A lot about Italy in the international press of late is about doom and gloom; how the eurozone and broader global financial crisis has just about crippled this country’s economy and people.
But there are also many community projects and people committed to culture, growth and community. These don’t generally make for good news stories though.
Speaking of myths and generic news stories – mention Sicily to anyone and you usually enter into a discussion based on one of these four topics: the sweets, the beach, the food, the mafia.
But there’s so much more to Sicily and Italy’s deep south than the cannoli, arancine, unemployment and organised crime.
A town in the province of Agrigento has really set the benchmark for community spirit and rebuilding. Favara is an example of how small towns and communities are beating globalisation and this place is regeneration at its finest.
A town of around 30,000, Favara, located in the province of Agrigento, had really seen better days. Like many small towns in south Italy, it was suffering an economic downturn with its youth moving to the more industrious north or even further. But instead of escaping to greener pastures, local resident Andrea Bartolo, who (as he told The Guardian newspaper) is a – self-confessed notary by profession and cultural agitator by passion – took a risk and went on a bit of a spending spree. He bought a few buildings in the abandoned centre of town and inspired by districts in Morocco’s, Marrakesh, transformation started to slowly take place. Basically, the Farm, is an art complex featuring apartment rooftops, street-art, installations, video and screening spaces, shops and bars. The way the space has been utilised – think balconies, apartments and alleyways -gives a true sense of ‘home’ and community which in my opinion, has been the fundamental factor in the projects’ success.
Never really a chance on the tourist map, Favara thanks to Farm Cultural Park in particular, is now the cool hangout of young and old from Catania and Palermo and people from all around the world are visiting too.
Walking around, you could be anywhere in the Mediterranean from Morocco to Greece to Oman. It’s cool, eclectic, outward looking and brings an international feel to a town that was otherwise derelict and facing quite a grim future. I got to experience the Farm on its 5th year anniversary which was extra special and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.
On their website, they describe the project as: A place that makes you happy. This couldn’t be more on point. Favara is indeed, one of Sicily’s, dare I say Italy’s, best secrets.
Open: Tuesday to Thursday, 10am-10pm and Saturday and Sunday, 10am-midnight.
The Farm is located about 10km from Agrigento and the nearest airports (with daily flights from all Italian major cities) are Palermo and Catania.
Signing off from Trastevere
Acknowledgements: My recent trip to Sicily was sponsored as part of a collaborative project between the European Union, Slow Tourism (and their online publication Il Daily Slow) and the Regione Sicilia. The project is entitled PROAGRI and the mission is to promote rural tourism in Sicily. On the ground they work with local agencies ENDAS, Sicilyling, Didactic Educational Services (DES) and Stepim. Follow #sicilying on social media for more pics, tips and stories.