Can a census and a poll on different topics hide one the answer to the problem of the other? Yes, if the first, Istat's work, makes it known that in Italy there are 6,000 abandoned villages, places that, due to natural disasters, conformation of the territory or lack of work, have been depopulated to be reduced to a pile of ghost houses and the second, conducted by Airbnb, reveals that 1 Italian out of 3 declares to feel stressed and 65% confesses that he would be ready to leave everything to take a sabbatical. The solution? Find 4 volunteers from all over the world ready to move to one of these places destined to disappear and, thus, support their rebirth. This is the idea behind The Italian Sabbatical, a project sponsored by Airbnb and promoted by the social enterprise Wonder Grottole as part of the partnership with Matera Basilicata 2019 Foundation to promote the concept of a temporary citizen involving the local community and travelers arriving in in the Lucanian region. Yes, because, in conjunction with the events planned for Matera European Capital of Culture 2019, the choice to kick off the initiative fell on Grottole, a rural village that with its 300 inhabitants and its more than 600 empty houses, risks to disappear forever.

The Italian Sabbatical  The Airbnb project to save the village of Grottole in Basilicata | Image 0

Here, in this evocative place for centuries fundamental junction of southern Italy and point of passage of the Via Appia, which stands on a promontory between the rivers Bradano and Basento and takes its name from the "grotticelle" of tuff (used by artisans to shape vessels from clay), two couples of lucky entrepreneurs will have the chance to change their lives. In fact, 3 months (from June to August of this year) will pass, not simply as tourists strolling through the narrow streets, the alleys and climbs dotted with the old one-story houses called "jrutt", but immersed in the local culture, working in community garden and testing their culinary skills with characteristic recipes. Everything to be transmitted then, in turn, to those who will visit the village.

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The volunteers will learn culture and traditions directly from the local community and from those who already host Experiences on Airbnb, such as Rocco, a beekeeper who has lived in the village for more than thirty years:

"Coming to Grottole from a big city, people will find an ancient village, surrounded by woods and pastures, we encourage them to leave everything behind and connect with our way of life, letting themselves be transported in a new dimension".

Vincenzo, olive oil producer, adds:

"Visitors who come to Grottole will live a quiet life and learn to follow the rhythms of nature, where there is tradition, good food and above all a welcoming community, where people are coming will bring a new energy. to our village and we can not wait to hear their stories, we are excellent listeners".

After the first month of "training" the four "new inhabitants of the village" will transmit the knowledge and customs just acquired to tourists arriving in Basilicata: from the secrets of the cultivation of local products to the production of honey and oil.

The Italian Sabbatical  The Airbnb project to save the village of Grottole in Basilicata | Image 8
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The Italian Sabbatical  The Airbnb project to save the village of Grottole in Basilicata | Image 0

They will also become co-hosts of Airbnb Homes and Experiences with the task of welcoming travelers visiting the historic center and managing stays in a typical local house owned by the non-profit Wonder Grottole who, through its co-founder, declares:

"Our dream is to repopulate the historic center of Grottole. In ten years we would like to see the village full of people of different cultures perfectly integrated with the local community".

Do you want to know how to participate in this alternative sabbatical period? In order to apply, all you need is more than 18 years of age, have a good knowledge of English and demonstrate your desire to contribute to the revitalization of the country. To know all the other details visit www.italiansabbatical.com and complete the online form. The result of the selection will be announced on March 29, 2019. Good luck!