Private property or communal responsibility?

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An interesting debate is taking place in Barga Vecchia this week which quite nicely defines and brings into the light of day one of the gradual changes that is taking place in this community.

Once upon a time there was a great pride in the city, its architecture and history and people looked after, felt responsible and conserved what was around them.

Gradually that is now changing and for some people these days, that kind of social responsibility finishes at their closed front door – anything outside of that is the responsibility of somebody else;  be it at a comune, province, region or national level.

One example with readily comes to mind is that after snow fall in the winter, people would clear the snow outside their house long before the comune came round to do it.

Another would be the flower beds in Piazza Salvo Salvi in Barga Vecchia.

An article from a few years ago had already told half of this story – to celebrate the spring sun reaching the piazza outside of the Palazzo Pancrazi, the inhabitants of that area of Barga Vecchia did a bit of spring cleaning in the piazza.

In 2005 the Comune bought and installed some new street furniture – benches, signs, rubbish bins and two large cast iron circular seats which were positioned in the two principal piazzas of Barga Vecchia – Piazza Angelio and Piazza Salvo Salvi. Visitors to Barga could rest their aching legs and admire the plants that were planted in the middle of the large cast iron circular bases.

Seemingly to add “spice” to the occasion, the plants that were chosen were not pretty flowers or even hardy shrubs. No, somebody, somewhere decided that the best plants would be a particular strain of a holly bush, well known for its puncturing and pricking powers to all who ventured close by. These plants flourished well, thrived and grew in stature until they had more or less taken over all of the seating area making it impossible to use them to all but the very hardy or foolish ….. (not counting the Barga cats of course, who managed to squeeze their way into the middle of the holly bushes and use them as their own private cat toilets)

Added to which, after a couple of years, the one in Piazza Angelio was pushed to one side of the piazza to allow the stage to be built for the festas and as these circular seats were extremely heavy, once pushed in the corner – it stayed there.

The same thing happened to the one in Piazza Salvo Salvi. The thriving and now thoroughly uncomfortable-to-be-close-to seat was left to its own devises in the corner.

That is until Marino and some of the regulars at Aristos bar took things into their own hands and manhandled the heavy object back in the middle of the piazza and after some tactical pruning restored the bench to its former (usable) glory.

A couple of years later the prickly bush had now grown to such proportions as to make it impossible to use the seat – this time something a bit more drastic was needed.
The whole plant was summarily removed from the centre of the cast iron and taken away to be planted in a more “user friendly” area of the city.

Next, a quick trip out to a local farm to get some good earth to replenish the by now very tired looking ground in the middle of the container followed by a visit to the local shops to choose some suitable flowers and in the space of a couple of hours it was “job done” and nobody was any the wiser.

This is after all council property – any changes should be done by the council and not private citizens but hopefully nobody will be complaining as the piazza now looks so much more inviting and above all, finally it is possible to sit back and enjoy the peace and quiet of the piazza without the danger of painful proddings from that miserable holly bush. (full article here)

This week volunteers started work on renovating the circular seats as the recent hard winter conditions had reduced the wooden slats to a peeling mess.

People power in action once again.

Elena talking about the volunteer group (in Italiano)

Just up in the next piazza there is another example where, if given the chance, volunteers would be quite willing to work putting the gardens above the Museum of Memory galleries back into some kind of order.

The sculpture  “La Vedette” by the recently deceased artist, Mario Bargero which was donated to the city by the artist himself (article here) has almost been covered up by the vegetation and the name plate has been removed by person or persons unknown much to the obvious distress of Mario’s partner, the artist Sara Massocco on her recent visit the gardens.

The artist Mario Bargero unveiled his latest large sculpture this morning as part of the ongoing celebrations for the 4th November. Entitled “la vedette” – “the look out” or in military terms – the forward observer, it is now situated at the Museum of Memory in Barga Vecchia. – article here

Graziella Cosimini talking about the possibility of a volunteer group  working on the gardens (in Italiano)

Maybe now its the time where a serious discussion could be started between the administration in Palazzo Pancrazi and interested parties who are willing to give something back to the community.

In times of economic problems such as Italy and Europe as a whole are now facing, could this be something that could  revive that sense of communal responsibility and pride in ones city?

Watch this space.

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An excellent metaphor, embracing concerns that apply to almost every level of Italian life, government and community today.


Wow! So great to see that site back and running! I am so very happy! I have been part of the spring cleaning of the same Piazza and so great to read about the ongoing efforts there emanating from Aristo’s. Hope to see you all someday soon!