A brief excursion into sustainable living in an ecovillage: Along an impressive mountain, old stone houses line up, creating a mystical atmosphere. Some of the houses in Zonca Ecovillage in northern Italy probably go back to the 1100s. Since most of the inhabitants left the village in the 1960s, the houses and the village were no longer maintained. The current approximately 20 inhabitants of the village have already restored some of the houses, but the maintenance of a village of this type is still a great challenge.
It is assumed that the restoration work of the ruin city will continue in the future. At the same time, the feeling of closeness to nature should not be lost due to the work. But what is an ecovillage actually and what is life like in one? Our Impact Host Daniel of the beautiful socialbnb Zonca Ecovillage in Piemonte tells us today about his personal journey to Zonca and about the ecological project on site.
Our goal is to sustainably renovate homes and buildings and promote environmental awareness by hosting guests and engaging them in environmentally sustainable projects, gardening, forestry, etc.
1) How was your personal journey to Italy and Zonca Ecovillage?
Daniel: I’ve been looking all over the world for a place close to nature that I can call home. I’ve known Zonca for almost 25 years, but always thought it would be too difficult to settle in. In the end, the people were the deciding factor. In the last ten to twelve years, new people have settled here.
I felt that this could be a viable community. Also, my parents died and I felt free to move to a foreign country. In 25 years, I have had many very profound experiences in this village. These experiences were necessary for my own development and led me to not be afraid to settle here despite the hardships.
2) What is the vision behind the project?
Daniel: There is no single vision behind the creation of Zonca as it exists today. Like everyone else who lives here, I felt strongly attracted to this place. I think what attracted me the most was the proximity to nature. The fact that many houses are dilapidated and slowly swallowed by the forest is incredible and a great challenge at the same time: where to start to preserve this place and how to keep this magical and mystical quality?
As far as I know, everyone here feels more or less the same way. But of course, if you want to renovate a house just to make it livable, you’re faced with some tough choices. Zonca is a very physical place to live. All the materials you use have to be carried because there are no roads. Every step you take is either up or down – the mountain is also steep.
On a personal level, I believe that Zonca is a perfect place to realize something artistic and to use all the little niches created by nature, plants and the original builders to create a place that is an unfolding adventure to walk through and live in. It will take many years. I’m sixty now, so I never get bored.
3) Where is your favorite place at Zonca Ecovillage and why?
Daniel: Where is my favorite place in Zonca? This is a very difficult question. Since this village is built of granite, comfort always comes first. I love Steffano’s garden at the top of the village where he has a hammock. I love how he designed the garden around his office. When I first started visiting Zonca, I loved sleeping outside on the balcony of his house so I could even hear the birds at night.
Now I have my own house and I still lack a really cozy place to just hang out. It took me 3 years to clear the debris out of my basement for a sauna. I just finished a patio off the basement. I love having some flat areas where I can have some benches or hang a hammock.
Another very nice place is Tommoy’s house at the very end of the village. It is completely isolated and surrounded by fruit trees. It is a nice place to lie down on a mat and enjoy the sun or watch the stars.
4) What makes you particularly proud when you think of Zonca Ecovillage?
Daniel: First of all, I have great respect for the people who built this village many generations ago. We never fail to notice a particularly large rock in the wall. How did the wall get there? How did they raise it to that height? How did they carry the wood they used for the roofs?
Towards midsummer, something else fills me with wonder: when we think for a moment about what everyone has built here, how the gardens are blooming, what an abundance we enjoy. You have to live and work here to appreciate how hard people have worked, but I am also always amazed at how creative everyone is.
In the past, the people who lived here were poor and worked very hard, probably for very little money. So they didn’t enjoy many luxuries. At the beginning of the Covid Lockdown, after some initial panic, we all appreciated our freedom up here on the mountain even more. That’s another luxury, as is fresh clean water. I think there are many things to be proud of or grateful for. Every single person who lives here has something of a genius about them. It surprises me over and over again.
Thank you so much for this impressive interview, Daniel! If you’re interested in more insights from our Impact Hosts, check out this interview with Stella about sustainable development in Uganda. Still looking for a suitable vacation destination? Then subscribe to our newsletter and get inspired by our unique socialbnbs: