I’m following the progress of the workmen across from the house. They are paving an outside area used for communal festivals.

Day one, arrived early (seven chimes).
Midday (twelve chimes) off to lunch sharpish, but back at one (chime).
Tools down at four thirty (four chimes, two mini chimes).

The work continues over the following week in stops and starts with numerous inspections by local officials, including the mayor.

Although the village is in an area of high unemployment, there is productivity on a small, local scale: olive groves, grapevines, cheese making, beekeeping, goat herding.

In Italy there is little in the way of government support and social welfare, consequently there is an ethos of self-reliance born of economic necessity.
In the village there is a constant hum of activity: woodcutting, building maintenance, rearing of geese, ducks and chickens, foraging, vegetable and fruit cultivation and much sweeping!

There’s a gently paced busyness. This diligence is evidence of the inhabitants’ pride and respect for the village environ and its local traditions. It is also apparent, however, that the area has been impacted by depopulation. Many of the houses lay in various stages of dereliction. A number of retailers and small businesses have closed, only the village corner shop remains open. The primary school, post office and bar are long gone.

Historically, the benefits of the industrial revolution in the north of the country were not widely felt in the rural south. Traditional farming communities had very little – the land provided for subsistence farming. World War ll exacerbated the steady decline in population with high levels of emigration to the Americas and Europe. Initially many of these families returned for summer vacations, but with second and third generations the ties weakened, and the connections became lost.

This raises many questions.

Should a remote region try to preserve its traditions?
Is this way of life sustainable?
Why do people move away, and could/should they be discouraged?
What would motivate people to return?

As I settle into the rhythm of daily life in Pietrafitta, I find these conflicting notions weaving their way into my work.


Polaroid images by Sue Morris
Digital images by Paola Bernardelli