Pristine but desolate, the Italian villages facing extinction

Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:44am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Max Rossi and Lisa Jucca

GORRETO, Italy (Reuters) - Gorreto, population: 105, was always small, but now the tiny village, nestled in a river valley in northern Italy, is on the brink of extinction.

Most of the remaining residents are over 60 and the primary school attended by Mayor Sergio Capelli, 72, closed about 30 years ago - a stark example of the nationwide demographic decline as Italians live longer and have fewer babies.

"To witness the slow death of the valley makes me sad," says Capelli, a retired railway engineer who hopes to attract people to the town by organizing cultural events. "I am trying to save all these villages," he says.

All along the Trebbia river valley, where tiny villages are dominated by the snow-topped Alpine foothills, the picture is the same.

In six villages near Gorreto all the schools have closed and harsh snowy winters prompt most of the elderly residents to spend the season with relatives in the milder climes of the city of Genoa, on the Ligurian coast.

The Val Trebbia area is an extreme example of the demographic problem in Italy, whose median age of 44.2 is the world's fourth highest, after Monaco, Japan and Germany, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Longer life expectancy and falling fertility rates have meant Italy's population has been steadily ageing for decades. But the longest and harshest economic crisis since World War Two has made matters worse.

As unemployment has risen to a record 12.7 percent, much higher among younger people, immigration has fallen by a third since 2007. At the same time, emigration, of mainly young highly-educated Italians, has doubled.   Continued...

Mayor Sergio Capelli, 71, poses for a photograph in Gorreto village, Liguria region, November 29, 2013. I REUTERS/Max Rossi