The Fondo Ambiente Italiano (National Trust of Italy; FAI), is the non-profit trust in charge of numerous historical sites all around Italy. It safeguards the country’s heritage and engages with the population to promote arts, history, tourism and lifestyle. Their work helps to maintain and renovate existing historical sites. At the same time, they are a pivotal player in sustaining all we love about Italy; the art, nature, history, and wonder we travel there to see.
Custodians of Culture
FAI is not a tourist board. It’s a group motivated by a passionate blend of national pride, expertise in hospitality, care for natural and cultural resources, and a fine knowledge of Italy’s vast heritage. Since 1975, FAI has preserved, promoted and monitored the country’s biodiversity in all its forms. This diversity has bewitched travellers, writers and musicians for centuries! FAI’s ultimate goal is to make everyone feel at home, while rediscovering the piece of Italy that lies within each one of us.
FAI has 58 properties, 35 of which are open to the public. Another 16 are protected, and 7 were under restoration at the time of publication. It is active countrywide with 118 delegations, 86 FAI groups and 78 youth groups.
FAI’s priceless assets include a portion of the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre (National Park of Cinque Terre), Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como, Negozio Olivetti in Venice, the Giardino della Kolymbethra (Garden of Kolymbethra) in the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples) and a portion of the Parco Nazionale delle Sila.
A Sustainable Approach
The castles, gardens, monastic buildings and other cultural assets owned by FAI are at the core of a network of specialists and local communities who preserve the sites and their surroundings. They aim to magnify their original purpose, and take on an organic approach to urban architecture.
Every year, at the beginning of spring, FAI organises the Giornate di Primavera (Spring Day) with its private partners. This event allows tourists to explore over 1,000 breathtaking historical sites otherwise inaccessible throughout the year. In 2018, thousands of volunteers and supporters of the Fondo Ambiente Italiano – which is sustained by public donations – acted as guides to over 700,000 visitors in two days, sharing their passion for art and history.
FAI also interacts with UNESCO and similar bodies across Europe, as well as Britain’s National Trust. It is part of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO). Proudly Italian, FAI preserves and enhances the landscaping heritage of Europe in the eyes of the international community and creates awareness amongst local residents. As part of Transnational Giving Europe, FAI provides its supporters with practical and secure solutions for tax-effective, cross-border donations. FAI has 4 satellite philanthropic associations: Friends of FAI in New York (USA), FAI Swiss in Lugano and Geneva (Switzerland), FAI France in Paris and FAI UK in London.
“I believe that every man has two homelands: one is his own, the other is Italy.” ~ Henryk Sienkiewicz
Who Said Age is a Bad Thing?
All properties are historical sites belonging to the decadent Classical era, to the grotesque Middle Ages and to the shining Renaissance. The dust of history may collect on the well preserved shelves of ancient libraries and hidden relics, but a true restorer does not try to hide the age of an architectural site. FAI follows a process of ‘designed deterioration’ with its properties. This avoids significant degradation, without counterfeiting the aesthetics. FAI’s expert team of restorers visits each site periodically to inspect and intervene. The engineers, researchers, conservators, botanists, property managers, maintenance workers and gardeners are carefully selected and thoroughly trained by the trust.
An Innovation Pod
Amongst FAI’s 2018 initiatives is ‘The End of History’, a retrospective exhibition by American sculptor Barry X Ball in Villa e Collezione Panza (Varese) at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. He uses the prestigious venues of his exhibition as a ‘pod’. In these spaces, his creations spark a sublime dialogue between classics and contemporary art.
Arts historian Laura Mattioli, collector and founder of the Center for Italian Modern Art in New York, said of Barry X Ball: “He is an artist who places himself outside the ‘games’ of contemporary art, which got us used more to concepts than to its presence. Barry X Ball is not like that. His is a different approach. He looks at ancient masterpieces without being disrespectful or ironic, but he rather works on restructuring ancient canons.
FAI’s International Reach
In addition, while preserving and promoting Italy’s cultural landscape, FAI also organises trips and tours worldwide. They guarantee priority access to exclusive locations in India, Ethiopia, Russia, Austria, Greece, and Iran. The tours last from 2 days and 2 weeks, and include the support of a certified guide, flights, top quality full room and board, local transport and travel insurance. Thus far, the reviews for these tours have been top-notch.