Unveiling the wonders worked by Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano in Switzerland
Artistic heritage is an indulgence appreciated and safeguarded by luxury groups and fashion house behemoths such as Tod’s Group, Fendi, and Bulgari, who’ve been investing millions in the restoration of Italian monuments. In Switzerland, a non-profit is rolling out a similar investment in effort, if not in euro, to protect Italy’s physical heritage, which might otherwise be lost.
Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano (FAI) was established in 1975 on the model of the National Trust, as a private non-profit organisation. In the course of its history this elite NGO has safeguarded, restored, and opened to the public a plethora of unique monuments and mansions, raised awareness on historical heritage and proactively supervised and intervened on the restoration of various properties.
Following in the footsteps of the Italian association, Switzerland founded FAI SWISS in the City of Lugano in 2012, to strengthen the cooperation between the two countries and promote the local artistic heritage. In this Exclusive Interview with Simona Garelli Zampa, President of FAI SWISS, Swiss Style reveals the work of this remarkable organisation:
How does FAI represent a business model for social-environmental sustainability?
FAI promotes sustainable policies that promote social responsibility, and is based on a meticulous work that coordinates 30 000 volunteers that are divided into 116 delegations across Italy. FAI memberships and the many national fundraisers, such as ‘Ricordiamoci di salvare l’Italia’ (Let’s not forget to save Italy), provide funding needed for the daily work of the Foundation, which was born to safeguard the Italian landscape and cultural heritage. This sustainable business model has turned out to be successful, since in 40 years of activity FAI has managed to acquire more and more properties to restore and expand the number of subscribers, especially amongst the younger generation. Today there are 52 properties saved by FAI from deterioration, most of them have been restored and are open to the public. Currently there are 120 000 FAI members and active contributors.
What role do you think private organisations that partner with FAI should have towards artistic heritage?
FAI SWISS was born in 2012 as a Swiss not for profit foundation committed to save Italian artistic heritage. In these regards we channel our efforts into two equally important directions. The first is to spread awareness and appreciation in Switzerland on the extraordinary heritage of the nearby peninsula. We therefore invite illustrious guests from the art world to conduct panels or we organise sightseeing tours to exhibitions in national museums or private collections, to discover the treasures in small or large Italian cities, because we firmly believe that by unveiling these gems to people they will learn to love them and respect them. Secondly, FAI SWISS allocates part of the funds raised to restore the properties that need urgent intervention.
Do you feel there is a different sensitivity or bureaucracy between Italy and Switzerland towards cultural heritage?
As regards sensitivity there aren’t major differences: both are engaged in spreading awareness and preserving cultural heritage. The utmost example are the Giornate FAI di Primavera (FAI Spring Days), that both in Italy and in Canton Ticino are incredibly successful; in this occasion FAI opens 780 sites to 600 000 visitors. Furthermore in both countries there is the urge to safeguard landscape heritage. But when it comes to bureaucracy, Switzerland surely has many advantages since the population and the heritage surface to monitor are inferior in comparison to Italy’s. FAI SWISS is an international delegation of FAI, with Friends of FAI in New York, FAI UK and FAI France born with the goal of spreading the foundation’s message internationally.
How exactly is the activity of FAI SWISS articulated?
FAI SWISS in the course of the years has grown very quickly, thanks to the number of subscribers, the events that we organised and our presence on the territory. Today we have 700 members that support the foundation with their club dues are used for projects both in Switzerland and in Italy. Despite that we currently do not have major contributors, we have managed to establish an amusement park at the Masino Castle, a FAI property in Piedmont; and we have managed to restore Villa Fogazzaro Roi in Oria, another FAI property on the banks of the Lugano lake. In Canton Ticino our support goes to the project Il Villaggio della Musica (The Music Village) in Sobrio, one of the best-preserved settlements in the Valle Leventina where specialisation courses are held for promising young musicians. FAI SWISS’ effort consists in helping with the cost of restoration of the traditional Alpine homes that will be used for this education activity. As concerns the arts we have a guide to enhance the most important presence of Renaissance in Switzerland, which is the Santa Maria degli Angeli Church in Lugano.
Your organisation is engaged not only in preserving abodes that open to the public, but also in enhancing Modern Art, could you tell me more about the visit organised by FAI SWISS to the Ghisla and Matasci Collections?
FAI SWISS is very attentive to the world of contemporary art in our region, since Ticino hosts many collections of the 20th century that in recent years have become a major attraction, for international visitors and scholars. This time we are planning two very different tours. One is at The Ghisla Art Collection Foundation, which was founded in 2014 and is set in a building designed by Moro & Moro architects, in the heart of Lugano. The artwork is allocated in eight rooms on three floors. Pierino e Martine Ghisla in the course of the last thirty years have gathered masterpieces that span from Pop Art to Informale, from Conceptual to Abstractism and New Dada. Whereas the other visit epitomises the way the name of Mario Matasci is inextricably connected to the world of art of Ticino. In his forty-years career he has given life to a rich collection of oeuvres that have been gathered in an old warehouse, known as ‘Il Deposito’ (The Storage). This evocative place possesses a timeless allure. Mario Matasci has especially explored the informal expressionistic mode.
As regards your panels, you recently hosted the President of FAI Italia, Andrea Carandini…
Andrea Carandini, now emeritus professor, has taught in prestigious universities and boasts an exceptional bibliography, especially as regards his publications on Rome. In Italy he has founded the modern stratigraphic archaeological survey that explores an ancient civilisation in its complexity. Carandini during his panel said that, “when the archaeologist digs he encounters everything and gets concerned about everything, giving equal importance to the Coliseum, shards, debris and the tiniest fossil to trace back its original context.” The palaces of the Roman aristocracy have been the focus of his work: he unveiled to us the stage of family life and the background of public life, where the destinies of the world were planned, since often political actions were settles indoors and effectuated outdoors.
Do you feel FAI’s communication strategy has induced younger generations to be more aware and concerned about preserving our artistic heritage?
FAI is becoming very popular amongst youngsters especially since it acts on two different age ranges through FAI Scuola (FAI School) and FAI Giovani (Young FAI). The school sector offers educational activities following the principles of ‘pedagogy of awareness’ and ‘training on the territory’ through projects of environmental education, visits, and didactical workshops within FAI. Another strategy is to motivate young people by training them as ‘apprentice Ciceros’ so that they may study the sites to guide visitors during the FAI Spring Days. Today there are one million students who train in the respect for art and nature. It is of utmost important to enforce their awareness of caretakers of our historical and artistic heritage and create a network of virtuous young professionals in all categories, also in youth associations that have similar goals.
What are your goals for the future as President of FAI SWISS?
FAI SWISS was naturally born in Canton Ticino thanks to the proximity with Italy, as well as the common language and culture. The primary aim is to enhance artistic properties, historical mansions and landscape. At the same time we intend to create a cultural exchange between these two countries. Our work tries to bring Italian visitors to Switzerland to discover the Helvetic heritage and vice-versa. We are also working to expand FAI SWISS beyond the Italian speaking Switzerland. Last year thanks to the support of the Italian Ambassador at the United Nations we started in Geneva FAI Suisse Romande and we are slowly building our foundations for a FAI SWISS in Zurich.
Article by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi