The green stretches for kilometres, wedges of dense forest here and there interrupted by gilded fields, carbonic rocks bathed in blue and ancient fortresses. The Northen Tuscan countryside (torrano domani) is inhabited by olive groves and chestnut trees, old and young dwellings, and most of all silence, the kind of silence that leaves room for nature to play and sing. It is Torrano domani, tomorrow in torrano, a hamlet in the village of Pontremoli, part of the Lunigiana region in Tuscany.
Paolo and Maurizio are there, a window from the green. Anja and I are in Berlin. Places that couldn’t be more different. And the interview begins.
“We are all alike. All ethnic groups have their own cultures and cultures are created to bring people together, [to represent themselves], to be and to live well with one another.”
Maurizio moved to Torrano thirty years ago and there he founded, with other member of Torrano Arci, the Community Cooperative Torrano Domani, which aims to build an economic, residential, and social future for this hamlet. Nevertheless, the story of Torrano Domani dates back to the 90s.
Arci is an association that promotes culture, sociality, solidarity, participation, and democracy. Today is spread all over Italy, with thousands of members, societies of mutual rescue, and people’s homes; but it was built in 1957 in Florence, Tuscany. The purpose of the founders was to defend and develop social housing and recreative centres. An association made by Italian people for and with people from all over the world, for meeting, sharing ideas and passion, and advocating peace, equality, justice, free access to culture and rights for everybody.
The Torrano Arci association born in the 90s with humanitarian and political intents. The organization of protests for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the advocation for peace, and harbour of refugees; were just a part of the political expression of Torrano Arci.
In 2006, the associated created Mama Africa Meeting, a festival aimed at bringing young people closer to the topics of interculturalism, acceptance and anti-racism. From the outset, the participation of young people with a passion for African dance and music was requested, as well as others who have long been involved in various forms of voluntary work in the Lunigiana area. About nine hundreds of people from all over Italy and several European countries took part in the project, attending its dance and music courses, and participating in its cultural, political, and recreational activities.
From the success of this meeting, the political diligence and the collaboration with other municipalities, Torrano Arci gave life to SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) centre in the Lunigiana region. Here migrants from the Mediterranean route were and are welcomed and helped with asylum request. In the meanwhile, the centre was holding Italian and driving classes, taught profession, and helped finding jobs.
In the last five years, the Italian government has progressively cut financing, and hindered the activities of these associations and the process of integration of migrants. Today, thanks to the efforts of the state and the demographic loss in rural areas, less volunteers are working in Pontremoli, and less aid is made available. The change of orientation of the Italian leadership has not just been economic, but also cultural. Political campaigns are built and sustained by the hatred towards war refugees, blamed to be the cause of recession in the country.
When Anja met Maurizio for the first time, drops were falling and every tree, every blade of grass in Torrano was vivid in the way of rain, gleaming and melancholic. It was 2022 and Maurizio and Paolo, together with the other members of Torrano Arci, had already dedicated a lifetime to Torrano and society at large. Anja, on the other hand, had visualized, and planned her own coliving, AGAIA for months.
Maurizio is the vice president of a new initiative of Torrano Arci: Torrano Domani, a collective project in other to prevent the depopulation of the town of Torrano to redevelop it and to change its historical course. Anja, on the contrary, is a social entrepreneur who is looking for places in Italy’s rural areas where the local community is open to collaborate with her coliving, to sustain small and ecological economies, in harmony with the surrounding nature. The perfect marriage.
Maurizio and Paolo, in the video call with Anja and I, transmit immediately their love for their village, for different cultures and populations, their genuine passion. We talk about inclusion, ecologism, and of course, Torrano.
Torrano Domani born from the necessity of economic resources to keep their historic hamlet alive, something that Torrano Arci cannot provide, due to its legal statute. A Community Cooperative is “the only juridic and economic form that can give a future to Torrano,” Maurizio explains. The project, as it is a model of territorial, social, and technological development that does not create a negative environmental impact, won State and Regional bid through which it was able to finance itself.
Anja with the associates of Torrano Domani share the purpose to restore, enhance, and raise awareness about nature and biodiversity. One of the goals is to revitalize the organic agricultural economy of the mountains by introducing new and sustainable techniques and methods of cultivation and breeding. They both want to attract conscious tourists to Torrano, who are curious about local and global cultures, culinary traditions, and are willing to support and enrich the community with their experiences and abilities.
Torrano Domani wishes to develop new services, host workshops, create job opportunities, and organize cultural activities. Theatre, dance, music, cuisine, art, excursions, and books presentations are meant to be the place where different cultures meet and combine, where the youngest can see future and purpose. Anja perceives her role as an opportunity to build bridges between digital and local communities. She is now an associate of the Cooperative, and is devoting her competences and resources to this project, and to building the place where is possible to live in an alternative and regenerative way.