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Magazine

Italian benches: the photo contest promoting beauty in everyday details

18 August 2022

4 minutes

Immersed in the coolness of a lush garden, embraced by a breathtaking vista, overlooking a turquoise gulf or the crystal-clear waters of a mountain lake, or situated in the lively heart of a piazza. Much more than mere street furniture, Italy's benches—iconic landmarks of a country rich in history, art and humanity—are places of rest and meditation, of reading and waiting. They play host to love stories and beautiful friendships. But above all, they are vantage points over a rich and variegated landscape, outposts from which to fill one's heart with beauty and draw inspiration for planning trips, visits and excursions.

1. A tour of Italy's most beautiful benches

This is why the Ministry of Tourism and Invitalia, the National Development Agency, have promoted Panchine d'Italia (Benches of Italy), a photography contest open to everyone, both citizens and local administrators, with the aim of promoting grassroots tourism in our country.

The competition, covering the whole of Italy, gave everyone the chance to post and submit a photograph of their favourite bench.

The photos set in the most beautiful places were published so as to become a tourist destination of a real or virtual tour of Italy.

2. A project honoured by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture

To underline its participatory aspect, it should be noted that the Panchine d'Italia project is itself one of the six winners of a broader contest called Viaggio in Italia (Travel in Italy), aimed at young creatives with innovative ideas on the promotion of sustainable tourism in Italy, and focusing on the three dimensions of grassroots tourism, tourism in villages, and slow tourism.

The competition was launched by the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture together with Invitalia. Assessed by a jury of communication experts, it received 1,200 entries and, in addition to the six winners, awarded eight special mentions.

The selection criteria included the presence of a beautiful panorama, or of monuments, churches, palaces, castles, museums or archaeological areas in the surroundings, inviting the rediscovery of historic villages or routes linked to the Italian food and wine tradition.

The contest awarded prizes to the most artistically valuable photos, those that best represented the Italian landscape, its complexity, uniqueness and history.

3. Feast your eyes and get going

Today, if you go to the website, you can feast your eyes on a virtual tour along the stages shown in the photos, and perhaps find inspiration for planning any number of unforgettable itineraries in Italy.

Are you ready to travel and for us to travel also? In the meantime, we would like to point out the benches that you should not miss: go out and discover them in person or look at the photos on the site and start dreaming.

4. The Fishermen's Bench in Lerici

Overlooking the Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets) and the small harbour of the town, not far from the Cinque Terre, in the province of La Spezia, the Panchina dei Pescatori (Fishermen's Bench) in Lerici is a romantic spot between the sea promenade of Via Mazzini and the colourful houses of the lively, central Piazza Garibaldi, which in summer is the venue for outdoor tables, cultural events and concerts.

Lightweight and with a minimalist design, made of metal strips, the bench is a prime vantage point for observing daily life in the village, one of the most typical spots in eastern Liguria, between the sea and the village, with the ancient mass of the castle guarding it at the rear.

5. The Fishermen's Bench in Viareggio

Slightly further south, another breathtaking view, this time of the Tyrrhenian Sea, is also offered by Viareggio's Panchina dei Pescatori (Fishermen's Bench). Very popular with locals and tourists alike, it provides a stunning viewpoint of the Versilia coastline from the long Viareggio pier, practically in the middle of the sea.

You can easily find it by walking to the end of the Passeggiata Margherita, the city's social gathering place dotted with art deco architecture, close to where the sea bream fishermen usually congregate. This wide, comfortable stone and concrete seating area is the ideal place from which to contemplate the most beautiful Versilia sunsets and, when dusk falls, the thousands of coloured lights of the large Ferris wheel overlooking the sea.

6. Sitting on the peaks: the Tetto d'Italia and the Panchina Paradiso

If, on the other hand, you prefer mountains, the landscapes of the Dolomites, a Unesco World Heritage Site, are dotted with panoramic benches offering breathtaking views and overlooking peaks, expanses of forest and valleys.

The first one we recommend is in Falcade, in the province of Belluno, in the upper Valle del Biois. Not surprisingly, it is called Tetto d'Italia (Roof of Italy): it is a simple wooden plank resting on two boulders, immersed in the alpine peaks, on a nature trail that runs between the mountain huts along the border between Veneto and Trentino-South Tyrol.

Also worth a walk is the Panchina Paradiso (Paradise Bench), near Aldino, an enchanting village on the Monte Regolo plateau, in the province of Bolzano. The bench can be reached on foot or by bicycle, and is situated near the Passo degli Ocini, an ancient alpine pass dominated by two peaks, Corno Bianco to the north and Corno Nero to the south. This too is very simple, made of rough wood, protected by the shade of a large larch tree, secluded and with an incomparable view.

For more information: panchineditalia.andreadedonato.it