New life for small villages?

New life for small villages?

In many countries, the COVID-19 emergency has led to a greater propensity on the part of companies and workers to remote smart working. This phenomenon, together with the search for a slower pace of life and more affordable living costs, has once again rekindled interest in alternative forms of living, particularly among young people.

This is certainly the case in Italy, where the country’s many small villages rich in history offer a whole host of opportunities. Approximately 70% of Italian municipalities have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants and many of these places, especially in the more interior parts of the Apennines, have for years experienced difficulty due to progressive depopulation caused by the displacement of people to large towns, where job opportunities and social interests are concentrated. In the past, this phenomenon led councils to launch the ‘Houses for 1 euro’ project with the aim of combatting abandonment and reviving ancient villages.

The idea of moving to a small town or village to find a place to take refuge, escaping from the issues inherent to large metropolitan areas, has also generated in Italy another phenomenon known as “south working“, whereby individuals return to live in their place of origin, often the South of Italy, rediscovering a more human scale environmental and social context.

In recent months, the discussion about small villages has seen famous architects and town planners (including Italian experts Stefano Boeri and Massimiliano Fuksas) meeting organisations that represent different contexts: the Borghi più belli d’Italia association (Most Beautiful Villages in Italy), UNCEM – Unione Nazionale Comuni, Comunità ed Enti Montani (National Union of Municipalities, Communities and Mountain Authorities) and the Borghi Autentici association (Authentic Villages). They all agree on the need to launch a major national project involving the entire Italian national system; a route to change that, according to Stefano Boeri: ‘must be characterised by connectivity, broadband and a very close relationship with the cities. This could take the form of independent neighbourhoods, like a sort of “archipelago of villages”.’

Will the small municipalities of the fragmented Italian province really be brought back to life? If so, it may be possible to contribute to the further recovery of such an important piece of historical heritage.