A restaurant owner in a tiny village in the Alps has come up with a novel way to help revive its fortunes, while also helping engage with African asylum seekers who now live there.
San Simone once had a thriving ski trade before financial issues saw the lifts close this winter, and it now also hosts about 80 African asylum seekers who were assigned to live there when they arrived in Italy.
Local restaurant owner Davide Midali saw promise in both his village and its new residents, and to lure tourists back he set out to build igloos that could be rented overnight, like ones he had seen in Sweden.
That is how a handful of immigrants not used to the cold picked up the art of igloo-making.
Working with a small crew of volunteers, Mr Midali built six igloos – each taking four or five days to complete.
Omar Kanteh, a Gambian citizen who has been in Italy for nine months, is among the newcomers who embraced the construction project, as well as its friendly foreman.
“It was very strange to me, so I am very excited. This is a new talent in my life.”
The igloos, which were set up as a mini-village, sleep 18 altogether and have been fully booked on weekends since mid-January.
For 100 euro (£89) per person, a couple can dine at Mr Midali’s restaurant, sleep in an igloo and eat an organic breakfast before embarking on a guided snowshoe excursion in the Valle Brembana mountains.
In that way, the connection forged with tools and snow is a small counterpoint to the pre-election campaigning in Italy that has featured right-wing parties pledging to expel thousands of migrants.
“You learn to know these young men, where they are from and their background, and they also learn about our background and life here,” Mr Midali said.
“He loves me for who I am, and I also love him for who he is,” he said.
Cristian Palazzi, president of the local tourism board, said the igloo project was “a small step to give life to a small community”.