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 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.
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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.
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.
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?
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