When we were children, we all had a common dream: a tree house. Based on the success that tree houses have on airbnb, a popular website for people to rent out lodging, this desire is still present in many grown-up children.
In a forest near the Italian city of Turin, there is a child who is living our childhood fantasy. Her name is Galatea and she was born on a chestnut tree. Her story is not the beginning of a fairy-tale, as it seems, but a true story.
Her parents are among the 12 inhabitants of the first arboreal village in Europe. People living on isolated tree houses already existed all around Europe, however the one on the Italian Pelati Mountains represents the first structured community.
The village on the trees is 4 kilometres away from the nearest urban centre, in the middle of the wood. The inhabitants built the houses using the most innovative green building techniques, recycled materials and those offered by the surrounding forest. The houses are supported by chestnut trees 7 metres above the ground and connected between them with gangways.
The inhabitants are neither hermits nor modern hippies. Among them, there is a manager, a nurse, a goldsmith, a pharmacist and a biologist. Many of them work in the near urban centres but their way home at night is a bit different from the one of their colleagues. They enter the wood, park the car and climb up to their houses.
They did not reject modern comforts and technologies, as one may think. They all have mobile phones, laptops and Internet access. The houses have modern kitchens, bathrooms and showers. Here – they say – they have that liveability they were losing in town. They did not run away from society, they tried to modify their life style having a direct contact with the elements.
They admit that sometimes it is harder than in a “traditional” house. For instance when they have to bring home the food supplies or when it snows. But it seems that the view from up there rewards all these small efforts.
Unfortunately for us, the exact location of this fairy-tale village is not known. However, we can always start building our own tree house in our garden, sometimes you need to make do with what you have.