Italian architect in bid to restore ‘ghost village’

The village of Barmaz in northern Italy has been lying abandoned for 50 years, but a young architect has presented a plan for its restoration as part of his university thesis.

Italian architect in bid to restore 'ghost village'
Architect Andrea Gillono wants to restore Barmaz, a village in the Aosta valley that has been abandoned for 50 years. Photo: Patafisik/Flickr

Barmaz contains only a handful of houses, all of them in ruins. Situated in the small town of Saint-Denis in the Aosta valley, the village is visible from the motorway although there is no road to get there. The only way to reach it is on foot.

The village has remained uninhabited for 50 years, since the land stopped being suitable for farming. Over the years, various solutions to modernise the so-called 'ghost village' have been proposed by local authorities, but as yet none have come to fruition.

Now Andrea Gillono has come up with a plan to restore the hamlet by turning it into a 'holiday village' , La Stampa reported.

“I had always been interested in this characteristic village nestled in the mountains,” Gillone told the newspaper. “I wondered why people would want to build new houses rather than restore those which already exist.

“The project envisages a hotel, where the guests can make the most of the open spaces in the village and the rooms in neighbouring buildings.”

The houses of Barmaz, built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, are considered 'prime examples' of rural architecture from the area, and contain original features including stonework and wooden beams.

The mayor of Saint-Denis said modernisation of the village had always been “one of our planned objectives”, adding that tourists visiting the area often asked about Barmaz. However, he said that due to the economic crisis, it would only have been possible with funds from Europe.

Previous ideas have included transforming the village into a rehabilitation centre for disabled children, or using it for cultural purposes. Now Gillone plans to present his plan for restoration to the district administration.

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Why Friday the 13th isn’t an unlucky date in Italy

Unlucky for some, but not for Italians. Here's why today's date isn't a cause for concern in Italy - but Friday the 17th is.

Why Friday the 13th isn't an unlucky date in Italy

When Friday the 13th rolls around, many of us from English-speaking countries might reconsider any risky plans. And it’s not exactly a popular date for weddings in much of the western world.

But if you’re in Italy, you don’t need to worry about it.

There’s no shortage of strongly-held superstitions in Italian culture, particularly in the south. But the idea of Friday the 13th being an inauspicious date is not among them.

Though the ‘unlucky 13’ concept is not unknown in Italy – likely thanks to the influence of American film and TV – here the number is in fact usually seen as good luck, if anything.

The number 17, however, is viewed with suspicion and Friday the 17th instead is seen as the unlucky date to beware of.

Just as some Western airlines avoid including the 13th row on planes, you might find number 17 omitted on Italian planes, street numbering, hotel floors, and so on – so even if you’re not the superstitious type, it’s handy to be aware of.

The reason for this is thought to be because in Roman numerals the number 17 (XVII) is an anagram of the Latin word VIXI, meaning ‘I have lived’: the use of the past tense apparently suggests death, and therefore bad luck. It’s less clear what’s so inauspicious about Friday.

So don’t be surprised if, next time Friday 17th rolls around, you notice some Italian shops and offices closed per scaramanzia’.

But why then does 13 often have a positive connotation in Italy instead?

You may not be too surprised to learn that it’s because of football.

Ever heard of Totocalcio? It’s a football pools betting system in which players long tried to predict the results of 13 different matches.

There were triumphant calls of ho fatto tredici! – ‘I’ve done thirteen’ – among those who got them all right. The popular expression soon became used in other contexts to mean ‘I hit the jackpot’ or ‘that was a stroke of luck!’

From 2004, the number of games included in Totocalcio rose to 14, but you may still hear winners shout ‘ho fatto tredici’ regardless.

Other common Italian superstitions include touching iron (not wood) for good luck, not toasting with water, and never pouring wine with your left hand.