Entrepeneur Daniele Kihlgren
RESTORING THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY Italian entrepreneur Daniele Kihlgren is on a mission to save Italy’s medieval ghost towns with authentic restorations to lure both locals and tourists BY IVAN CARVALHO
t is no secret Italy is a cultural superpower. From the days of the Grand Tour, travellers have fallen in love with its impressive monuments and artworks. Yet if one ventures off the well-worn path trodden by visitors to Rome’s Colosseum or the Uffizi in Florence, another equally captivating world awaits, one untouched by vendors flogging souvenirs, maps and related tourist tat. These are the medieval hamlets, many in a state of disrepair, scattered across the countryside of the bel paese, or beautiful country. Entrepreneur Daniele Kihlgren refers to them as Italy’s “second tier of cultural attractions” but argues they are just as deserving of attention as the frescoes one queues to see in the Sistine Chapel. Part anthropologist, part philosopher, Italian entrepreneur Kihlgren, whose surname he inherited from his Genoa-born Swedish father, has taken the lead in drumming up interest for the borghi fantasma, abandoned or nearly uninhabited villages typically found in mountainous areas in the country’s poorer
JULY / AUGUST 2016
south. Waves of emigration moving north or abroad to seek work in the past century have decimated the population of hundreds of such settlements, leaving behind an ever-growing stock of ghost towns. Born and raised in Milan, the 49-year-old first had contact with these neglected lands in 1999 during a solo expedition in the Abruzzo region aboard his BMW motorcycle. He stumbled upon the near-deserted hilltop village of Santo Stefano di Sessanio in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park in the Apennines and was left speechless, not only by the outstanding beauty of the scenery but because almost everything was untouched. “Time seemed to have stood perfectly still – no concrete buildings, no factories, no tourist infrastructure at all like you see elsewhere in the mountains with kitsch chalets. It was virgin,” says Kihlgren. Soon after, he returned to Santo Stefano with plans to save the village from extinction. The inhabitants had dwindled from
Published on Jul 1, 2016
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