The weather has been atrocious, and there’s nothing we can do about it. What we can and have done though is help the community cope by doing what we can.
The beautiful mountains surrounding the small Tuscan city of Barga are porous and underlaid with aquifer which provide the delicious drinking water we enjoy and nourish the abundant greenery but have contributed to the instability of the mountain and hillsides which has resulted in serious landslides this winter.
The city has responded as quickly and efficiently as it has been able to under the circumstances but it has taken an herculean effort on its and the citizens parts to keep the vital roads open and drivable.
Our area is served by a transit road that links the town of Coreglia Antelminelli and its satellite communities of La Ferriera and Piastroso, as well as the outlying communities of Barga, Grifoglia and Fraia, with the larger and essential services of Barga. This backroad is used by at least a dozen families to get to and from shopping, work and the hospital in Barga.
These communities were once exclusively farms and still provide the area and its residents with fresh produce, and firewood for the predominant heating method. The families retain their farming practices while adapting to the 21st Century and its technology. The telephone company has abandoned the wiring for an area of a half a dozen homes and the residents make due with spotty cell phone service.
The communities include families and businesses such as an apiary and a Bed and Breakfast.
In all of this, the residents have responded with their strong work ethic and simply gone out to do what has needed to be done.
Barga and the Union of Serchio Valley Communities are responsible for this transit road but with all of the landslides in the area have not been able to address this essential road adequately. The locals have stepped into the breach and taken steps to make sure the road is drivable.
One retired resident of the Coreglia village of Piastroso has three nieces that live in Piastroso but work in the health sector in Barga. They traditionally used this transit road to go to and from work in the hospital and rest homes in Barga. After the landslides in January the commune could not adequately repair the road so the resident drove his tractor 10 kilometers to the site and cleared the remains of the landslide so that his nieces could get to and from work in 20 minutes rather than the round about route which takes 40 minutes. He also did a great service for the rest of us.
The hillsides are also threatened by heavy tree trunks which are creating some of the problem and require coppicing or felling to prevent further erosion of the ground. Another local resident has taken it on himself to clear a particularly vulnerable section of hillside next to the road to prevent more landslides.
The roadbed itself has deteriorated in recent years through the neglect of clearing the drainage. One low section in particular is inundated and forms a 10 meter wide, 30 centimeter deep, pool. Another resident has taken it upon himself to walk the kilometer or so way, shovel on his shoulder, to clear the drain and the road.
As a combination of neglect and extenuating weather circumstances this vital route has deteriorated to just barely passable but the residents of the nearby communities have taken it upon themselves to insure that we all get through. These are our heroes.
Article by Kerry Bell