Italian Mountain Village Is Reborn

30 March 2022

For some people, seeing a beautiful event in nature can be unforgettable and sometimes life-changing.

That is what happened to Franco Cagnoli. The Italian man was so moved by seeing the sun rise over a village in the mountains of central Italy that the experience changed his life.

Cagnoli told Reuters that when he saw the sun rise over the castle of Rocca Calascio he made it his goal to help revive the medieval village. A castle is an old building with thick walls and tall towers meant to defend against attacks.

The castle of Rocca Calascio sits high in the central mountains of Italy, February 25, 2022. (REUTERS/Antonio Denti)
The castle of Rocca Calascio sits high in the central mountains of Italy, February 25, 2022. (REUTERS/Antonio Denti)

No one has lived in Rocca Calascio since 1957. After World War II, many people left rural areas of Italy for the cities as the country's economy improved.

The old village was established hundreds of years ago during what is known as the Medieval period in Europe.

However, like many places in Italy, the area is enjoying a revival. This rebirth has been fueled by low prices, different kinds of jobs, and a desire for a quieter life.

"To put it in romantic terms, there is a love story between me and Rocca Calascio," Cagnoli said as he showed visitors the castle.

The village is known as the "Light of Abruzzo." Abruzzo is the name of the area in central Italy.

The castle sits 1,400 meters above sea level. That makes it one of the highest castles in Europe. The village below the castle is now home to two families. Others have bought properties in the village.

The castle's foundations were built about 1,000 years ago. The castle began as a tower in a line of connected defensive structures. The purpose was to control the land that stretched inland from the Adriatic Sea.

Cagnoli is now 39 but first saw the castle when he was 16. Living in the area capital, L'Aquila, he took a trip, he said, to "find himself." He arrived at the castle just as the sun was rising.

"...I was literally blinded by the light and since that day something inside me changed," he said. "I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. I felt special energies."

His connection with Rocca Calascio never loosened. In 2012, he moved to Calascio, a village of about 80 residents three kilometers away from the castle.

Today, he is the castle's caretaker and head of a cooperative. The group has 26 members who guide visitors through the castle and take care of it.

One Rocca Calascio resident, Valeria Befani, left Rome in 1996. Now, she runs an online business selling woolen products. She makes the products herself using an old-fashioned wooden device called a loom.

"People of the previous generation didn't appreciate, or thought they didn't appreciate, the land they lived on," Befani said. "Today's teenagers, like my children, are proud of their land and are happy if they can stay here."

Others appreciate the beauty of the area. The castle is where the 1985 movie Ladyhawke was filmed.

The future of Rocca Calascio was helped recently when Italy's culture ministry included it among 21 places that will receive $22 million. The money is to rebuild the ruins and to make improvements for visitors.

Programs to bring people to villages in Italy have included local governments giving houses away or selling them for a low price. In exchange, the new residents promise to rebuild the houses.

I'm Anna Matteo.

Antonio Denti and Philip Pullella reported this story from Rocca Calascio, Italy for Reuters. Anna Matteo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

revive –v. to make (someone or something) strong, healthy, or active again

romantic –adj. making someone think of love; bringing ideas of romance

foundation –n. a usually stone or concrete structure that supports a building from underneath

resident –n. someone who lives in a particular place

cooperative –n. a business or organization that is owned and operated by the people who work there or the people who use its services

previous –adj. existing or happening before the present time

appreciate –v. to understand the worth or importance of (something or someone); to admire and value (something or someone)