The team behind UK tent making company Spirits Intent has introduced the concept of glamping to Central Italy through a live-in event centre with a difference
Lucy Friedlander and Nitsan Morag host transformational events and live-in seminars on topics including yurt making, healing arts and green building, with accommodation in a variety of glamping units. Their aim is to bring ‘Man’, awareness and the environment into one on a 12 hectare site in Central Italy, and to offer the area’s farmers a model by which they can diversify into eco tourism themselves. We talk to Lucy.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
We looked for a place for many years to be our home and open a campsite. Central Italy is relatively new to glamping, but is ready for a glamping explosion. We opened with our first event in March 2015.
How did you research the business before entering it?
We have a UK tent making business called Spirits Intent, and have worked in the glamping industry for 12+ years. We have wide experience in this market, in the UK and other European countries, and saw Italy as a good place for a campsite as land is relatively inexpensive and it’s a popular destination for tourists. Abruzzo is uncharted.
Tell us about your location and site
Our site is in the mountains of central Italy with a magnificent view of the Majella Mountain. It is not a traditional glamping site because we hold events at the site and don’t currently open to the public for vacations, although we are working towards it. The place is stunningly beautiful, and in an area of Italy where you can be in the mountains then 20 minutes later on the beach. Abruzzo is a relatively undiscovered part of Italy and has preserved its ancient traditions of agriculture, food, festivals and religion. There are endless hiking paths in the mountains and the Majella National Park and Abruzzo National Park are not far away.
The Heartland site is on 12 hectares of wild mountain land. It was previously cultivated but abandoned for 50 years and we have gradually cleared and landscaped the land. It is in wild nature – oak forests, fruit orchards, rolling hills, olives, wild roses, deer, wild boar, wolves, fireflies, loads of butterflies, and two rivers with pools for swimming. If you come at the right time the trees are literally dripping with figs, mulberries, persimmons, apples, and pears.
How did you tackle getting planning?
As the land was previously agricultural land we have had to apply for a change of use. As Italy is relatively new to glamping, especially in Central and Southern Italy, there aren’t many precedents so we have had to carve our own way. The challenge, as foreigners, was to bring the idea of our project to the local, very traditional village but the local people have been incredibly welcoming and our local commune is very supportive.
The villages in the area have experienced an exodus as the youth leave and mass agriculture undercuts the local farmers. The case is the same for much of the rural mountain area in Southern Europe. We have set up an association to create a movement of sustainable tourism in Abruzzo, where the idea of glamping is being introduced to help local farmers diversify and supplement their income and bring energy and income to the area.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We make our own units and currently have four yurts and one sibley tent (a hanging tipi), a kitchen tent, a covered workshop area and are working on a shepherds hut. The tipi is more wild and close to the Earth, and generally used for ceremonies and circle work. The yurts are more comfortable – and everyone loves yurts; that feeling of ‘wow’ when you step in. The shepherds hut is a recent project for something new in GlampItalia – the growing glamping world in Italy.
How do you publicise yourself?
We have a website for the site and link to it through our UK tent making website. We also use Facebook and have put ourselves out there on various glamping and green tourism platforms in Italy, and have joined local tourism initiatives. As we mainly host events we are known as an event location so often get publicised by word of mouth.
How would you describe your ‘style’ or unique selling point?
We have mainly opened for group events so far and offer cooperation with event organisers on any level, from renting the whole site, with or without us providing food, to collaborating on the vision, design, organisation and marketing of the event.
What challenges have you faced?
Mice eating the woollen mattresses and blankets and even the canvas of the tents. Wasps building nests under the tent skirts. Weather of course, what with high winds and summer heat. The road down to the site has also needed a lot of work to make it drivable.
What are your plans for next season?
To complete our Zodiac tent, which is a large structure comprising 12 yurts in a circle connected by a large ‘zome’ in the centre. This will be used as a unique event space.
Why do you enjoy the business?
It is our life and we love being able to share this beautiful place with others. Italy is amazing – warm hearted people, great food, rich history and beautiful climate.