Celebrating “ugliness” for the past 140 years, Piobbico has become renowned for being the world capital of ugly people. Now, its utopian idea has blossomed into a worldwide movement.

Tucked in a valley between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea in central Italy, Piobbico is a handsome medieval town full of grand stone buildings surrounded by lush forests. But despite its picture-perfect 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.” Over the generations, what started as a utopian 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.

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 dedicated to ugly people in the town’s square.

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

(Video by Adam Barr, text by Bernadette Young)

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