With FAI for "I Luoghi del Cuore"(Italian Places I Love) census

“Beauty will save the world”, says Dostoevsky; but in our time art historian Salvatore Settis warns: “Beauty won’t save anything if we don’t save beauty first”.

These statements certainly ring true for FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano, which in 2020 as well, in a particularly challenging moment in the country’s history due to the Covid-19 pandemic, invited all citizens to vote and encourage others to vote for the places that they love the most and would like to see being protected and enhanced through the “I Luoghi del Cuore” initiative, of which we are now a historic partner.

Places of the Heart

Twenty places were selected in thirteen regions of Italy. These places will have the privilege of being part of an important restoration and development project, thanks to 370 thousand Euros made available by FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo.

The final decision, in line with the mission of protecting nature and archaeological sites, as well as promoting history and art – something that has always characterised the FAI – took into account the most pressing of needs and the potential for redevelopment of some of the most evocative geographical areas of our country.

The chosen places

1st place - Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice Railway
Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice: the Railway of Wonders

Designed by Cavour in the mid-19th century, it brings together the rugged nature of the Maritime Alps with the ingenuity of mankind, representing an infrastructure for the locals but with a significant potential for tourism. Thanks to the funds made available by FAI and Intesa Sanpaolo, a video story of the territory will be created to promote the places of exceptional historical and environmental value through which this train rides and to which it connects.

3rd place - Brescia Castle
Brescia Castle.

A symbol of the history of the city, it was founded in Roman times, survived the Visconti dominion and the government of the Serenissima, all the way to the Austrian era, to then become the protagonist of the city’s Risorgimento. Thanks to the funds provided, the evocative Strada del Soccorso will be re-established and reopened to the public, enhanced by new lighting.

4th place - Via delle Collegiate Modica (RG)
Via delle Collegiate, Modica (RG).

Thanks to the funds provided, the three churches will be able to reinforce the historical, emotional, and devotional bond with citizens by exhibiting and recounting several symbolic works that were not able to be enjoyed until now.

5th place - Ignazio Gardella Alessandria Hospital and Church

The Ignazio Gardella Hospital and Church in Alessandria is the first work created by the great rationalist architect, and the most voted in the ranking of Historic Places of Healthcare. Thanks to the funds provided, the roofs will be waterproofed.

6th place –Grotto Church of San Nicolò Inferiore Modica (RG)

Grotto church of San Nicolò Inferiore, Modica (RG). Thanks to the funds provided, its important Byzantine frescoes, which have been seriously compromised by moisture and humidity, will be restored.

7th place - Aqueduct Bridge in Gravina in Puglia (BA)

Aqueduct Bridge, Gravina in Puglia (BA) . Thanks to the funds provided, a new lighting system will be created that will allow visitors to better appreciate the architecture and also walk across the lower arch. Being the winner of the prize for the most voted place on the web, a video of the bridge will be created, which will narrate its role in the history of the city and its relationship with the locals, directed by Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi.

9th place - Hermitage of Sant’Onofrio al Morrone in Sulmona (AQ)

Hermitage of Sant’Onofrio al Morrone, Sulmona (AQ). This site is tied to the memory of Celestine V and is the winner of the prize for the “Italy Above 600 Meters” classification. The project is being defined.

The following places can also count on funding: Church of Santa Maria Gesù Lo Piano in Polizzi Generosa (PA); Fort Aurelia in Rome; Palatine Tables, formerly “School of Pythagoras”, in Megale Ellas, Bernalda (MT); Rio Grande basin in Amelia (TR); the Fescina in Quarto (NA); Village of Monesteroli in La Spezia; International Temple of the Donor in Pianezze di Valdobbiadene (TV); Garden of the Angels in Castel San Pietro Terme (BO); Church of St. Eufemia in Corte Franca (BS); Villa Floridiana in Naples; Courtyard of San Cosimato in Rome; Portovecchio - Military Area in Mirandola (MO); Church and Museum of San Cassiano di Controne in Bagni di Lucca (LU).


The tenth census

The final result of this 10th edition of the Census – launched in May 2020 and end in December 2020 – reached very high numbers, far higher than those of the previous editions: over 2.3 million votes and 39,500 places voted in 6,504 Italian municipalities (82.3% of the total).

In a time of extraordinary difficulty, the fact that the votes for “Places of the Heart” were over 2,300,000 is a sign that Italians consider their beloved country a lost paradise to be rediscovered. There is an increasingly widespread awareness of special places scattered throughout the peninsula, so well distributed and numerous as to make Italy a “cultural power” and encourage the FAI to continue playing its subsidiary role in helping public institutions to protect and promote the heritage of art, history, and nature.

Andrea Carandini, FAI President

In fact, the initiative gives life to stories of the civil commitment of citizens from many communities who have become interested in the initiative, or have discovered a renewed enthusiasm, and come together for the common goal of recuperating and safeguarding a place they cherish, sharing their hopes and emotions. In recent years, following the actions taken after the censuses, 119 restructuring and improvement interventions in 19 regions were implemented, with over 9 million votes for 39,000 places.

Intesa Sanpaolo has been collaborating with FAI in this project as a sole partner since the start. The protection and improvement of the country’s artistic and natural beauties represent an area of strong strategic commitment for our Group, which sees the promotion of art and culture as an integral part of our Business Plan.

The brilliant result of the votes for the FAI’s “Places of the Heart” during such a particular year is proof that the desire for art and beauty has not vanished with the pandemic, and that people have remained sensitive to small and large expressions of local heritage, participating in the census with the aim of safeguarding these places. To the meritorious objectives of protection and citizen participation in the project, this year we have also made room for the professions of art, restoration, and landscaping in distress, as well as promoting local tourism. The emphasis given to healthcare facilities evokes the recognition that is due to healthcare personnel, consistent with the support and attention that Intesa Sanpaolo has ensured in recent months.

Gian Maria Gros-Pietro, President of Intesa Sanpaolo

The final classification

Along with the general classification of the most voted places, as in every edition of the FAI census, this edition also included special rankings for a particular type of place: “Italy Above 600 Meters” – namely, the inland mountain areas of the country – and, particularly in harmony with the times we are living: “Historic Places of Healthcare”.

Italy Above 600 Meters

These are the places that belong to the country’s inland mountain areas, which represent the backbone of Italy and where a bond of identity with the territory and its traditions is very strongly rooted. These areas have become the outskirts of Italy, due to a lack of services, depopulation, and the consequent aging of the population: extremely diverse places, such as villages, natural areas, castles and fortresses, abbeys, convents, monasteries, hermitages, and trails.

Our partnership with FAI began with the Mulino di Baresi, a heritage site in Roncobello in the Upper Brembana Valley. The second most voted place in 2003, this 17th-century rural building was acquired in 2005 by the foundation thanks to our donation, and was subsequently salvaged, restored, and given back to the local community.

Historical Places of Healthcare

These are architectural heritage sites, such as Roman baths, ancient medieval or Renaissance hospitals, nursing homes, historical 18th-century pharmacies, former psychiatric hospitals, in short, places deeply rooted in our past. Places that, due to the current  health emergency, have become, at times, strongholds where each and every one of us is protected.