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'Saviour of Santo Stefano': One man's crusade to save southern Italy's ancient villages - Europe, World - The Independent
Meet Daniele Kihlgren, maverick millionaire. He's an unlikely folk hero, but his scheme to restore and preserve southern Italy's ancient villages has seen him hailed as 'the saviour of Santo Stefano'. And he won't let even an earthquake get in the way of his vision...

Daniele Kihlgren came around the Gran Sasso mountain on his motorbike one day 11 years ago and saw Santo Stefano di Sessanio shining in the distance, and it was, he says, "una folgorazione" - "an electric shock". High stone walls shoot up from the mountain's flank, as a crenellated tower floats above the terracotta roofs. Inside, narrow lanes corkscrew towards the summit, here and there giving on to small piazzas and sunlit courtyards. It is a city in miniature: anyone who has seen the Tuscan or Umbrian hill towns knows the form. But in the case of Santo Stefano, it sat in perfect harmony with the woods and rolling foothills of Gran Sasso. Italy's rampant cement industry had got nowhere near: the place was pristine - and practically abandoned, with a population of about 100.

Kihlgren, who is a wealthy man, fell in love with Santo Stefano and bought his first house there and then. Soon, he owned eight more, and a quarter of the town, the owners long since lost to New Jersey or Toronto, was in his pocket.

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 02:13:16 PM EST
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