retreat Hotel & Lodges is located on the high plateau of Avelengo, above the city of Merano (sanluis-hotel.com). It is reached by a private woodland road and on arrival visitors are greeted with a view of delightful chalets reflected in the waters of the lake and, deeper in the Alpine parkland, fairy-tale treehouses set on wooden piles 5-10 metres above the ground, offering a unique experience in direct contact with nature. They have all been built in compliance with the principles of bio-architecture in Moon Wood, timber felled and processed according to the lunar calendar in order to maintain its properties of resistance and positive energy. The walls are made from clay and the flooring from slate without the use of metal, not even iron screws or nails. Wood chips and shavings from the woodland provide the heating fuel and the organic kitchen garden produces vegetables and aromatic herbs for use in both the kitchen and spa treatments.
AN AWARD-WINNING FARM
Agriturismo Sant’Egle nestles deep in the verdant countryside of Grosseto (agriturismobiologicotoscana.it). Originally a 17th Century custom house it was once a resting place for travellers crossing the border between the Papal State and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Today it has been transformed into an eco-friendly establishment, winning the WWF award for the best farmhouse holiday venue in terms of sustainability, conservation and biodiversity. It can take only 18 guests at a time who have at their disposal spacious bedrooms, a pool with water purified by a filter using whole natural salt from the Trapani WWF nature reserve and hammocks hung between the trees, ideal for a peaceful siesta. The farm also offers courses in cheese-making, cookery courses for baking bread and make desserts with organic yeast, or guests can learn how to grow saffron, or become experts in synergistic gardening in which the soil is left undisturbed to do the work, in lessons held in the organic garden.
A LITTLE CORNER OF JAPAN
WabiSabi Culture is a ryokan, a traditional Japanese-style inn in San Genesio among the Sibylline Mountains (wabisabiculture.org). Originally three stone farmhouses which have undergone eco-friendly restoration, the place features sliding doors revealing soothing views of the woods, their colours changing with the seasons or simply with the time of day. The flowers in the Zen garden are picked by the owner to make the Tsuki lanterns that add a touch of spirituality and light up the tatami mats made out of rice straw on which the guests sleep. Time here passes at a leisurely pace amid aromatherapy baths in tubs of Inoki wood from the Kiso Valley, Zen breathing meditation and courses on which guests learn the art of the tea ceremony. Walks can also be taken along the gravel paths leading to the lake in which the Koi carp swims.
THE FARMHOUSE HOTEL
The Agnata di De Andrè was once the home of famous Italian singer, songwriter and poet Fabrizio De Andrè and his wife, singer Dori Ghezzi (agnata.com). Today it is a boutique hotel, the entire front covered by Virginia creeper extending an eco-friendly welcome to guests who can enjoy a break in this “stazzu”, a traditional shepherd’s refuge and farmhouse in the heart of a rural estate covering 150 hectares. This green wonderland has cultivated fields, an orchard and a garden designed by the singer-songwriter and ten rooms all named after plants and flowers. Guests are served a cuisine made from zero-miles ingredients and there is a programme of hikes and mountain bike outings to explore the hinterland of the Gallura region of Sardinia.