The Guardian Newspaper had an article on the Internet a few days back on the dwindling populations of Italy’s villages and small towns. Struck at an unhappy Truth. You & I have witnessed it. Codiponte undeniable applies.
When You & I bought il Poggiolo ten years ago, the citizens of Codiponte we met were so proud of the number of inhabitants… noi 350 siamo a Codiponte, they would resoundingly state. You & I would politely ooo and ahhh. We could hardly say. Town seemed underwhelmed with folk. The impression changed though, as we came to know most of the inhabitants. Takes time. Appearances showed a pretty solid gamut of families, old and young, kids going off on the scuola bus. The Summer months brought more folk in to family houses relegated to vacations or, to visit i nonni. At times, seemed the village felt slightly over-populated.
It began to crest in 2012-2103. It crashed in 2014. Our earthquake. June 23rd at 12:30PM. No one died directly from the earthquake or the six months of terror like aftershocks but, the vile combo of post-quake stress and Summer’s 90+F heat took their toll. The campanile of Codiponte’s church struck often and repeatedly sounded a somber tune for a deceased woman and another for a man. A descending cascade of rings. The loss of many local souls. Many Summer only residents did not come that August. Too afraid. By the time of the village’s annual Sagra dei Pomi, on the 1st of September, the population was halved in our estimation. Succeeding years confirmed it. People just didn’t come back to Codiponte.
The young left too. We arrived in 2009 at the moment when 10 to 15 Codiponte teenagers departed for universities in Pisa, Genoa and Parma. 5% came back to live five years later. Others left for jobs in the Big Cities of La Spezia, Massa, Pisa and far off Florence and Milan.
Little here can stem the tide. Available jobs are at chain grocery stores and at mini-multiplexes of fai-da-te stores, like Brico Centre or, what remains of the construction industry in the Lunigiana. Poca roba. The government, bullied by one party hysterically merchandising fears of immigration and the other proliferating social media with promises of government the-check’s-in-the-mail… would help if the mails really worked in Italy… rather than creating initiatives to create or, bring jobs into the area. In the US, as a contrary example, the State or, Federal governments, will build a new and practical road and… Ecco! Jobs follow. Here the Tuscan Region threw money at an absurdly expensive road near Codiponte, which goes… literally, and I am not kidding… from nowhere to nowhere, not even grazing minimally the issue of routing marble & paper trucks around the dying town of Gragnola’s narrow center. The darn road does pass a paper factory. They aren’t hiring. A mounting hopeless case, I am afraid.
Italians naturally coagulate. A survival mechanism. Families, church, politics and work. I believe in that order too. Much has changed in recent years in the work world besides the lack of it. Once-upon-a-time, every profession or, Italian state concern had associations where members of a certain occupation or political persuasion… railroad workers, decorators or Communists… employees and even the general public could go, have a caffe’, read a like-minded newspaper, chat, play cards, eat a good solid meal. Some still exist. Everywhere in Italy. In Codiponte, one association still exists. The locals call it the Sordo-Muto. Italian for deaf and dumb. Sorry. Oddly, our area of the Lunigiana was prey to diseases and/or birth-defects, which robbed persons of their hearing or speech. It’s in an Italian log cabin. Has a make-shift bar, an abandoned bocce court, park benches outside. White plastic garden chairs di rigore. Open Sunday afternoons. The young of Codiponte hang-out at the Scuzzy Bar. The old men… and the one bar-gal… come to the Sordo-Muto.