Have a Great Business Idea? Italy Will Give You a Free Castle

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Ever look at a castle and dream about running a restaurant inside? Now you might be able to with Italy's new Strategic Tourist Plan, which sounds just crazy enough to work.

The State Property Agency and Ministry of Cultural Heritage teamed up and are giving away 103 buildings located in areas with less tourist traffic than the country's most recognizable destinations. Many of the areas are historic villas, monasteries, or castles with plenty of charm. These buildings have fallen into disrepair, so it's up to the new tenants to renovate and fix up the space for their future operations. The idea is to fill these otherwise forgotten monuments with new businesses and stores to revitalize tourism and relieve some of the more congested tourist spots. The buildings are generally located on roads less traveled, away from the heavy hitters like Venice, Tuscany, and Milan.

"The goal is for private and public buildings which are no longer used to be transformed into facilities for pilgrims, hikers, tourists, and cyclists," Roberto Reggi of the State Property Agency told The Local Italy. "The project will promote and support the development of the slow tourism sector."

While crumbling and remote, the buildings still have plenty of reasons to love them. One example is the Castello di Blera in Lazio, an elegant 11th-century castle nestled on a cliffside near Rome, with most of its historic architecture still in place. Another is a stunning villa on a large piece of property with a fountain.

To apply, you first need a good business idea to bring in tourists, whether it be a spa, restaurant, hotel, or some other alluring possibility. The project is looking for young entrepreneurs under the age of 40 to bring some life into their slower tourist spots. With the right proposal, a lucky business owner can score up to a 50-year lease. All applications need to be in by June 26. After the first wave of approvals, another 200 buildings are expected to come up for grabs for budding businesses in the next couple of years.

You can find out more on the State Property Agency's website.

[h/t Harper's Bazaar]

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

The Cat Sanctuary That Sits Near the Ancient Roman Site Where Julius Caesar Was Murdered

ClaireLucia/iStock via Getty Images Plus
ClaireLucia/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Cats will sleep anywhere—even in ancient ruins. Located in Rome, Colonia Felina di Torre Argentina is a cat sanctuary on the site where conspirators stabbed Julius Caesar 22 times outside the Theatre of Pompey, on March 15 44 BCE. Centuries later, in 1929, Mussolini excavated the area to reveal four temples that are 20 feet below the street level. Today, it’s the oldest open-air spot in Rome.

Bystanders can view the temple complex known as Largo di Torre Argentina from the fenced-off street, but according to Conde Nast Traveler, after a $1.1 million restoration process, the sanctuary will open to tourists in the second half of 2021. For now, the only living things allowed in the sacred area (area sacra) are feral cats.

According to Colonia’s website, they are "the most famous cat sanctuary in Italy” and also the oldest in Rome. Many of the cats fall into the special needs category: Some are disabled, missing part of a paw, or are blind; the special needs and elderly cats live in a walled-off area. Volunteers—a.k.a. gattare, or cat ladies—take good care of them, and some cats are available for adoption.

Atlas Obscura reports that “since the mid-1990s, the population has grown from about 90 to a peak of 250” cats and notes that the sanctuary has a spay/neuter program. From the street, visitors can watch gatti like the three-legged Pioppo and Lladrò—known as “poisonous kitten” because of how angry he was when he got there—sunbathe and sleep under pillars.

It’s unclear if the cats are respecting Caesar or disrespecting the fallen leader. However, a gift shop is open to visitors, and people can donate money toward the cats and/or volunteer.

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