BIG BENCHES: The UNIQUE Overlooks in ITALY!

Let’s set Italian grammar aside, for once, because I want to talk about a very peculiar and interesting cultural phenomenon, something that seems to have been born right here, in our “Bel Paese”! I’m talking about the BIG BENCHES…keep reading this article if you want to know more about them!

What are these “Big Benches”?

You’re probably thinking: “What is Graziana talking about?” Well, they are actual gigantic benches and in this article, we will tell you more about them and the Big Bench Community Project – how and when this project started, their distinguish characteristics but above all, the meaning behind them!

How they are made and how this idea came about…

First of all, these Big Benches are gigantic, bright-colored benches; they are situated on soft rolling hills and overlooking vineyards, mountains and in general, breath-taking panoramas – as a matter of fact, they are out-and-out panoramic viewpoints, as well as a tourist attractions. Their creation began in 2009, from an idea of the American designer Chris Bangle, who has been living in Clavesana with his wife Catherine for some years now. Clavesana is a small municipality in the province of Cuneo, in the region of Piedmont (“Piemonte“) and it’s where the first Big Bench was installed in 2010.

But why the benches?

The symbol of this initiative is a bench because it’s an element of outdoor furniture and it aims at sociability, relaxation and calm. All the benches have huge dimensions and are placed in particularly interesting and beautiful panoramic points, so that whoever sits on them can enjoy a good view of the surrounding villages, countrysides and cities from a observation point that being higher, is also more privileged. The change of perspective given by the dimension and height of the benches makes whoever sits on them feel like a child, able to have fun, play and be amazed by the beauty of the nature that surrounds them. As a matter of fact, sitting on these over-sized benches with your legs dangling would make anyone feel like they’re a child again: it’s an experience that enriches our memories of that enthusiasm and wonder typical of the little ones. You can rest on them after a lovely walk, appreciating the panorama that materializes before your eyes.

What are the essential features of the Italian Big Benches?

  • They have bright, gaudy colors– as we’ve mentiond before- and nuances that go harmoniously with the ones of the specific characteristics that surround said benches, such as the purple of levander, the yellow of sunflowers, the brown of hazelnuts, the red of wine, etc.
  • All the benches are numbered based on their construction date.
  • They are located on highly panoramic spots, accessible to everyone.

Speaking about his own project, Chis Bangle has stated that: “We are so obsessed with discovering new things that we often deny ourselves the interesting experience of experiencing things that are well known, but in a different context”. Therefore, his intent was to allow us to never underestimate or take for granted all of the things around us, just because we think we know them well for they too conceal many facets and can offer us something we would have never had thought about otherwise.
As you might have already figured out from the color of each bench being chosen based on the surrounding landscape, this initiative was born from the idea of enhancing the “comuni” (municipalities) that host these benches, giving new life to tourism and boosting the local artisan businesses. Within just a few years, Bangle’s passion for big benches has conquered everybody, spreading like a wild fire in the Langhe area (a hilly area to the south and east of the river Tanaro in the province of Cuneo and in the province of Asti in Piedmont, northern Italy) first, then in the whole Piemonte region and lastly in the rest of Italy; to this day, there are almost 200 Big Benches in our country, but they are also crossing the borders!

…So, where are they and how do we get there?

Most of these benches (more than half of them) are in Piemonte, where the idea was born, but you can find many other (around twenty) in Lombardia too; the remainder of the benches are situated in Valle d’Aosta, Liguria, Toscana, Emilia-Romagna, Molise and Puglia…but two of them can be found outside of Italy, in Scotland and Poland! If you want to find them and take pictures, you can use the free mobile app called tabUi, which provides you with the map and thank to the Google geolocation, you will be able to get exactly to the Bench you wanted to see. In addition to the map, in the app there are some useful information regarding the territory where each Big Bench is located and the degree of difficulty of the path you’ll need to take to get there. Alternatively, for any kind of information, you can visit the official website (bigbenchcommunityproject.org) which will give you even more information about the “Big Bench Community Project” (BBCP).

What is the “Big Bench Community Project”?

BBCP is a no profit initiative revolving around Bangle’s Big Benches. It aims to achieve several objectives, such as: to support local enterprise, tourism and craftsmanship in the towns that host these out-of-scale installations – in that sense, BBCP activities include both technical support for those who wish to construct official Big Benches, and collaboration with prominent local craftsmen to create products inspired by them, that may constitute a small contribution to the local economy and tourism, in the spirit of positivity that the Big Benches bring to this area. Some examples of this? The collaboration with the clothing brand Co.F.A.M (situated in Mondovì) and the with Carru’s master goldsmith Ugo Bracco, both in in the province of Cuneo, Piemonte. The Big Bench Community Project will also issue a personalized passport so that you can collect the stamps of each Big Bench you visit…just to make everything even more appealing! These stamps can be obtained at the local shops and each one of them has the logo of the Big Bench you viisted and the name of the town where it is located.

Did you already know about this over-sized installations? Have you ever been on one of them? Are curious to do so? Let us know in the comments and share the video if you liked it! I have never been on one of them, but ever since I found out about them, I cannot wait to go…and as soon as I do, I’ll share a picture on our social media! After all, the best “weapon” to promote the amazing Big Benches is by word of mouth!

If you liked this article and you want to learn about other peculiar attractions in Italy, you’ll probably love our video about unforgettable trips to take (by train), without crossing the frontiers of our country!

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