Destination Italy: Top 20 Places of the Heart 2021



FAI is the National Trust of Italy which was established in 1975 by Fondo Ambiente Italiano based on the model of the National Trust of England, Wales, & Northern Ireland. It is a private non-profit organization and has over 190,000 members as of 2018. Its purpose is to protect elements of Italy’s physical heritage which might otherwise be lost.

  1. With 2,353,932 votes cast, the Italians demonstrated their love for the country’s cultural and environmental heritage.
  2. Winner of the 2020 edition of “Places of the Heart” with 75,586 votes is the Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice railway.
  3. The first three classified winners will be awarded upon presentation of an enhancement project, prizes from 30,000 to 50,000 euros.

On February 25, the winners of the 10th Census of the the Fondo Ambiente Italiano (FAI) were announced. With 2,353,932 votes, the Italians wanted to demonstrate their love for the Italian cultural and environmental heritage: the best result ever for the FAI census and Destination Italy. This was a surprising participation in that even in the year of the COVID-19 tragedy, it was charged with meaning and tells of a cohesive Italy, vital and proud of its beauties which looks to the future with hope despite everything.

Thanks to the commitment of a series of committees such as Friends of the Train of Wonders, Friends of the Cuneo Ventimiglia Nice Railway, and Amis du Train des Merveilles, FAI will be able to take advantage of funds to upgrade the winner of the 2020 edition of “Places of the Heart” with 75,586 votes is the Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice railway.

This work, conceived by Cavour, and consisting of 96 kilometers of rails, 33 tunnels, and 27 bridges and viaducts which touches 18 municipalities, was semi-destroyed by the Germans in 1943 and rebuilt in the 1970s. Today it requires major recovery plans, maintenance, and enhancement, also considering its tourist potential. This work, however, “in 2013 risked being dismantled and unfortunately was interrupted since last October due to the landslide of Colle di Tenda caused by the flood that isolated Val Roya.”

In second place, with 62,690 votes, is the Sammezzano Castle in Regello (Florence), a unique architectural jewel in Italy and in the world. This building was already the winner of the 2016 census, but unfortunately this incredible space where Moorish art triumphs, is a prisoner of a complex bureaucratic situation that has not yet allowed the castle and its 190 hectares of park to shine again after the abandonment.

In third place, with over 40,000 votes, is the Castle of Brescia, protagonist of the city Risorgimento which needs to be enhanced and cared for as requested by various associations and companies in the area. In fourth position, is the Via delle Collegiate di Modica (RG), a path that ideally combines the Cathedral of San Giorgio and the churches of San Pietro and Santa Maria di Betlem.

In fifth place is the Hospital and the Church of Ignazio Gardella, Alessandria, in sixth is the rupestrian Church of San Nicolò Inferiore, Modica (RG), in seventh position is the Aqueduct Bridge of Gravina in Puglia which also won the web award, at the eighth is the Church of San Michele Arcangelo di Pegazzano (La Spezia), and in the ninth and tenth positions are the Hermitage of Sant’Onofrio al Morrone, Sulmona (AQ) and the Museum of the Mysteries of Campobasso.

In this edition supported by Intesa San Paolo and carried out under the High Patronage of the President of the Republic and with the Patronage of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and for Tourism and the collaboration of RAI, there are many places to visit in Italy, sometimes less known to the dynamics of tourism, which citizens of each region have asked to be able to enhance.

These are all symbols of the history, culture, and beauty of Italy which, as can be read in detail on the FAI website, is dedicated to the initiative and needs the love and support of citizens committed to fighting for the rebirth of these too often forgotten places.

What next?

The first three classified winners will be awarded (upon presentation of an enhancement project) prizes from 30,000 to 50,000 euros, while the FAI will take care of the creation of a video storytelling for the place that received the most votes from the web (the Gravina aqueduct bridge, also starring in the latest James Bond film “No Time to Die,” which collects the prize instead of the Sammezzano castle, which cannot accumulate more prizes). The places that have obtained at least 2,000 votes will then be able to participate in an enhancement call, while for all the other assets reported (some which can be found in its gallery as part of the complete list on the website of the Environmental Fund), the FAI will undertake to ensure that the institutions territorially pay closer due attention to all those places that are part of the collective memory.

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