Italy is full of culturally important sites. In fact, there are so many that it becomes nearly impossible to fund their maintenance and sometimes, sorely needed rescue and repair operations. I Luoghi del Cuore (or “Places of the Heart is an initiative conducted by FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano), a private, non-profit organization that serves as the National Trust of Italy, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, that every other year — from May to December, invites people to choose their most cherished Italian places from a curated list of important and often crumbling heritage sites, some of which are on the brink of extinction.
On the impressive slate of entries are castles, monuments, churches, museums, gardens and natural wonders. This year’s special categories are: “Villages and their places” and “Italy above 600 meters” — a designation for mountainous areas.
FAI’s long standing mission, established in 1975, is to protect Italy’s tangible structures and scenery that might otherwise be lost. Since 2003, I Luoghi del Cuore has collected 9.6 million votes for some 39,000 places in more than 6,500 municipalities.
The organization’s first successful recovery project was the Monastery of Torba, Castelseprio in the northern province of Varese. Purchased privately and donated to FAI in 1977, the restoration was so successful that the monastery complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other notable protected FAI treasures include Villa Fogazzaro Roi on Lake Como, Olivetti shop in Venice, the ancient Giacalone barber shop in Genova and the Woods of Saint Francis in Assisi. FAI funds have supported 139 projects in favor of art-oriented spaces and nature in 19 regions.
This is not only a competition for bragging rights, it is to access funds that will mean life or death for these at-risk sites. The more votes an individual location receives, the greater its chances of accessing monies to fund needed restorations.
You can have a voice in these crucial decisions by voting in the “heartfelt” census. Go to the website and scroll through the list of nominees. You can search by local rankings, specific towns, municipalities or provinces. If you don’t see your favorite place on the list, feel free to add it.
Votes are collected online and by paper ballot, with rankings updated periodically via a leaderboard on FAI’s website. Once all the votes have been tabulated, the three top-ranked places will be eligible to apply for grants in the amounts of €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000.
You have until December 15, 2022, to cast your ballot. The final winners will be announced sometime in February 2023. Voting is free and open to everyone (Italians and foreigners alike), but requires registering on FAI’s I Luoghi del Cuore page.