Anna Rizzo: “To reactivate the villages, we start from the culture, from the very young and from the local communities”

Today we offer you a story accompanied by two videos, which we have already told you several times in this newspaper: anthropologist and researcher Anna Rizzos and her personal and original relationship to inland areas and small villages. Why do we do that? Because giving Anna a face means adding a new piece to the mosaic of Italia che Cambia.

I immediately admit my scarce ability to be objective to her: to me, she represents the perfect embodiment of our project, thanks to her unwavering willingness to go beyond the apparent and dig deep into things, to her desire to meet and listening to people, a deep passion for studies and knowledge. Last but not least, the courage to personally embody the ideal of life that he loves to share.

These characteristics also make today’s second video more “digestible”, in which Rizzo expresses a radical critique of the hitherto adopted policy on inland areas and on the so-called “resettlement”. She’s convinced – you want to listen to him – that anyone who deals with a subject must have had a practical experience of what it tells: “One cannot stick to theory and ideals alone – he maintains – most cultural supporters, especially in ministerial and public circles dealing with internal areas and villages know nothing of these contexts”.

They have not lived there and they do not live there, they do not weave relationships with the people who live there and do not intend to do so, says Anna Rizzo. “They are people who do not have a sincere desire to research and discover places. Aspect, that with the involvement of those who live in the villages every day, which is instead fundamental to understanding the inconveniences and inefficiencies that they inner areas experience and to to create, together with the communities, a new model for inhabiting and living those who truly put culture at the centernot only characterized by empty slogans that are useful for the event or festival in question ».

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We in Italia che Cambia, as you know, do not have a “good relationship” with criticism if it ends in itself. In a media context (and not) characterized by superficiality and laziness, we have always preferred to tell stories of change, we focused on the story of “how” to carry out projects, not on “if” to carry them out. But when the criticism comes from people who incarnate the spirit that governs our project, the journalist’s task becomes to keep our ears open and faithfully report on, sometimes very harsh, opinions about those we are dealing with.

Anna is trustworthy and entitled to talk about these issues: Our Francesco Bevilacqua accompanied and told about his mission in Frattura, a small, partially destroyed village located in the Sagittarius Valley in Abruzzo, the place where he specifically began to take care of interior areas. Find all the insights in the video that we offer, but we will tell you part of the story in a nutshell.


Anna arrived in Frattura thanks to a mission from the University of Bologna, which aimed to implement the archeological map of the Sagittario Valley. In that mission, she was responsible for the anthropological part of the research. He started the work of receiving archaeological assets stolen in the area during the nineties, and one of his first conversations was with the locals: “I could not find any source and no documentation that could tell me the history of the place – he explains – and I realized that there were scenarios and contexts that were not analyzed, not investigated, linked precisely to abandoned countries; and depopulated ».

Then began a dialogue with people that never ended: “Everyone told me there was nothing there, and so my curiosity for this place grew“. She observed with the eyes of her researchers and found in Frattura an example of a village that was considered abandoned but which was not. Although considered a kind of fraction of the much better known city of Scanno, Rizzo began to interview the inhabitants of the place, reconstruct their history and characteristics and discover that people have never stopped cultivating the land and making it an economic activity – hence his interest in the white bean from Frattura, the economic driving force of the village.

To perform and translate all the interviews, Anna Rizzo prayed and got to lean up from a room in the former school in Frattura, adapted to the context: “I have always slept in my sleeping bag. As the months went by, I met and interviewed local people who spontaneously started decorating my room. To better identify with the context of the action and really understand how the locals lived (and live), he began to take care of the kitchen garden in his house, to help the inhabitants cultivate the agricultural lands in the area and joined the shepherds in the practice of “defense pastoralism,” which requires several movements of the herd to defend themselves against local wildlife.

Anna and Rosetta Frattura AQ photo by Claudio Mammucari

“They were very full and lively days,” says Anna, “the locals have never seen me at the bar for an aperitif, not even today, when I go back there, I go there. I was completely engrossed in my business, which included university research, conducting interviews and working in the field and with animals; very hard and intense rhythms. To me, Frattura is a laboratory for a functional model of interior areas: here people have not abandoned the teachings of the past, on the contrary, they have valued them and adapted them to the world of today. Only by really studying the sites can new credible models for resettlement be developed, and the study should go hand in hand with the active involvement of the communities living in these villages.


Anna Rizzo, in addition to Frattura, has brought this model of research work and active participation to life in small villages also in other areas of Italy. In the previous video you will also find insight into his anthropological research work in Civita, at the foot of Pollino National Park in Calabria, after the Raganello tragedy, and in Cilento with the collaboration in the residence with the Fòcare festival and with the community oven project “Vincenzos oven “.

The research work in Calabria gave birth to a book, The Necessary Community, in which Anna writes: “Culture must necessarily drive a deep and precise reconstruction of the social. Activating a reflection on the accident and developing symbolic tools to understand and interpret reality. By deploying the knowledge developed in disciplinary, in the service of social interventions, focused on risk mitigation, prevention of future disasters, emergency management and community education.

Social education is precisely the aspect that, according to Anna Rizzo, seems to be lacking current policies in internal areas that you, in many words, consider bankruptcy. There are several aspects of criticism that the anthropologist puts forward in the second video that we propose: a revealed misogyny among the authors of the programs and calls that should revitalize these areas, which ends up punishing women, who are often the only welfare engine for small villages.

But also the total absence of public transport and essential public services in small towns, which do not put people in the necessary condition to be able to acquire the skills necessary for the social and economic development of potentially habitable places. It is still, the lack of involvement of the local community in any action or intervention program in these placeswhich, according to Rizzo, is often seen as more of an obstacle than the real and solid basis for building a truly sustainable model for living in abandoned villages.

These and other conditions make any concrete and serious action almost impossible to repopulate the abandoned villages and give life to a real movement of people in these places. When politics is so absent, the only people who can live in these places are only those who are lucky enough to be able to afford it and who have the private funds and sufficient financial resources ”.

Only by really studying the sites can new credible models for resettlement be developed


I admit, after an exciting start, a certain discouragement by listening to Anna’s point of view: but is the situation really that irreparable? “I believe that true hope is represented by children and young people. Not by rhetoric, but because they have the ability to solve problems and use digital environments that we adults are not able to see. In fact, the young people are completely absent in ministerial programs and tenders of internal areas, and they are not listened to ».

Yet there is no shortage of virtuous examples of any kind: «Think among your stories about the legality sector of how much concrete and useful initiatives such as those from Addio Pizzo Travel and Libera have done. Thanks to their work, ethical business chains have been reconstructed, which were unthinkable until a few years ago. I believe that Italy is full of energy ready to implement the changebut it is necessary that they be both supported and listened to ».

These and other aspects of Anna Rizzo’s work are contained in the most recent book, entitled The Invisible Countries. Sentimental and political manifesto to save the villages of Italy and published by Il Saggiatore. It helps to understand even better how much Anna’s critical voice is, in fact, a declaration of love for these places.

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