Italy´s density of cultural wealth is without equals and preserving this heritage is one of Italy´s major problems. Authorities struggle to find ways for managing local or national monuments and also Italy´s government doesn´t have the funds to cover all necessary measures. Well-known are the problems at Pompeï, where walls are coming down because of moist problems.
But in the tiny Calabrian village Pizzo some young professionals have created an interesting solution. It´s a most picturesque place at Calabria´s Tyrrhenean coast south of Lamezia Terme, on a clear day offering breathtaking panoramas from central Calabria where Sila mountains reach altitudes of 2000m, to the south almost to Reggio Calabria. And in a far distance across the water arises the mysterious vulcano Stromboli, often producing clouds of ashes.Coastline near PizzoFoto: coast of Calabria near Pizzo

It is here in Pizzo that a tiny cooperative has taken over maintenance of both important cultural monuments of the town: the castle of Pizzo, where once Murat was kept in prison and the chiesa di Piedigrotta, a cave down by the sea, carved out of soft sandstone and filled with wonderful sculptures of holy persons: it reminds one of the wax sculptures in the chapels of the holy mountains of Serralunga di Crea or Varallo Sesia (both in Piemonte), but those are wax not sandstone. Waves of light shine through holes thus contributing to the mystery of the place. Piedigrotta is one of southern Italy´s most visited monuments.

Last year a group of enthousiast young Italians has formed a cooperative which manages these monuments. The comune of Pizzo is happy because income of the comune has increased and tourists are happy too because the monuments are taken care of, well maintained and everything is clean and school classes are happy with the interesting education given.
´We love our country and we want to preserve it!´ says Giovanna. The cooperative is formed by four: Giovanna Marino, Francesco Pascale, Nancy Valente and Marco Ingenuo. All have their university degree, which unfortunately in Calabria brings no fortune. Giovanna has studied political science, but did not find any job. In South Italy working possibilities are dramatically low for the intelligent and capable youth so there are only two options: leave the south and head for North Italy or abroad, or create your future yourself. This trend that intelligent and capable young people leave Italy is a serious problem (called the ´fuga delle cervelle´ – the escape of people with brains).
The cooperative is a private company with limited liability. The comune receives part of the income and in exchange maintains some important parts, roofs, roads, foundations, etc. The cooperative does the rest, management, administration and all the work. Thus a private management is able to maintain an important monument, where former structures were not working well. The young cooperative also organizes events, and provides communications via social media, creating a lot of interest for these monuments and the town. After a first period of some suspicion now the villagers are starting to realize this is a valid initiative and the young group is met with increasing approval.
Will this initiative last? It is clear that even though the group has a very professional approach, salary is still low. As a result they all have to do other jobs during the winter months when the stream of tourists is slowing down. Still they manage to keep the monuments open on all days even during winter times.

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Foto: Castle of Pizzo. It was here that Murat, Napoleon´s brother-in-law was imprisoned after he had tried to escape. It was 1815, after the fall of Napoleon´s empire. Finally he was prosecuted.

At the moment when we are talking, school classes from Sicily enter the cellblocks where Murat, Napoleon´s brother-in-law, spend his last moments. The monuments attract a lot of attention. Deep down the castle young tourists are diving into the water and some tourists set of by boat for a visit to Stromboli. It looks as if the private management of this interesting monument has given a big stimulus to the development of this tiny Calabrian town. The initiative of this group of enthousiast young people may be an interesting example for other Italian monuments, left without care. But more than that: this may be an example of how Italian young people can create their own future in this country without having to escape abroad. It might be a solution both for the preservation of local cultural wealth and for the labour problems of young Italians.

Foto: Giovanna, Francesco, Nancy and Marco, who form the Kairos cooperative. Kairos in old Greek means ´opportunity´.

DSC_2358Foto: Chiesa della Piedigrotta:  according to legend this church in the cave near the beach of Pizzo was built when some sailors came in trouble at sea nearby. After their promise to built a church at the place they would land, the storm decreased and they managed to land safely. These caves have been created by natural forces. Inside the caves the sailors made a number of sculptures, an altare, and church service is still held sometimes. It is one of southern Italy´s most visited monuments.

DSC_2315Foto: Pizzo, centre, one of those typical picturesque Calabrian villages.