This mountain-top hut with a sweeping panoramic view of the Julian Alps in Italy is free to stay for anyone who knocks on its door. The catch? You’ll have to hike 8,300ft up Foronon del Buinz Mountain to get to it.
Commissioned by the family of the late mountain climber Luca Vuerich, who died in an avalanche in 2010, this unusual prefab wood cabin by architect Giovanni Pesamosca is located on the Ceria-Merlone trail and has been offering a safe refuge for hiking nature lovers since it opened in September 2012. The clever chapel-like design prevents snow from piling up on it, and its south-facing opening lets the sun melt any snow that builds up during winter.
Due to the high altitude, the building materials for the hut were flown in by helicopter over 18 trips. A team of 12 professional workers, mountain rescue volunteers and Luca’s friends then put the 16-sqm structure together in a single day.
For the less adventurous, there’s a vast network of similar huts scattered throughout the Alps at much lower altitudes, though you may have to pay to stay. Some even come with staff on duty in the summer who can cook and clean the place for hikers.