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Monday, May 23, 2022
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European funds will save a deserted Italy

Bar Al nido del Falco is the only bar open on Tuesdays. There is another bar in the city, but on this day it is closed. A tobacco shop and two restaurants, also closed, complete the list of services that the small town of Calacio offers to its 120 residents. Hardly 90 people live in winter, most of them old people who refuse to leave the mountain homes where they were born.

“There is no pharmacy, it is unpleasant. The doctor comes once a week,” explains 87-year-old Ms Jada at the door of her house, her hands covered in flour from frying fish.

“The birth of my son was the highlight of the year,” says the father of one of three children born in a decade.

She can no longer drive and is dependent on her relatives or neighbors to shop in hypermarkets in L’Aquila, a large city of 70,000 under the mountain, 40 minutes away by car. On weekends, street vendors carry fruit, vegetables and other staples for those who don’t have the opportunity. A few years ago there were four colmados in Kalashio. Now they are gone.

Very soon, the quiet lifestyle of this ghost town may change completely. Kalashio won the lottery. As part of the European recovery plan, Italy’s Ministry of Culture decided that each of the country’s regions would select a city affected by depopulation to receive 20 million euros to give them a boost and encourage a return to rural Italy. Calasio was one of the lucky ones: his project was chosen by the Abruzzo region. They have 220,000 euros per inhabitant.

Other selected destinations are Trevinano in the Lazio region; Sanza in Campania; Elva in Piedmont; or Ulassai in Sardinia. Italy is the main beneficiary of post-pandemic European funds, with 191.5 billion euros planned between 2021 and 2026, and about a billion of them will be spent on the regeneration of about 250 cities after hours, but only 21 of them were affected by fat.

“In our country, there has been talk for many years about the restoration of hinterland and small towns, but no serious concrete actions have been taken to achieve this goal. New technological conditions make it possible to turn places that a few years ago could not attract people or jobs into real jobs,” said Italian Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini at the presentation of this operation.

However, the choice of privileged cities aroused the envy and anger of other nearby places, who also wanted to get their hands on the booty. “Perhaps it would be more useful to distribute these funds among the first three classified projects,” criticized Luca Profileli, mayor of Civita de Bagnoregio, an idyllic town in Lazio, called “the city that is dying”, finishing fourth in the ranking. Classification of your region. Gianluca Taddeo, the mayor of Maranola, another of the losers, also laments that “all the money goes in one direction,” he told La Repubblica. Residents of Castel del Giudice in the Molise region were so dissatisfied with the result that they went to court demanding the payment of 20 million, which was supposed to receive neighboring Pietrabbondante. The same thing happened to Kalasho after the court accepted the appeal of the Lama dei Peligny, whose mayor said that the project submitted by the winner was full of errors. This is a real war of nations. Marco Marsilio, governor of the Abruzzo region, backs Calascio but admits he doesn’t understand why all 20 million will go to one candidate and the other 16 contenders who chose funds in the region will remain empty. handed .

“We hope everything goes well because it will be a big boost for the whole area,” says Giovanni Chiarelli, a retiree who lives in Santo Stefano, a town near Calascio. When he was younger, he emigrated to northern Italy to work in a Fiat factory during his turbulent leadership years, but only lasted three years. “If you like tranquility, this is heaven,” he says. “The quality of life is perfect.”

Calacio, famous for its Rocca, a legendary castle sculpted on top and surrounded by the magnificent snow-capped mountains of Abruzzo, will use this money to restore the medieval fortress from damage caused by the devastating L’Aquila earthquake in 2009, the creation of a museum on the history of the territory or hotel infrastructure in some of the vacant houses, among other projects by its new mayor, Paolo Baldi, who had a restaurant next to the castle before he was elected in October on the citizens’ ticket. The city council has three employees. They are distributed in order.

“The bulk, about four or five million, will go towards restoring Rocky and doing archaeological research to understand what she was,” explains Baldi, walking along the main street of the city, dedicated to Father Mario, who lived in the 16th century Hebraist- a Franciscan born in the city. They know that the towers are the main attraction with 100,000 tourists visiting each year. National Geographic once listed it as one of the 15 most beautiful castles in the world, but they don’t know exactly when it was built. That is why excavations are necessary. Maintenance is also important: the paths to the castle are steep and difficult, especially in winter when ice makes the path difficult and causes slipping.

Kalashio especially developed in the 16th century, when the regulation of transhumance grazing was introduced, which became the main source of income. The cities in the area had over 90,000 sheep and supplied large quantities of valuable wool to cities such as L’Aquila or Florence. Its inhabitants know by heart all the mythology that surrounds its history. Like Annamaria, who, while offering coffee in a well-maintained house overlooking the mountains, recalls the legend of the two kings. “There was a great war between King Kalashio and the King of the Plains,” he explains, “and King Kalashio, the Brown King, withstood a siege at the castle for many years. But in the end, thanks to the large number of sheep, the inhabitants of Kalashio produced a lot of cheese, they went down from the hill to the valley to show the enemy that they had provisions.

The municipality remained prosperous at the end of the 19th century, when it had 2,500 inhabitants. But everything changed after World War I. Due to the lack of opportunities, most of the residents emigrated to the United States or Canada. Also, later, to Belgium and northern France to work in the coal mines. He then traveled to northern Italy. Now there are almost no old people left. The rest are people who drive home every week with their family, but usually live in Rome, two hours away by car, or in L’Aquila, which is much more convenient. Although there are nine churches in the city, there is one priest for this and two other nearby cities. There is only the police: four agents enjoy the easy task of providing security.

A century ago, about a hundred children went to school in Calascius. It has now been closed for eight years. It would be pointless: in the last ten years, three children have been born. “The birth of my son was the highlight of the year,” Germano explains over a beer before the bar closes. There are almost no jobs in Kalashio, so young people have left in search of opportunities.

The mayor is convinced that with the help of recovery funds they will create about a hundred jobs. They want to take advantage of the freedom to work remotely so that digital nomads can take advantage of the good fiber already installed. They will even give you abandoned buildings to work with. “We will also support sheep breeding and a school will be opened to teach young people the craft,” says Baldi, hoping that new generations will want to restore local traditions. Franka Fulgenzi, the owner of the only open bar, says that “the main thing is that they come, especially on weekdays, because there are more cats than people.”


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