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In Italy, the future is in small towns

Assisi, Italy
Assisi, Italy

The future is in small towns: where there is life, clean air, slowness, healthy food. The challenge of reconnecting the country to repopulate the villages

The future of Italy lies in the small municipalities. It is in these characteristic villages where time seems to have stood still, we breathe clean air, the rhythms flow more slowly and food and wine promote a diet capable of enhancing the territories, that man must return. Rural life, lighter pace and a gaze still able to focus on faces. And maybe even know the names of the neighbors. Well-known architects Stefano Boeri and Massimiliano Fuksas both supported the need to encourage residential dispersal, a kind of ‘city escape’, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. An “escape from the city” towards small towns, the countryside, places currently less populated. Open and uncontaminated spaces.

But Francesco Tarantini, president of Legambiente Puglia, also reminds us of this. The environmental association which has just celebrated on June 2 “Loving Italy 2020”, the festival of small towns which this year – perhaps not surprisingly – focuses on an important issue for the development and future of villages Italians: let’s reconnect the country. Because without (re) connection, the dreams of repopulating these magnificent districts are much more difficult, because the comfort and services offered by cities and large urban centers are still lacking in many small municipalities. And these shortcomings, in a comprehensive assessment of how one’s environment and lifestyle have changed, could have a significant impact. “In small municipalities, there is more life than you can imagine, but these territories are constantly fighting against the abandonment of settlements – explains Francesco Tarantini, president of Legambiente Puglia -. An inherent law exists but the implementation of the decrees is delayed. We remind you that Law 158/2017 is aimed at centers of less than five thousand inhabitants and provides for accompanying measures including the extension of ultra-broadband, an education plan for rural areas, school services, redevelopment of buildings in a state of neglect, construction of power stations from renewable sources, promotion of short chain agribusiness, construction of accommodation facilities. Where is all this? In 2017, we celebrated the approval of the law to save villages after sixteen years of battles. When will we celebrate its implementation? “.

For this reason, from Puglia, as well as in the rest of the country, Legambiente appealed to the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, with a document signed by many mayors. The aim is for support measures to be put in place for small municipalities. “The pandemic – we read the appeal – has drawn everyone’s attention to the need to rethink the organization and use of territories and in this regard also the role of small municipalities in maintaining communities. To do this, a great deal of work to reconnect the country is necessary, by recomposing the original polycentrism and the harmonious model of urbanity. At the center of the infrastructure for restarting the economy, there must necessarily be rapid connection as a right of citizenship, which fills the void of the digital divide at certain times. Indeed even today more than 3,900 municipalities do not have no fast internet, 1200 municipalities do not receive a stable signal for mobile telephony and 5 million Italians do not receive television service properly. It is a prerequisite for the territories and communities to be the protagonists of the country’s rebirth”.

Without disturbing architects Boeri and Fuksas, it is probably a dream shared by many that of living in less polluting, stressful and deceptive environments. In short, places on a human scale and for children, where to live without giving up all the services and comforts to which we are all used today. Because perhaps the future really lies in the small municipalities, which represent around 54% of the Italian territory. Territories of less than 5000 inhabitants focused on innovation and sustainability, local tourism, development and protection of the environment, gastronomic and oenological circuits, promotion of cultures and traditions. These are the ingredients that small municipalities aim to fight against depopulation and the reduction of essential services. And just take a tour of the splendid villages of the province of Foggia, such as Bovino, Orsara di Puglia, Faeto, Accadia, Deliceto, or in Calabria, Pietra Grande, Staletti, to name but a few, to understand that yes, the not too distant future could be here. And those who stayed in these places saw the future much sooner. Maybe always.

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