drug rehabilitation Restorative Justice San Patrignano

San Patrignano: A Model Restorative Community for People with Addiction Problems

On September 11, 2008 I spent six hours touring and learning about the San Patrignano drug rehabilitation community located in Rimini, Itlay.  I spent the week before in Lausanne, Switzerland providing training on conflict management for women from over 50 different countries who primarily work for their country’s Olympic Committees.  My friend Marina Canatacuzino, a journalist who created The Forgiveness Project, suggested I visit San Patrignano, which is relatively close to Switzerland.

San Patrignano is considered one of the world’s finest drug rehabilitation programs, and after visiting it I can easily understand why.  I believe San Patrignano is a model for building peace and is an example of an effective restorative justice and solution-focused response to conflict and dealing with serious social problems.

Addiction creates conflicts and San Patrignano deals with it restoratively and in a strength based manner.  It is an incredible place that is deeply inspirational.  San Patrignano teaches us that we can find positive solutions to our most difficult problems by looking to the strengths that we all have.

San Patrignano is a remarkably beautiful place that is completely free for all of its approximately 800 hundred residents. It takes no government money for support.  It is 50% to 60% self-sufficient and gets the remainder of its support from donors who believe in its social mission.

San Patrignano’s main strategy for helping people overcome addiction is simply taking responsibility, which is exactly what restorative justice is all about.

Myself, and two Norwegian women who work with people who have substance abuse problems in Norway’s prison system, spent the day with our tour guide Darko who has been a San Patrignano resident for almost four years (Darko granted his permission to discuss him, the program, and share photos that we were freely allowed to take of anyone or anything at San Patrignano during our visit).

Darko is from Croatia and had developed a serious drug problem while living in South Africa where he also happen to become friends with Nelson Mandela who bought suits from the store where he worked.  Darko heard about San Patrignano’s program and was selected to enter it not speaking any Italian which he became fluent in about 18 months after being there.

San Patrignano is in the country located on rolling hills of vineyards.  It operates on about 25 million Euro a year.  The facility generates 50 to 60% of its support from selling its products including award winning wines (it has a fabulous winery); dairy; fabric; and state of art graphic and advertising services. No fees are sought from any residents.

At San Patrignano everyone works and they put 100% into doing a high quality job in whatever they do.  The result is a community of people with great self-efficacy and confidence.  Psychologist Albert Bandura would love it!

The people at San Patrignano are happy, cooperative, show great respect, love and affection toward each other;  they have “much aloha” as we would say here in Hawai‘i.

There are 55 different areas of employment for residents including furniture building, frame making, web-design, wine making, cheese making, and animal care.

San Patrignano has a hospital that takes patients from all over the world that no one else wants.  People who are completely dependent on care.  Many of whom suffer from HIV and other contagious diseases.  There is also an animal shelter where abandoned dogs are cared for and trained to be therapy and service pets.  Residents work in the facilities and learn the joy in helping others.

There is are lovely elementary and secondary schools, playgrounds and excellent athletic facilities for residents.  The 2005 European horse show was held at its superb in door and out door arenas.

San Patrignano is wonderful.  Everyone interested in making the world a better place should go visit it to experience the results of people believing in potential and human strengths in spite of problems.  We all have the power to create positive lives when we take responsibility to solve our problems by focusing on our solutions and strengths.  San Patrignano finds and uses people’s strengths to solve problems and help people find peace and happiness.

Andrea Muccioli’s father and mother along with a handful of their friends started San Patrinano about 30 years ago.  Andrea grew up in the community and is still there today.

Andrea says:

“[S]ome 20,000 youths that have come through our doors and have left a little piece of themselves, their talents, capacities and intelligence to those who’ll be welcomed to the Community after them. We want to construct a more humane, united, and free world: a goal that we concretely try to achieve, day after day, by living those values which we believe in. All of this towards a world full of life, a world without drugs.”(http://www.sanpatrignano.org/?q=en/node/200)

San Patrignano is also an example of a successful harm reduction approach.

A video on San Patrignano is available at:  http://www.sanpatrignano.org/?q=node/5396

The following photos are of myself and Darko in San Patrignano’s wine cellar (it produces award winning wines); its inside horse arena (it breeds award winning race horses); its dining hall that seats 2000; a hill side view of some of its vineyards; and one of the 60 cottages for individuals and families who live and work in the community (many of whom are former residents).

Frankly, I would love to live in a community like San Patrignano and there is no reason we cannot build similar communities all over the world!

28 thoughts on “San Patrignano: A Model Restorative Community for People with Addiction Problems”

  1. Lorrie
    Great post and thank you so much for sharing this information. I believe that everything is connected and reading this right now is just that. I am currently a class where we are all discussing the philosophical aspects of the topics that we have chosen for our dissertation – and how they will all have positive social impacts. One of my fellow students brought restorative justice up and I am going to share your blog with her. Great job – keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Lorenn,
    Inspiring post! It seems persuasive support to the belief in holding people accountable for solutions not problems and doing it through respect and pay attention to accomplishments and contributions. Thank you for sharing this expereince and your thoughts about it. Peter De Jong

  3. Hi Lorenn
    I have been there twice now and both times I leave speechless – one thing that is impossible to get over on the blog is the enormity of the place – its vast!! Why do we not have these places in every country when the need is so great?? Im so glad you got there.

