Life is no longer the same in Ollolai, since its small stone streets were populated by unusual inhabitants. Dutch young people who have moved here to take part in a reality show. Marije and Ovan, the winners, founded their ecobnb in the small village of Sardinia and offer beautiful sustainable tourism experiences.
Among the many villages of Sardinia, there is Ollolai, which rises between the mountains and the forests of Barbagia, in the heart of the island. Until recently, only a few people remained in Ollolai, mostly the elderly who spent their entire lives here, but then something changed, and among the narrow streets carved in the granite of the center some unusual inhabitants arrived.
The village is among the Italian municipalities that have sold houses for the symbolic amount of one euro, in exchange for the commitment to renovate them within three years from the purchase. The project found space in a British Bbc service and soon became viral in social networks: this is how the Dutch national RTL4 network met Ollolai, and made the decision to make a reality show, so different from those that now we are used to and that went on air these months.
Five young couples have decided to move to Sardinia, renovate the assigned house and start an activity in the village, in order to live and to create wealth for the territory. Followed 24 hours a day by the cameras, they told Ollolai’s beauty and their new life to all Holland, also achieving great success.
In the end, it was the people of Ollolai, who fully embraced the idea by welcoming the new inhabitants and the crew, to decree the winning couple who will receive the € 20,000 prize: Marije Graafsma and Ovan Abdullah, two designers who along with their project linked to the fashion world, have also decided to open their newly renovated home to tourists from the Netherlands and around the world.
A unique and vegan experience in Ollolai
Marije and Ovan founded their own fashion house in 2015, launching the first women’s clothing collection in 2017. With the decision to participate in the television program and move to Ollolai, the couple decided to turn the fashion brand into a lifestyle brand. By opening the doors of their home, they have therefore decided to share their lifestyle, offering people a place to stay, create, eat and relax.
Staying in the beautiful rooms of the bed & breakfast you can experience all the idyllic beauty of Ollolai, discover the beautiful traditional clothes, admire the women while they make incredible baskets, taste many traditional dishes and the typical dessert, su pistiddu, or even explore the surrounding nature and the park archaeological site of Santu Basili.
Marije and Ovan also offer their guests numerous activities: traditional pasta making, a lunch with the locals, hiking with a guide through the nature of Ollolai and some lessons to learn how to cultivate a veggie garden.
Interview with Marije and Ovan, special inhabitants of Ollolai
Curious to get to know the adventure of Marije and Ovan – from Holland to Ollolai – we interviewed them.
Here’s what Marije told us:
What is life like in Ollolai?
Life in Ollolai is wonderful, you are feeling like living with a big family. The neighbors are taking care of us and bringing a lot of veggies from their own veggie garden. For us as Dutch people who lived in Amsterdam/Utrecht, it is like 30 years back in time, no one is in a hurry, always time to grab a coffee or helping each other out. Eating together is important over here, just like having a siesta is one of the important things here. Taking time for everything you do is important over here. And I think it is one of the reasons we are living in a “blu zone“.
What struck you most about the village?
The location of Ollolai is beautiful. We are surrounded by beautiful nature and in the center of Sardinia. Also, we were attracted to the authentic way of living and the traditions who are still alive, like traditional clothing, making bread and pasta in the traditional way or making the authentic baskets all by hand. It is very uncommon for us to find this just on the streets instead of going to a museum.
How did the inhabitants welcome you?
With a lot of hospitality and curiosity. We were invited a lot to drink a lot of coffee and diners to know these people very well in the first months. I think that is very special in these days so welcoming and open to complete strangers.
What authentic and sustainable experiences do you propose to your guests?
We have some experiences we offer to our guests, all offered in the village by the locals. Like:
- Making authentic baskets in a traditional way;
- Having a traditional Sardinian lunch with the family on the countryside;
- Hiking with a local guide through the mountains and nature of Ollolai;
- Experience traditional clothing, you will see how somebody is dressed up and the meanings of every item;
- Experience traditional pasta making.
What is the best experience for eco-travelers?
I think the best experience for eco-travelers is to stay at our place, eat vegan with veggies out of our or our neighbors garden. Doing a hike with a local guide of some hours depends on your expertise and after that having a real Sardinian lunch with the family on the countryside.
Do you think that Italy has untapped tourism potential?
Yes and I think that there is a lot of potential for Italy and I think especial for Sardinia. A lot of tourists are coming to Sardinia for the beautiful coasts, but I think the central part of Sardinia has a lot to offer, a lot of traditions. We have the event: Autumno in Barbagia, every weekend in another village you can find all the authenticity and traditions. But I think we can offer this the whole year around!
With another couple, we are promoting this in the Netherlands to attract more people to the central part and of course especially Ollolai where we fell in love with.
For us, it was enough to talk to Marije to fall in love with this village and we can’t wait to discover its alleys, chat with the inhabitants and find a slower and more authentic dimension.