I came across an article on the unique town of Piobbico, and couldn’t resist the impulse to include it in this week’s blogs. It seemed refreshing to read a story about a place that ignores all the current social morays we have been indoctrinated to accept. It also provides some light-hearted commentary, in a world that seems increasingly crazy every day, by introducing a different type of craziness, albeit one that is much more endearing, at least in my opinion.

     The hamlet of Piobbico is tucked away in a valley between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea in central Italy. It is a handsome medieval town full of grand stone buildings, surrounded by lush forests. It has 78 buildings in total. It has no bank and no pharmacy but it has gained worldwide recognition way beyond its picture-perfect, even idyllic, setting.

     Piobbico is renowned for the “ugliness” of its people.

     Since 1879, this 2,000-person town has been home to the Club dei Brutti (“The Ugly Club”), an association whose members believe that “a person is what he is and not what he looks like.”

(I assume, in this day and age, that this statement has been amended to say “a person is what he or she is and not what he, or she, looks like”).

     The Club Dei Brutti was originally conceived as a matchmaking service for the town’s single women. As it evolved, local villagers made it their mission to remind society that inner beauty is more important than one’s physical appearance, and in 2007, Piobbico unveiled a statue in the town square dedicated to ugly people.

     Over the generations, what started as a match-making idea has blossomed into a worldwide movement!

     Today, the so-called “World Association of Ugly People” counts more than 30,000 members across 25 global chapters, and it’s all based in the Club Dei Brutti, in the tiny town of Piobbico.

     It is easy enough to become a part of the club. Senior members just have to judge and rank the “ugliness” of potential members – which can range from “unspecified” to “extraordinarily ugly”.      Yet, the group’s members are not necessarily ugly – the club is more focused on celebrating one’s inner beauty, and not worrying about what others think.

     On the first Sunday of September, people gather from all over the world to take part in Piobbico’s annual Festival of the Ugly, in which members elect the club’s president; sign up new members; and eat locally sourced truffles, polenta and pasta.

     In a country that places so much emphasis on making a bella figura (“beautiful impression”), this corner of Italy is proving that being genuine and unconventional may shine brightest. 

     As I said, I couldn’t resist publishing this unique and inspiring story about a town that has totally broken with tradition, yet has embraced a human quality that is all too often ignored in our advertising world of today. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…..drum roll…… Piobbico!

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