Here I come with another great announcement: The start of a new artists residency programme!
This time it’s in Italy.
In the north west region of Liguria lives a small village: DOLCEDO, and that is where this new artists’ opportunity is situated.
Dolcedo is nestled in between mountains, olives groves and its river. Blessed by water, land, climate and history, since the Middle Ages the village has been animated by the ‘contadini’: the farmers who have thrived on rolling hills and with their agricultural skills have been producing one of the finest olive oils in the world.
The silver glitter of zillions of olive trees leaves, set the light and the village’s hues that blend into the river, in its golden stones, in its mills, in its bridges and homes.
‘La campagna’, a beautiful italian word for country, is the core of Dolcedo. La campagna spells the rhythm of seasons and of the daily life.
Everything had been evolving around ‘la campagna’, until industrialization started kicking in eventually reaching even the most remote italian villages.
As a matter of fact Dolcedo is not very remote at all, only 6 kilometers from the main town of Imperia: a busy fisherman harbour where industries like Pasta Agnesi, Olio Sasso, Olio Berio have made their fortunes.
Imperia’s ‘Ligurianess’ is often distracted by close by Provençal France. Monaco being only 30 minutes away, and Nice less than an hour, make Genova seem to be further away than the bordering french frontier.
Northern europeans, especially Germans and especially middle/upper class intellectuals, discovered this ancient and laid back part of the world in the 50′ and 60′. Inspired by its beauty and aided by their stronger economy and very favorable exchange rates they started buying off the farmers properties.
In those years in Italy la ‘Dolce Vita’ had only reached so far and so many. The locals, especially the youngest ones, dizzy from the historical and political events, were hungry for change. Aspiring and eager to join in the modern anglo-saxon dazzling life style, they sold sometimes entire villages for outrageously small amounts. Thankfully most houses were restored respecting the local spirit and architecture. Mostly local builders were employed to regain that romantic, bucolic life that was quickly disappearing up North.
I think that the need for poetry and simplicity, for the land, the yearn for an idillic space like ‘la campagna’, where the chemistry between man and nature could still coexist in symbiosis, was the main appealing factor and still is.
Roughly this is how many little villages in this area became international hives.
While the Italians were moving out their ‘campagne’, abandoning their land for the life in ‘provincia’, they were making room for the new industry: tourism.
It is especially during the holiday seasons that villages like Dolcedo get populated with foreigner car plates. Embarrassing oversized cars, squeeze their way through the little villages, far too large to twist up and through the windy little tracks that were only meant for mules! Only a Fiat 500 or an Ape Piaggio doesn’t come across as ridiculous in such scenario and seems to be the only reasonable tailor made modern means of transportation to fit these ‘roads’.
Those roads could also function as a metaphor of the dividing sentiments between the Italians and the Germans. You know, historically, culturally, economically, psychologically. That whole game of superiority and inferiority, it just fits the italian-german axis so well. It’s love and hate that complement each other. As an ‘italo-tedesca’ my self, and having to live a life in trying to solve the conflicts of that duality between mediterranean and northern cultures, I feel I can openly state this without coming across as being rude!
Anyways those same mule tracks have probably contributed to our path to globalization and those very same roads have also driven many people of my generation back to the ‘campagne’!
In the 80’s and 90’s many youngsters grew tired and disillusioned of the corrupted and pretentious provincial life style and made their way back to their origins and into the hinterland villages.
I know few people in the valley of Dolcedo, who I met during my university years at Genova, who for one reason or the other went back and started dusting up what was left of their family heritage as well as of the precious farmer knowledge.
These visionary people have been quietly working in the hills, finally consolidating a new kind of relationship of exchange with the tourists and interweaving a global friendship that is keen in change in the interest of a better future. The outcome is a new produce with no package!