A recent article in the regional newspaper Il Tirreno, which is published in Livorno, comments on the next-door village of Gombereto for its “quasi auto-gestione” (almost self-management) i.e. it does not wait for the comune, or even the province to do things for it, but gets on with doing them itself. The article quotes several of the projects which the villagers of Gombereto have been involved in in order to beautify the place and improve its living quality. These include:
- Restoration of the chiesina (chapel) of the Madonna of the seven sorrows. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/a-local-visitation/ and just want to add that the work didn’t just involve painting and stonework but also restoring fittings, from the confessional to the altar to the canvases to the priest’s vestments, some of which date back to the eighteenth century.
- Cleaning up of the war memorial which previously had become almost blackened with dirt and moss.
- Restoration of the public fountain. This fountain recently started to spout wine until it was discovered that the stream feeding it ran through an underground cellar where several demi-johns had been shattered by the earthquakes of this year.
- Tidying up of the central square and the placing of benches there, so that locals can meet and chat while the children play.
All this work was done voluntarily and only the cost of material was refunded to the volunteers. What is even more remarkable is that, of the sixty inhabitants of Gombereto, forty are involved in the “Associazione paesana” (or village association) organizing the efforts.
Other villages in the area have already their own associations. Vico Pancellorum has its “risveglio” as do Crasciana and Casabasciana and several others are organising theirs too.
Not only do the village associations care for their environment: they also organize events through the year. Gombereto has five major events for this year: the Befana in January, the Maggio in June, the Mediaeval Festa in August, the celebration of the Madonna of Seven Sorrows in September and the Necciata or chestnut pancake festival in October. Would it were so for some other villages!
Regrettably, Longoio has a reputation for being somewhat uncoordinated and factious. Each village is meant to have a reputation for something according to those living outside it. In the often-quoted example of the hostility between Crasciana and Casabasciana, which are next to each other, this is partly true, partly tongue-in-cheek. But often it is difficult to know how accurate these statements are.
Clearly, the presence of a shop, church and bar helps in social cohesion. Longoio’s bar was closed well before we arrived in 2005, its shop stopped trading in 2007 and the chiesina is open for worship perhaps once a year and then serviced by a priest who does not even belong to its parish.
As for Feste in Longoio: there used to be an annual Festa around the chiesina where everyone contributed a dish and ate “al fresco” on tables under the trees. A courtyard around a house was used for a poetry festival in 2008, and again in 2009, but fears of an impending collapse of the wall of a ruined building in front of it caused the organiser to move it to the chiesina in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
A poetry festival should be seen as a good sign but the organiser came from Pisa (although he has a holiday home in Longoio) and the majority of the poets were his friends, imported in, so to say, although every efforts was made to involve the local community, especially its children who, helped by their local primary school teachers recited their poems as did an inimitable village lady who, regrettably, is now no longer with us.
Of course, a poetry evening may not appeal to everyone in Longoio but it is significant that this year it has been moved to more dynamic Gombereto where, tomorrow Friday evening, at 8.30 PM, in the church of Our Lady of the seven sorrows, after the rosary, poets of all genres will recite their creations. More likely to appeal here would be a chestnut festival as used to be held in the past around October. The last chestnut festival here took place in 2008 but, again, there were just a handful of people collecting the chestnuts, not of a particularly good quality, and who actually came from a nearby village.
So, sadly, my conclusion is that in Longoio there is as much social solidarity as could be found in a tourist hotel among the guests and that it is still far from coming anywhere near the virtuous self-help example of Gombereto.