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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]

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Big Questions
How Are Rooms Cleaned at an Ice Hotel?

Cleaning rooms at Sweden’s famous ICEHOTEL is arguably less involved than your typical hotel. The bed, for example, does not have traditional sheets. Instead, it’s essentially an air mattress topped with reindeer fur, which sits on top of a custom-made wooden palette that has a minimum of 60 centimeters of airspace below. On top of those reindeer hides is a sleeping bag, and inside that sleeping bag is a sleep sack. And while it’s always 20ºF inside the room, once guests wrap themselves up for the night, it can get cozy.

And, if they’re wearing too many layers, it can get quite sweaty, too.

“The sleep sack gets washed every day, I promise you that. I know it for a fact because I love to walk behind the laundry, because it’s so warm back there," James McClean, one of the few Americans—if not the only—who have worked at Sweden's ICEHOTEL, tells Mental Floss. (He worked on the construction and maintenance crew for several years.)

There isn’t much else to clean in most guest rooms. The bathrooms and showers are elsewhere in the hotel, and most guests only spend their sleeping hours in the space. But there is the occasional accident—like other hotels, some bodily fluids end up where they shouldn’t be. People puke or get too lazy to walk to the communal restrooms. Unlike other hotels, these bodily fluids, well, they freeze.

“You can only imagine the types of bodily fluids that get, I guess, excreted … or expelled … or purged onto the walls,” McClean says. “At least once a week there’s a yellow stain or a spilled glass of wine or cranberry juice … and it’s not what you want to see splattered everywhere.” Housekeeping fixes these unsightly splotches with an ice pick and shovel, re-patching it with fresh snow from outside.

Every room has a 4-inch vent drilled into the icy wall, which helps prevent CO2 from escalating to harmful levels. Maintenance checks the holes daily to ensure these vents are not plugged with snow. Their tool of choice for clearing the pathway is, according to McClean, “basically a toilet brush on a stick.”

When maintenance isn’t busy unstuffing snow from that vent hole, they’re busy piping snow through it. Every couple days, the floor of each room receives a new coat of fluffy snow, which is piped through the vent and leveled with a garden rake.

“It’s the equivalent of vacuuming the carpet,” McClean says.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Rent an Incredible Harry Potter-Themed Apartment in the City Where the Series Was Born
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The Muggle city of Edinburgh has deep ties to the wizarding world of Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling wrote much of the book series while living there, and there’s even a pub in Edinburgh that named itself after the author for a month. Now, fans passing through the Scottish capital have the chance to live like their favorite boy wizard. As Digital Spy reports, a Harry Potter-themed holiday home in the city’s historic district is now available to rent for around $200 (£150) a night.

Property owner Yue Gao used her own knowledge as a fan when decorating the apartment. With red and yellow accents, a four-poster bed, and floating candles adorning the wallpaper on the ceiling, the master bedroom pays tribute to both the Gryffindor dormitory and the Hogwarts Great Hall. The Hogwarts theme extends to the lounge area, where each door is painted with a different house’s colors and crest. Guests will also find design aspects inspired by the Hogwarts Express around the apartment: The second bedroom is designed to look like a sleeping car, and the front door is disguised as the brick wall at Platform 9 3/4.

Pieces of Harry Potter memorabilia Gao has picked up in her travels are hidden throughout the home, too. If visitors look closely, they’ll find several items that once belonged to Rowling herself, including the writer’s old desk.

Take a look at some of the photos of the magical interiors:

The apartment is available to rent throughout the year through canongateluxuryapartment.co.uk. And if you can tear yourself away from the residence for long enough, there are plenty of other Harry Potter-themed attractions to check out in Edinburgh during your stay.

[h/t Digital Spy]

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