"It is an emotional experience because you become a child again for a moment and enjoy with a free and innocent spirit an extraordinary viewpoint. We couldn't resist and in Gravina in Puglia we installed Puglia's first Big Bench." Michele Capone.
The original project
Like many great ideas, this one was born a little by chance and a little by play. It was 2010 when an American couple, designer Chris Bangle and his wife Catherine, realized they were craving a new vantage point on the landscape and, why not, on themselves. After all, since 2009 they have settled in Clavesana, in the Langhe region, where gentle slopes are enveloped by fragrant vines...it is not hard to share their desire. Their friends and neighbors must have thought the same because all together they decided to go from idea to deed by making a huge red bench or, to put it in Chris's native tongue, a Big Bench. Placed on an overlook, it allows one to relax while enjoying a slightly more expansive view than if one were sitting on the ground, a little more relaxed, like on a comfortable park bench, a little more childlike, with dangling legs that just can't touch the ground.
The first Big Bench was born this way, and by virtue of its playful spirit it was made available to anyone who wanted to see it and "climb" it. And you know how these things go, to the sound of admiring and trying it out, others have also wanted a Big Bench in their territories...after all, the need to change perspective and feel a little freer is quite widespread. The rest is history: Big Bench Community Project (BBCP) becomes a nonprofit organization that grants to those who request it, the use of the design of the benches either to make new ones around Italy, or to use them in the creation of various kinds of products to be sold to those who have the desire to take a souvenir of the Big Bench visited with them. The important thing is that the Big Bench is always accessible to visitors, that it overlooks one of the wonderful landscapes that our area offers us, and that profits from the sales of related products go to support the municipality that hosts it and its community.
Today there are just under 130 Big Benches in Italy , mostly concentrated in the Langhe area and northern Italy, but their presence is spreading more and more, even beyond the Alps. People have gradually grown fond of these hospitable giants, so much so that more and more travelers are buying a special passport issued by BBCP that allows them to collect a stamp for each bench they visit.
From the Langhe to Puglia
But what drives a private citizen, an entrepreneur, a lover of his territory, to try his hand at making a Big Bench? Michele Capone, standard bearer of Puglia's first big bench and local project contact, explains.
"Since these are works that originate in the territory of the Langhe and usually placed among the vineyards that produce fine wines, it was natural for us to install it in Gravina in Puglia, (Grana dat et vina, i.e., city of wheat and wine). To such richness we added a bit of curiosity, the right open-mindedness and imagination needed to imagine how the Big Bench would interact with the landscape, the local community and tourism, and love was sparked.
In particular, the choice of the exact spot fell on the Belvedere of Dolcecanto, a place where you feel perfectly integrated into nature, where you are lulled by the sweet song of birds, and captivated by colorful hills on which a sea of wheat, forage and legume fields, often marked by charming dry stone walls, sway.
What is the best time to sit and admire the landscape? No doubt, sunset, when the warm, golden rays of the sun set the wheat and hills ablaze with warm, enveloping hues...a sight that warms the heart!"