Listen to the news

Italy's post-pandemic recovery plan has generated a lot of controversy in the last two governments.

Controversy was also one of the reasons for the fall of the second cabinet of Giuseppe Conte and the government of national unity of Mario Draghi.

The stake in this plan is by no means small.

Italy receives nearly 200 billion euros of European funds, which it must invest as well as possible in the economy, infrastructure, tourism, regional development, the environment, energy and many other areas.

However, not all political forces are of the same opinion as to which areas and projects should be prioritized in the utilization of these funds.

The National Post-Pandemic Recovery and Economic Recovery Plan includes a prong called the National Rural Plan.

The outgoing Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini is very fond of him.

This pen is worth a total of 1 billion euros.

Of these, 580 million will go to at least 229 villages selected through competitions in Italian municipalities and regions.

It is now clear that the remaining €420 million will go to 21 villages broadcast from every single Italian region and autonomous province.

Each one of these 21 villages receives 20 million euros, with the goal of using the funds rationally by 2026.  

Due to the drought, Lake Garda in Italy has shrunk to record levels

The finalists are diverse in location, nature and climate.

Monticchio Bani in the Basilicata district is in the middle of mountains, lakes, mineral springs, next to an ancient fortress castle.

Sanza in Campania is perched on a hill, and its surroundings have picturesque cliffs and waterfalls.

Rocca Calasso in Abruzzo is a hillside village with the remains of an ancient fortress castle towering over it, on top of the hill.

Gerache in Calabria, known as the Enchanted Village, is also on top of a hill with the sea in the distance.

Campolo in Emilia Romagna is a tiny village, with stone houses piled almost on top of each other.

Borgo Castello in Friuli Venezia Giulia has colorful houses and an ancient castle.

A village with the same name - Borgo Castello - but in Liguria it stands out with colorful houses built in the style of typical Ligurian villas.

Trevinano in Lazio is reminiscent of an acropolis.

Livemo in Lombardy has houses typical of the mountain villages of Northern Italy.

Elva in Piedmont is in the middle of high peaks and is reached by difficult mountain roads.

Montalto delle Marche in Marche has stone houses surrounded by sunflower fields.

Pietrabondante in Molise is nestled at the foot of rocky monoliths, with the remains of an ancient amphitheater nearby.

Ulassai on the island of Sardinia is a colorful village at the foot of huge cliffs that attract climbers, and Cunciria on the island of Sicily is dotted with stone villas, almost invisible in the middle of lush orchards.

Borgo di Castelnuovo in Avane in Tuscany is a village inhabited by ghosts - completely deserted, deserted on a hill.

The village of Acadia in Puglia was also completely abandoned after two earthquakes in the 20th century.

Cesi in Umbria is at the foot of a verdant mountain.

Recoaro Terme in Veneto is an abandoned spa resort in the middle of a pine forest.

Palu del Fersina in the autonomous region of Trento has the appearance of an Alpine-style ski resort, with mountain pastures all around, just like the Stelvio in Bolzano.

Fontainemore in Valle D'Aosta is a village sandwiched between green mountain slopes and a creek.

Each of these villages has its own centuries-old history and specific traditions, such as wine production, cheese production, olive growing, viticulture, sheep farming, wool production, etc.  

What the 21 settlements have in common is that over the past century they have slowly but surely begun to depopulate due to the fact that they are difficult to access and there is no work in them.

Today, two of the villages, as already made clear above, are deserted, and others are about to follow suit.

Others come to life only sporadically, in the summer, when tourists come to them because of the combination of intact nature and ancient sites (most often fortresses and churches).

However, this is not enough to keep tourists for more than a few days in the narrow country streets and eerie silence, after which they head to the bustling regional centers, such as Rome, Milan, Turin, Genoa, Palermo and Lecce, or to the towns that have become in tourist magnets such as Venice, Verona, Florence, Bologna, Taormina, Syracuse, Alberobello, Matera and San Gimignano. 

Now, according to the plan to use 420 million euros for the 21 villages, they are expected to be fundamentally changed.

Broadband internet will be rolled out there, houses will be repaired, roads leading to these settlements will be improved.

The villages will be transformed into a suitable home for the elderly, but also an attractive place for the young, who, thanks to the Internet, will be able to act as digital nomads.

Health care for the elderly and childcare for the youth who choose to come to the villages will also be provided.

Some houses are planned to be converted into shared workplaces and others into hotels.

The funds will also have to be used to restore or expand specific traditions and events in each village.

Part of the funds will be used to repair the historical sites in the villages, some of which have been seriously damaged by earthquakes, while others have simply been left to the whims of time and the advancing nature.

Retired minister Dario Franceschini is counting heavily on this project to boost tourism in these depopulated areas.

In this way, the pressure on tourist magnet cities will also be reduced, where because of the hordes of tourists, the prices of housing and basic products have jumped, public transport is crowded, and noise and garbage are guaranteed.

"The real wealth of Italy is in these small villages," says Paolo Baldi, the mayor of one of them, Rocca Calasso in Abruzzo.

According to him, many of these 21 villages can become with the help of financing and a lifting force for the economy.

For example, Roca Kalasho is betting on the opening of a training center for shepherds, for which part of the European funds will be used.

Another part of them will go to increase the production of Marche, a traditional cheese made using live larvae that make its texture softer. 

Whether the project to revive the villages will succeed and after four years they will look lively, modernized, but retain their appearance and charm, will depend to a large extent on the outcome of the parliamentary elections on September 25 in Italy and on the political will of the next rulers of the country.