Migration towards the city, building abandonment, and stagnant economy represent a major issue in Italy's rural towns, especially in the south. The Italian environmental association Legambiente, showed in his 2016 study how 2500 cities are facing extinction. Several villages in Italy suffer from depopulation. This phenomenon translates into uninhabited villages, loss of cultural identity, and lack of basic services for the remaining inhabitants.
Over the years, municipalities tried out several ideas to contrast the dangerous phenomenon: the most renowned might be the "€1 Homes" initiative. Towns selling off homes for the symbolic price of one euro. A radical idea, driven by the wide availability of literally abandoned buildings. The purchase of one home comes with the commitment (and obligation) to undertake restoration work.
A different solution spreading all around Italy is the "dispersed hotel" concept. An idea was conceived in the 1980s in Italy to revive small, historical villages suffering from building unuse. The hotel is not placed in a single block but located around the town, providing a new purpose to unused buildings and houses.
The small town of Riace provides another beautiful example. A small rural village situated along the coast in the south of Italy, counting almost 2000 citizens, found a suitable solution for the two main issues afflicting the municipality. In 2004 the mayor in office, Domenico Lucano, started a new project for migrants integration. It became known as the "Riace model". An alternative way of managing the reception of migrants and refugees, later adopted by other rural villages in southern Italy. Landings of migrants and refugees became more and more frequent and problematic to manage in Italy. The Riace model integrates migrants into the socio-economic sphere of the town. It provides new citizens with a house in the city center, profession, and Italian language lessons. The village comes back to life: shops and artisanal activities reopen, and citizens share experiences and knowledge.
The arrival of the pandemic in Italy meant the necessity to rethink everyday life. Remote working is, for more than a year, a new reality for many of us. A reversal of the trend of moving from the town to the city has been observed. Small villages and towns registered an influx of new and old residents, looking for a way-out from the months-long lockdown.
The city's attractiveness comes from the more accessible work opportunities it offers, but the countryside began to appeal again after months of being trapped in small apartments. It offers slower rhythms, calming panoramas, and wider spaces allowing easier social distancing and thus lower virus-related risks.
Since the pandemic and the necessity of remote working, "the number of Italians aged 18-34 returning home increased 20% over the previous year" . Many Italians sized the occasion of returning home and spend the lockdown period at home, rediscovering the beauty and rhythms of their small cities.
The question is if the trend will last over time. Is this a starting point to reverse Italy's brain drain and revive its dying towns. It might help, but it will not be the only measure required. A shared effort by the Italian government and young citizens to take care of its heritage and future is needed, their willingness to invest in sustainability and valorize Italy's strong points.
Remote workers will go back at a certain point. Some of them will try to get the best out of both, alternating periods of staying in the village and the city, while others might decide to invest in small rural towns.
As the social cooperative "Terre di resilienza" (land of resilience) supporting the recovery of the town of Morigerati through experiential travel and social agriculture. The founders focused on the environmental, social, cultural, and historical values offered by a small rural environment. What is often perceived as a disadvantaged situation represented an opportunity to start over, going back to their hometown, rural culture, and values.