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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

FAI Places of the Heart in 2023

Fondo Ambiente Italiano, The National Trust for Italy, restores and takes care of special places in Italy. 

The Places of the Heart census promoted by FAI awards this year's winner the little church of San Pietro dei Samari in Gallipoli, in the province of Lecce. It received 51,443 votes out of 1,500,638.

Also on the podium is the Museum of the Mysteries in Campobasso (with just over 32,000 votes) and, behind by just a  little, the church of San Giacomo della Vittoria in Alessandria.

This year votes were collected for more than 38,800 places in Italy, often forgotten or little known, or simply in need of some extra attention.

And this is precisely the spirit of the census, which since the first edition in 2003 has supported restoration for 138 properties in 19 regions of Italy, chosen precisely thanks to the participation of citizens who, with their votes, have often literally saved parts of Italian heritage.

The Top Places

The winners of this year will benefit from sums between fifty- thousand and thirty- thousand euros in order to be secured, restored, and enhanced. The first in the classification is, as mentioned, the little church of San Pietro dei Samari in Gallipoli, in the province of Lecce, one kilometer from the sea. 

Located in the regional park of Punta Pizzo Isola di Sant'Andrea, the church was founded - according to a tradition recalled by a long inscription - by Ugo di Lusignano, a crusader returning from Palestine and who landed in Gallipoli in 1148, deciding to build a small place of worship where St. Peter himself, a veteran of Samaria, was thought to have celebrated a mass. 

Currently uninhabitable, the small church is the only example in the province of Lecce of an architecture with domes on axis.

Coming in second is a place, literally, worthy of an Oscar.  It is the Museum of the Mysteries of Campobasso, created in 2006 and dedicated to the installations (called "ingegni") made in the mid-eighteenth century by sculptor Paolo Saverio Di Zinno to parade through the city on the day of the Corpus Christi procession

It is in this very museum (which also inspired Alice Rohrwacher's short film Pupille, nominated for an Oscar in 2023) that the procession's participants prepare each year, and it is from here that the long procession through the streets of Campobasso begins.

Ranked third is the church of San Giacomo della Vittoria, in Alessandria, founded in 1391 to commemorate the victory of the Alexandrians and the troops of Gian Galeazzo Visconti against the league led by John III d'Armagnac. 

Restored several times over the centuries (and also used over time as a hospital or barracks, and even a warehouse) the church now preserves little from the 14th century, but has a great many votive offerings, evidence of the strong bond between this place and the city. 

A bond also evident from the incredible number of votes received this year from Piedmont (almost 250,000) and the presence in the ranking of no less than four places from the province of Alessandria. 

There is also the medieval village of Cremolino, winner of the special section dedicated to "Villages and their places."

On a hill surrounded by vineyards, the small village with its castle once played a very important strategic, for sighting and defense, role in a border area with the ancient Republic of Genoa.

Stories from the land

Even though the census is over, the projects don't stop.  

In fact, until September 15, people can send the Environmental Fund a voicemail to tell them about their favorite place. 

Anything goes: a memory, an intimate message or a description. In November, the place talked about by the winning message will be the subject of an enhancement project worth five thousand euros. 

The idea for this contest comes from journalist Marta Stella and writer Antonio Scurati, who is convinced that "telling about one's land is a manifestation of love, a way to take care of it, to guard it. Never as in this historical moment, in the face of the very serious environmental emergency and climate crisis, Italy calls us to take care of it, to guard it and to love it.  I hope that so many Italians will respond to our appeal by helping to draw a sentimental map of our wonderful and fragile country."


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