Abandon all Hope all Ye who Enter here?

The abandoned village of Bugnano between Riolo and Monti di Villa is becoming ever more abandoned – and dangerous to explore, especially after the winter’s heavy rains have loosened the mortar between the stones and several more walls are near collapse. Increasingly, it is resembling those crumbling temples in the Indo-China jungles I have recently visisted.

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The village has already been well described by Debra Kolkka in her post at http://bellabagnidilucca.com/2012/10/27/bugnano-the-abandoned-village-in-bagni-di-lucca/

I added this comment at the time to her post:

It is very sad to see Bugnano in its present condition. But, as mentioned above, there are so many deserted villages in Italy especially in remote areas of the south where there really IS very little money. The problem is that Tuscany is a relatively well-off area compared with other regions with the highest income from tourism. So if it can’t get together on Bugnano this bodes very badly for other regions. At the same time speculative (and all too often illegal) building is rampant in most parts of Italy. Why new build instead of historic restoration?

I would also add that there is a second category of abandoned villages in this area, especially in Garfagnana – that is the “alpeggi” – villages that used to be occupied only in the summer by shepherds grazing their cattle in the high pastures. I have visited several of these, practically all only reachable by often long trekking. Some of these villages still have little churches which are well-maintained thanks to surviving religious feelings. I would hate to think what would happen if these feelings disappeared forever for they help to maintain some out-of-the way chapels and shrines, even in our area. Incidentally, our present mayor of Bagni di Lucca, Dottor Betti, has set a fine example by buying up and restoring the abandoned village of Pian di Fiume. It is now thriving as a holiday destination and for hosting a variety of events from Feste to weddings.

After several years absence I took another look at Bugnano yesterday on my way to Montefegatesi.

The palatial building at the entrance to the village has had more staircase steps ripped out of it making access to the piano nobile something of a problem.

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I managed to get onto that floor from the back and noticed a further deterioration in at least one of the “capriccio” type frescoes.

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I realised how awful the “restoration” work started by the British company who had bought the whole village quite a few years ago was. How could anyone do this to a grand salon?

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The rest of the village ruins showed increased decline and decay. It was all very sad. Once this was an active mountain community. Then after World War Two, when times were particularly hard for Italy, the villagers were enticed by hard-talking salesmen to give over their house for a free passage to either North or South America and an often illusory job and meal-ticket for life.

In the case of Bugnano the population decided to emigrate practically en-mass to keep together and left hardly a soul behind, unlike most other local  communities tempted by emigration. Soon the houses were literally being eaten up by vegetation:

The village was then claimed by nobody except fly-by-night builders who saw the abandoned houses as great places to fill their store up with old fireplaces, floorboards and roof tiles. So many of Bugnano’s original features have now unhappily vanished.

Then that English company stepped in – promised the Comune di Bagni di Lucca a tourist village and complete restoration, bought the site and failed miserably to deliver. It, apparently, subsequently sold to a Dutch company. There should be fines and sanction applicable to these scandalous cases.

Bugnano is, of course, not the only abandoned village in our part of the world. There is at least another one between Lugliano and Corsagna which I have to explore.

There are two main reasons for settlement abandonment – one ancient and another much more recent. The ancient reason is that the site becomes unsuitable because of lack of water and too great danger from landslides or earthquakes. This was the case with old Crasciana of which traces still remain in the forest below the present village. The more recent explanation is that of overpopulation leading to an unsustainable carrying capacity i.e. too many people and too few resources to feed them.

Whatever reasons may have led to the abandonment of these once active communities they remain warning examples to us of what could happen to the world’s increasing megalopolises, whether they be in Europe or in other continents, which could easily collapse because of insurmountable ecological problems creating an unacceptably low quality of life – with one difference however: there is still a picturesque quality in the tumbling stones and collapsing timbers of these old mountain villages which are in stark contrast to the jungle of steel rods, smashed concrete and abandoned rusting household consumer goods which could litter large parts of our globe when big cities are abandoned because we are not careful enough to care for our planet.

Anyway, hope for poor Bugnano now seems to be lost for the foreseeable future and all we can do is to reflect on this particular example of the fate of so many once-living communities on planet Earth.

(Bugnano’s little chapel as viewed yesterday)

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4 thoughts on “Abandon all Hope all Ye who Enter here?

  1. Sad. This sense of melancholy is intrinsic to walking in these mountains, on what were once the main roads, now overgrown and far from tarred surfaces and motorised transport – the air still vibrating with the invisible lives of those who abandoned these places. Why is it that that is one of the reasons we like to be here?

  2. It would be nice to create a project around such areas which seem more dead than death itself but I suppose as in a lot of case it is down to figures on paper or money and the logistics of such places the expense would be ginormous however it appears to me that it would be a good exercise in restoration techniques putting properties which incidentally are still standing into safe mode and reconstruct wherever possible that could possibly be a project for young enthusiastic builders architects artists why not create some sort of ecological self functioning village ie with capturing rain water for daily use creating energy from solar panels heating water and so on would be an excellent testing ground also in how to do this on older properties which are actually lived in order to maintain their original features and characteristics. Furthermore the shoring up of houses in danger of vanishing down the valley due to earth movement and rainy weather! Well dream on I hear you say but it is not so far fetched as a couple of companies attempted at something like this and failed maybe the third Italian attempt could excel also combining the old and new technologies it has been done after all in the remotest parts of Ireland with just a pile of stones which returned to their former glory with building techniques in the old style so the young learnt from the older specialists in the field and such remarkable results ensued it can and will be achieved Italy just go ahead and be proactive after all it could well solve some of the housing shortage for Italians!

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