The Florida Beach Town Where the Amish Go on Vacation

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In the coming months, with the arrival of low temperatures and the slowdown of the farming season, thousands of Amish people in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania will pack their bags and head south to a snowbird paradise that has attracted Plain People since the early 20th century—Pinecraft, Florida.

Located on the Gulf Coast, Pinecraft is an idyllic place nestled a few miles from the crystalline beaches of Sarasota, dotted with cozy white bungalows and oak trees strewn with Spanish moss. The Amish first arrived in Pinecraft in the 1920s, back when the area was little more than a tourist campground. At first, farmers hoped to plant celery in the region, but the soil proved to be better suited as a spot to lounge in the sun than it did for gardening. In 1946, the Tourist Mennonite Church in Florida was established in Pinecraft so that the Amish could “take vacations without breaking their beliefs,” Atlas Obscura reports. Over the coming decades, word of mouth spread up north. Today, approximately 5000 Amish and (some) Mennonite people visit Pinecraft every year to relax during the winter months.

Most Amish visitors make the long trip by charter bus. In 2012, Miki Meek of The New York Times hopped on one such bus in Ohio and traveled 19 hours to Florida. She described the scene aboard: “Stiff black hats are gingerly stowed in overhead bins as the bus winds its way through hilly farm country ... grandparents, neighbors, sisters, and childhood friends ... talked into the night, using conversation as entertainment instead of movies or music.”

Down in Pinecraft, crowds of Amish people welcome the arrival of each bus. There, visitors can expect to see men and women in traditional dress. “Clothing choices clue you in to hometowns,” Meek wrote. “Men from Tampico, Illinois, wear denim overalls; girls from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, cover their dresses with black aprons; and women from northern Indiana have neatly pressed pleats on their white bonnets.” It’s one of the few places in America where different communities of Amish have the opportunity to mingle.

However, the rules here are much more lax, with vacationers often showing much more skin than usual. Many of the rental homes, which sometimes have to be booked a year in advance, have electricity. (Overall, the restrictions preventing the Amish from connecting to the public power grid aren't as tight when a home is temporary.) Rather than riding in a horse and buggy, many people move around Pinecraft on tricycles. Most days are punctuated by fish fries, auctions, yard sales, and fierce bocce matches, with shuffleboard, the nightly women’s volleyball game, and live musical performances being the biggest draws.

As Meek reported, many people joke that the village is the closest thing the Amish have to Las Vegas: “What happens in Pinecraft, stays in Pinecraft.”

Welcome to Cool, California. Population: 2520

Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Alan Levine, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s not hard to find U.S. towns with some pretty weird (and sometimes depressing) names, so we shouldn't be surprised that people have the option of settling in the tiny town of Cool, California.

Initially named Cave Valley, due to the limestone formations nearby, the town popped up around 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The population eventually grew to 4100 people.

It's unclear when the town went from Cave Valley to being Cool. One legend suggests that a beatnik named Todd Hausman bequeathed the name after passing through in the 1950s, but the veracity of that story is doubtful since the Cool Post Office was founded as early as 1885. According to Condé Nast Traveler, records show that a reverend named Peter Y. Cool came out to pan gold and settled in the town in 1850, possibly serving as the source of the change.

Whatever the origin of its name, the town of Cool has ample branding opportunities. There’s the Cool Grocery Store and the Cool Beerwerks brewery and restaurant, which specializes in Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine. Cool has held the Way Too Cool 50K Endurance Run every year since 1990.

[h/t Condé Nast Traveler]

A Picturesque Region of Southern Italy Wants to Pay People $770 a Month to Move There

Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images
Freeartist/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve been toying with the idea of moving to southern Europe and opening a quaint inn ever since you first saw Mamma Mia! in 2008, it’s time to dust off your overalls and get packing. Molise, Italy, will pay you about $770 each month for three years if you promise to establish a business in one of its underpopulated villages.

The campaign aims to bolster Italy’s population numbers and provide areas with the culture, commerce, and infrastructure needed to keep those numbers up. “If we had offered funding, it would have been yet another charity gesture,” Molise president Donato Toma told The Guardian. “We wanted people to invest here … It’s a way to breathe life into our towns while also increasing the population.”

The government will, however, supplement the newcomer program with actual funding—about $11,000—for participating villages, which must have fewer than 2000 residents. And, if an ABBA-inspired inn isn’t the name of your game, Toma also suggested a bakery, a stationery shop, or a restaurant.

Molise, a mountainous region southeast of Rome, boasts spectacular cliffside views, sweeping olive groves, and bucolic tranquility. Why, then, aren’t people clamoring to move there for free? Partially because Italy is currently enduring a nationwide population crisis that has hit Molise especially hard.

According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the region has lost 9000 residents since 2014, and 2800 of those were from last year alone. The Guardian explains that young people are seeking job opportunities elsewhere in Europe, and those who stay aren’t starting families. Last year, for example, nine of Molise’s towns had no new births to report. Overall, Italy’s population of resident citizens fell by 677,000 between 2014 and 2018, and it’s second only to Japan on the list of countries with the largest proportion of senior citizens.

Enticing prospective residents with small salaries is only one method of combating the plummeting population numbers. The mayor of Sutera, in Sicily, has offered his empty estates to Libyan asylum seekers, while Sambuca, also in Sicily, is selling abandoned houses for about a dollar.

[h/t The Guardian]

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