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Perched on a rock surrounded by an enormous nature reserve, the hilltop hamlet of Trevinano despatched tremors throughout the Lazio area when it was introduced this month that it and its 142 residents have been in line for €20m (£16.73m) from a Covid restoration fund to avoid wasting small villages on the verge of extinction – equal to a whopping €140,845 per resident.

“This initiative is producing a number of envy and dangerous feeling,” mentioned Alessandra Terrosi, the mayor of Trevinano, who has the accountability for spending the thousands and thousands earlier than 2026, when the funding programme ends. The hamlet’s success has fuelled rancour amongst its neighbours who missed out, raised questions over how effectively Italy will make investments among the €191bn coming its manner from the EU’s post-pandemic restoration fund and had critics asking if €20m is simply an excessive amount of cash for one small village.

Trevinano was pitted in opposition to 14 different candidates in Lazio, together with the area’s higher identified gem, the fortress-like Civita di Bagnoregio, for a slice of the €420m fund.

Alessandra Terrosi
Alessandra Terrosi: ‘We weren’t asking for the moon.’ {Photograph}: Angela Giuffrida/The Guardian

“We went via precisely the identical procedures as everybody else, and our venture was judged to be the perfect,” mentioned Terrosi, who alongside her group of two councillors labored across the clock to give you the hamlet’s successful venture, known as Re-Wind. “I believe we received due to its feasibility – we weren’t asking for the moon, we merely proposed a collection of issues that have been sensible.”

Trevinano was settled by the Etruscans 2,500 years in the past, and within the Nineteen Sixties had about 1,000 residents earlier than the inhabitants decline took maintain. At the moment, it hosts two eating places, one with a Michelin star, however there isn’t a grocery store, faculty or cashpoint, and the publish workplace is simply open in the future per week.

In 5 years’ time, Terrosi envisages it as a bustling place stuffed with college students, distant staff, artisans and guests having fun with concert events within the gardens of its citadel. The hoped-for revival might be ushered in by a venture that features making a pupil coaching hub, providing programmes resembling reforestation, in addition to renovating dozens of empty houses and making them accessible to vacationers and pensioners. Terrosi plans to revive agricultural initiatives, pointing to the instance of a pair who moved to the realm and purchased a winery that now produces native wine. It could additionally generate its personal electrical energy.

It’s a imaginative and prescient backed by its residents. “Individuals from different cities are jealous however the mayor has performed one thing excellent, we have now by no means had something earlier than,” says Elide Marelli, who moved to Trevinano after marrying an area.

Amongst these from different cities is her gardener, Elio, who lives within the close by Acquapendente. “I’ve a number of pals right here … I simply hope they don’t all turn out to be snobs.”

Civita di Bagnoregio

A child runs towards the entrance to the town of Civita di Bagnoregio, accessible only by bridge.
A baby runs in the direction of the doorway to the city of Civita di Bagnoregio, accessible solely by bridge. {Photograph}: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

An hour’s drive away is Civita di Bagnoregio, the place Luca Profili, the mayor of the hamlet perched on a plateau of volcanic rock with a permanent population a tenth that of Trevinano’s, was among the many first to object to the assets going to at least one village.

Luca Profili.
Luca Profili. {Photograph}: Angela Giuffrida/The Guardian

“Clearly, if we’d received, I’d have been actually completely happy,” he mentioned. “However my level is that it could be higher to share the cash extra evenly between a number of villages in order that an entire space could possibly be developed, particularly as a result of it’s extraordinarily troublesome for small administrations to handle such enormous quantities of cash. And with a deadline of 2026, it’s not going to be straightforward.”

The controversy exhibits no signal of dissipating, with leaders in different Italian areas scrapping as they await the decision on their very own €20m winner.

“In the event you play one off in opposition to the opposite, it’s apparent there may be going to be anger and division,” mentioned Marco Bussone, the Piedmont president of Uncem, the nationwide union of mountain communities, who desires the awards abolished. “It’s principally a lottery. However pivoting funds on one village received’t generate growth, what it can create is a vacationer resort, and we don’t need that. The cash is supposed to scale back inequality – we want tasks that regenerate communities throughout an entire space.”

Italy is the most important beneficiary of the EU’s restoration fund, and a big chunk of the grants and loans will should be repaid by taxpayers. Francesco Grillo, a political economist and director of the thinktank Imaginative and prescient, mentioned the village initiative casts critical doubts on how effectively Italy will make investments the remainder of the money. Along with the €420m for a few of Italy’s tiniest settlements, an additional €580m is on supply to 229 villages of fewer than 5,000 individuals.

“These small administrations are anticipated to use for one thing very difficult and overcome troublesome milestones,” mentioned Grillo. “It’s like asking a really small cat to eat a large cow. By tomorrow. It’s worrying.” He additionally doubted the venture would obtain the target of reviving dying cities. “One factor is revitalising locations which have hyperlinks to huge cities, the opposite is making an attempt to repopulate distant areas – my query is: wouldn’t it be sustainable?”

A Trevinano street. The hamlet has lost much of its population.
A avenue in Trevinano. The hamlet has misplaced a lot of its inhabitants. {Photograph}: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

The residents of Trevinano appear to suppose so. “We invested right here when there actually was nothing,” mentioned Romano Gordini, who owns the La Parolina restaurant together with his spouse, the Michelin star chef Iside de Cesare. “It’s nice that Italy is relaunching from locations which might be normally forgotten.” The restaurant attracts an excellent circulation of customized from Lazio and neighbouring Umbria and Tuscany, and is hoping the venture will carry in additional. Gordini enjoys Trevinano’s beautiful surroundings and gradual tempo of life.

“It’s otherworldly,” he mentioned.

“When you go to Trevinano, you at all times come again,” mentioned Marelli.

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