“Lento pede”, research that analyzes life in the inner regions

Is the city the only place full of life and opportunity? This was asked by professors and researchers from the University of Calabria who worked on the research “Lento pede, life in extreme Italy” and who concluded that adaptation and experimentation are the two paths that can make interior spaces livable and allow for appreciable life despite depopulation.

Research, edited by Professor Domenico Cersosimo and a teacher Sabina Licursi was born from the cooperation of the Higher School of Public Administration, the Department of Political and Social Sciences of Unical and the Unit for the Evaluation and Verification of Public Investments of the Calabria Region. In the two-year period 2021-2022, a group of 30 researchers, including sociologists, political scientists, economists and lawyers, examined living conditions in 63 countries far from citizenship services, which belong to the four Calabrian pilot areas of Snai – National Strategy for Interior Areas. These are aggregations of municipalities that run through the region from north to south, including mountainous, hilly and coastal areas. 140 interviews were conducted with the local ruling class (mayors, municipal secretaries, general practitioners, school principals); another thousand interviews concerned parents and children living indoors.

Cersosimo and Licursi identify in rare places a double movement: the first concerns distancing, erosion of citizenship, public indifference, shrinking of space and tools to exercise voice; the second is the one maybe, attention, party viewuseful sowing, appreciation of diversity, coexistence of differences.

“Ethics of Probability, i.e. Line of Interpretation Supported by Numbers”, comments Licursi, « is the one you see most often in these areas, and it speaks of areas that are depopulating, the number of elderly people is increasing, the birth rate is low, services are decreasing. The second line is an ethics of possibility, an attitude of constructive secular hope, a non-transitive hope that suggests the ability to remain positive about the future, despite negative data.”

Calabria is, by definition, extreme Italy. The border region, the professors write, firmly at the bottom of the European ranking of public capital and economic and social indicators. Immutable fate in the end. The representation and self-representation of Calabria as a hostile, mountainous, isolated, remote place still characterizes the collective perception of the region. No less one-sided and stereotypical is the representation of Calabria as “the beginning of the world”, the name of Italy, the heritage of Magna Graecia, 700 kilometers of coastline, red onions and ‘nduja. Two representations that overshadow ordinary Calabria, that of everyday life, worries, opportunities, departures and stays. Calabria therefore needs other perspectives, other stories to look at and tell about its polycentricity, light and darkness. Unless we turn our gaze, it seems that there can be no solution for the inner regions.

“Lento pede is the name identified by the publisher Donzelli,” states Licursi, “and it also represents the attitude adopted by the inhabitants of these areas who proceed reflexively. Those who remain are not disinterested, apathetic, resigned, but in their choice there is a desire to inhabit living territories that, though rare, continue to create relationships that have meaning in their lives and evoke a biographical family past that gives meaning.. The demand that will emerge from these places is to reterritorialize public intervention with services tailored to meet the needs of those who live there.’

In the book we read that Italy is a country of small towns.

There are 3,500 of those with less than 2,000 inhabitants, i.e. 44% of the total number. It is also threatened by desertification, especially in the south. Few births, fewer marriages and high age of spouses. Brothers and sisters have disappeared in four out of five families, and immigration will not be able to balance these figures. Istat estimates that in 2070 there will be fewer than 48 million Italians, around 12 fewer than today, and the population of southern Italy will dry up more intensively than elsewhere. Over the past forty years, approximately 14,000 women of childbearing age have lost their lives. A population with these numbers will not be able to survive for long. In 58 years, in 2079, there will be a zero population year inland.

“The majority of parents polled want to stay, 66%”, emphasizes Professor Licursi, “and there is a proportion of young people who do not want to leave. Those who stay do so primarily because they appreciate the quality of life, the security that the small and well-known size of the town gives, the low cost of living, owning their own home.”

Despite the depopulation, life in the inner regions continues to be characterized by the intensity of relationships, interpersonal ties and associative participation.

More than a third of parents are involved in local groups and associations for the support of traditions, and interest in events in the country is very high. As the authors write, for areas that are not yet at the point of demographic return, those with a minimum number of inhabitants aggregated in small towns and nearby locations, and therefore with a certain number of families with children, workers, but also old people. , it is possible to reconsider the public action and try, even in an experimental way again new forms of life. Good policies that need to be built for the people and with the people. For professors, listening and negotiation are needed to co-design services and performances that are civil and reclaim citizenship for people who are forced to deal daily with a stifling, unstructured, unattainable social system and with denied mobility.

For a citizen living in Sila and Presila, it takes an average of 202 minutes, 202 minutes, over 3 hours for less than 100 kilometers to travel to the provincial capital, where most of the supra-provincial public offices are located. The average number of minutes to reach the nearest university varies from a minimum of 85 minutes to a maximum of 171, often forcing university students in these areas to play the role of out-of-work students in their own region. The time needed to reach Lamezia Terme Airport by bus from the Sila and Presila area is on average 256 minutes, more than four hoursmuch more than the flight time to land in any European capital.

So can we still live in these inner regions and under what conditions?

Only by designing development in which residents are the protagonists, not the beneficiaries, can we attempt to counter the depopulation supported, intentionally or otherwise, by years of public policy. “blind to places”. It is literally vital to embrace the ethics of opportunity, to see what is hidden, the latent resources, the potential for innovation, the experience of territorial rootedness.

For Fulvio Librandi, professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Calabria, author of the afterword “Lento pede”, the marginal period is suspended.liminal, where one belongs even in the world on quonor to the world on quem; it’s time “no more and not yet”. Our gaze, Librandi writes, seeks to capture the transformative processes of these places, their already diasporic, multi-sited, hyper-connected dimension; trying to grasp the potential of their “not yet”.

A statement from the singer-songwriter from Cosenza is circulating on the web Dario Brunori published on “Tintoria”, a podcast by Daniele Tinti and Stefano Rapone. “I think Calabria is the future, I’ve reserved a front-row seat for what’s to come,” declared Brunori, who lives in San Fili, a small village in the province of Cosenza with a population of 2,500, “because it’s the only place in the world who resists capitalism but does not want it, it is an anti-consumerist attitude, but without the will to protest, it is precisely on the topic that in no way “drys up” that consumerism bothers. I think it is the future because I see the saturation of capitalism.”

If the hope of the possible, the signs of rebirth, re-settlement and the tenacity of young people and families to stay are stronger than the tragedy of impending demographic extinction, the disappearance of children, public indifference towards remote communities, then Calabria may not only have a future, but as Brunori predicts, it may be future.


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