  4. Hi Lorenn,
    impressive project that I had never heard about before, built, if I get it right, on “solution focus” (that I’ve heard a lot about before …) – thank you very much for introducing it!
    Keep spreading the (SF-) word,
    Kind regards,

  5. What an inspiration. If it can happen there, there is hope for us over here. Thank you for being such a strong voice for restorative justice, and solution focused approaches to “corrections” Lorenn.

  6. Thanks for sharing, great job and very encourage by what San Patrignano is doing, I wish we have this facilities for our people here in Singapore.

    Thanks n God bless your work.


  7. Truly impressive approach.
    I have been working in the field of addiction and child protection for many years and placed many people in various rehab centres each with hugely varying results and each promising similar solution focused outcomes. The san patrignano strikes me as such a refreshing approach to a matter of huge comlexity. Reciprocity and the promotion of self efficacy through the ability to learn new skills are key to longer term productive lives in which individuals can reach their full potential.
    The examples of self efficiency demonstrate that the correct model of care for such needy individuals can be acheived beyond the need to depend on government support.
    i would love to hear more about the treatment process as well as the harm reduction model spoke about.
    A truly inspiring and most contemporary model of practice despite being over three decades old.

  8. I first saw this place on a recent TV program about food. It peaked my interest as I have been thinking about this subject a great deal since my son committed suicide in 2004 during a phsycotic episode bought on by persistant drug use. I am intent on taking it further as I firmly believe there are many people within the UK who would benefit from the opportunity to carve out a new life for themselves. I hope to put a business plan together and then start looking for benefactors. There are so many people with so much money and what a great cause to support. Thank you for the information. It will help to provide valuable information in my efforts to set up something similar in the UK.

  9. I am so sorry about your son Patricia. I agree with you that people in the UK and all over the world too, would benefit from San Patrignano’s approach. It is a simple respectful way that works. I wish you much luck in your endeavors to start something like it in the UK. Please let me know if I can ever help. I don’t have a lot of financial resources, but do have a lot of ENERGY and share your passion. I think we can use tragedy to motivate us to work for creating better futures for others. Aloha, Lorenn

  10. I’m very interested to learn more about your facility. We have a son who has an extremely addictive nature. More with alcohol than drugs. He just can’t seem to find his way in life. He’s presently in a Monastery in Thailand. They help people to stop drug taking and alcohol. His and our biggest fear are what is he going to do when he comes out of the monastery. He just feels he doesn’t fit in any where.

  11. Jennifer your son made an excellent choice going into a monastery in Thailand, which I am assuming is Buddhist. I have recommended Buddhist monasteries for people with substance abuse problems. They offer an ideal way for people to learn how to deal with the underlying suffering, which they use drugs & alcohol for comforting themselves. Many Buddhist traditions like meditation and the concept of mindfulness are being used today by substance abuse treatment programs, and for people dealing with depression and stress. We don’t have a program, I wrote about the San Patrignano program that I visited in Italy and think we should try and create some like it in other parts of the world. In San Francisco, CA there is the Delancey Street program that is similar to San Patrignano’s program: http://delanceystreetfoundation.org/admission.php I hope your son finds his way in life and please let me know how he does. Aloha, Lorenn

  12. Dear Lorenn,
    I saw “Two Greedy Italians” programme here in UK & their visit to San Patrignano.& found the website. The work there is totally inspirational, thank you for sharing your experience of being there. I agree with other comments that this approach would be of benefit in other countries.
    I will make sure that this information is passed to others.
    With so much negative information in the media this brings hope.
    Infinite Blessings & Infinite Light & Love to all who work there & share this dream.

  13. Dear Lorenn

    Like Sheila (19 May 2011), I first saw San Patrignano on “Two Greedy Italians” and was so impressed I can’t forget it.

    Patricia Rucinski – I hope you achieve your dream, there are so many young people here in the UK who could benefit. I too have lots of ENERGY and would be willing to help in any way I could.

    Jennifer Sue (14.05.2011) – I will light a candle of hope for your son, may you all find the strength you need.

    I hope to visit San Patrignano one day myself.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  14. Hi i have been reading all the above comments above san patrignano and agree we definitely need something like that in the UK as we have probably the largest drink and drug abuse problem in the World. I also have a son that has an alcohol addiction and he just doesnt see what damage he is causing to me and his dad and the family. I just cant at present get him to commit to try and go into san patrignano. The thing I like about this place is funds it self to a great degree. seems a wonderful place. I also would be happy to help with setting something up in the UK like San Patrignano.

  15. San Patrignano sounds very impressive. I am a registered nurse living in Australia. Later this year I will be in Italy and would like to visit San P. How can I arrange this visit and could I possibly work to pay for accomadation for a few days. Thankyou Maggie Morel.

  16. I love the sound of your community and the help you do for others which are lost. I will be delighted to share the experience, help and problems in day to day life struggle which we all facing and trying compassed with legal or illegal drugs which we thing it will help us to run away and on the end of the day just slowly killing us and all our potentials.What do I need to do to be able to be part of your establishment and help others and my self also?Love and respect x

  17. I wish we had something like this in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. We have a huge number of people dieing of drug overdoses every day!!!! Our drug problem is horrendous. And what do we do? We open more safe injection sites-never do city officials think of tackling the problem itself! What a sad situation we have here.

    1. No Pranav, San Patrignano is not supported by the Italian government. It gets its funding from selling products and services the residents make and provide, and also from donations. When I visited it needed $25 million Euro a year to function which the residents were helping to earn through their work. I understand that “work” is the basically the main treatment intervention for San Patrignano.

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