The magical mini-Italy lost in the Welsh woods

·2 min read
Italianate design is covered by climbing flowers in the mini village.
Italianate design is covered by climbing flowers in the mini village.

If you go down to the woods today near Corris, a village in the south of Snowdonia, you're sure not just of a big but a rather magical surprise. 

Thirty famous Italian landmarks, from the Tower of Pisa to Florence's Duomo, have been recreated on a miniature scale and carefully carved into the wooded Welsh hillside. However the enchanting model village, dubbed Little Italy by locals, has been left to nature for over a decade and is now in urgent need of restoration. 

The village is hidden in the woods
The village is hidden in the woods

The hidden beauty spot, featuring pint-sized replicas of the Rialto Bridge and The Spanish Steps, was created by local couple Mark and Muriel Bourne over the course of a quarter of a century using chickenwire, concrete and various odds and ends. Mark, who died in 2009, was inspired to make his passion project - also known locally as Mark's Folly - by a lifetime of holidays in the Bel Paese. 

Watch: Should I book a summer holiday?

Ruined temples are concealed in the undergrowth
Ruined temples are concealed in the undergrowth
Tiny towers and pixie-sized pediments are crumbling away
Tiny towers and pixie-sized pediments are crumbling away

Now Jonathan Fell, a local re-wilding expert and a former professional designer and conservationist for Brighton Pavillion, is calling for skilled volunteers to help rescue the moss-covered monuments before they crumble to dust or are overtaken by tree roots. 

Like an abandoned fairytale kingdom, the little village is in need of saving.
Like an abandoned fairytale kingdom, the little village is in need of saving.

While it is hoped that Little Italy may eventually become a popular tourist attraction, visitors are encouraged to stay away for now - both to help protect the fragile structures and to prevent any accidents. 'This is all at 'your own risk' stuff,' Fell posted on Facebook, in a recent call for volunteers. 

Weathered stone and climbing ivy in the tiny Italian village
Weathered stone and climbing ivy in the tiny Italian village

But if the story of Wales's Little Italy has captured your imagination, for now you can always book a visit to the famously picturesque Welsh town of Portmeirion, designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of a colourful Italian village. Who needs a cheap flight to Venice when we can discover these kind of Mediterranean delights so close to home? 

PORTMEIRION - WALES - JUNE 26: A general view over the tourist town of Portmeirion on June 26, 2019 in Portmeirion, North Wales. The village was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. The town became  famous as 'The Village', the setting for the 1967 TV series 'The Prisoner', and is also well known for it's pottery. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Portmeirion, in North Wales - life size Italianate splendour.

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Life edit
Life edit
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