The country civilization on the Genoese Apennine is a disappeared civilization. A civilization crushed by the convulsive pressing of changes, buried under uncultivated vegetation of bramble, ivy, vitalba, elder, a wild bush, which is neither wood nor lawn anymore.

It is difficult to imagine a territory more refractory to agricultural exploitation than these hills; and, despite their modest elevations, one can well call them mountains, steep, unequal, impervious, and ruinous. And today it is almost unimaginable how hard work is to build terraces on similar slants, with hoe and shovel, carrying by hand hundreds and hundreds of stones, up and down, down and up the implacable slope, always bending toward the low ground, always rising toward the far sky. When the grass covers the stone of the wall, they resemble a vertical lawn, the cut does not appear anymore, and it appears that those terraces have always been there. When I was child, and I looked at those mountains regularly carved by the soft geometry of the “fasce” (*), I thought that was the mountain shape, the proper and natural outline of the slant. Because the “fasce” do not violate the mountains, they do not hurt them as the rough and unmerciful wound of an asphalted motor road. The “fascia” becomes part of the hill, and it tames its steepness.

So, close to the ruins of the villages, to the ruins of the farm houses, to the worn-out wood outlines of the pylons of the the cableways, once used to carry the hay down the slope, the “fasce” have remained and they will remain. This fact could be enough, even if it was the only reason (and it is not), to justify the term “civilization” for a community of rustic mountaineers, who spoke little, and wrote and read much less, used few, essential utensils, and lived in an immense loneliness.

As one wanders across these mountains, one meets conflicting traces. Shreds of unmalted walls, upright in front of nothing or ravaged by the return of the wood, ancient stones, still polished, witness of a never-ending devotion. Or the signs of more recent renovations, the pale pink of the rough plasters on the houses, the thin wood poles that sustain useless insulators and useless knots of electrical threads. The stalls are empty, the wood mangers are clear, the roofs of slate are broken down, the stone staircases are covered by musk and tree branches. For generations, by different and varied ways, people have left these mountains; it was the emigration in the search of a better life, the urbanism of the postwar period, and, last but not least, the most recent, definitive abandonment, which was perpetuated in the last decades, when the most far off hamlets, those where the motor road has never arrived, have been deserted.

It is looking at what remains that we took these pictures, a simple tribute to the memory, to something we do not want to forget.

*  "Fasce" (sing. Fascia, literally band) is the name given in Liguria to the terraces that mountain farmers built to grow vegetables on the slopes.

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© Carla Marchetti
April 2001