The countryside, in rural areas too, changes so quickly that it becomes difficult to preserve it. Even so, it has been firmly established that "place identity" has a profound impact on people's psyches. Here are a few consideration, made while wandering the wine areas of the Langhe and Monferrato.
Let's call them parallel convergences, or perhaps parallel coincidences.
The crux of the matter is that this week, as I tasted wines with my IGP companions, I traveled the Langhe, at times admiring the spectacular vineyard draped slopes, whose vines looked like so many well-brushed green locks, monuments to monoculture, and the austere fortresses erected on the hilltops by the House of Savoy. The stuff of postcards, and you find yourself wondering how those funnel-shaped slopes manage to stand despite any traces of forest, with streets coming down straight like the spokes of a wheel: beautiful to look at but hydrogeological folly.
And then you descend into the valleys: The plains vanish behind factories and warehouses, highways, and shops of all kinds, with scattered between them scraggly fields, what survives of poor agriculture that is also starting to return to the wild.
A perfect example, you think, of an aesthetic and enogastronomic context whose excellence is not fully reflected by that of the container.
Then you think some more, and remember that in your region, Tuscany, which certainly doesn't lack for similar scenes and excellences, people have had a lot to say about the countryside lately. Perhaps too much. We talk about local emergencies (day before yesterday in a Sienese paper: "Let's Save the Sienese countryside") and more national things (At Fiesole they discussed the countryside during a meeting dedicated to the birth of the Osservatorio sul Paesaggio), sometimes discuss the environment (often mistaken for the countryside), which people think should be the force behind (though nobody says how) "development" (discussed yesterday in Florence during a meeting on European cooperation), and of course say it needs to be protected and abuses halted.
But the most interesting facet is another, which was discussed today at Lubec in Lucca, an international meeting on cultural heritage and the technologies it employs: what sorts of interferences are there, and are there relationships between the countryside people live in and their personalities?
One can't help but wonder in a period of rapid change, both in time and in space, which can lead different contexts to be superimposed. At which point you are sandwiched between them.
What is the real relationship, the experts wonder, between "place relationship" (which might better be called "genus lochi," the identity of the place, and "self identity?"
"Living in the countryside of Chianti, the northwestern suburbs of Paris, or among the huge freeways of LA are not the same thing:" A statement of the obvious from Paolo Fuligni, psychologist, university professor and expert on urban ecologies, and also a moderator at the Lucca Meeting. "We must indeed keep in mind," he added, "that exposure to harmonious, pretty countrysides results in positive activities in important sections of the brain."
It is on the basis of these statements that Mr. Fuligni and his assistants are attempting to make a map showing the characteristics of Italy's cities and countryside. A long, complex task that is beginning in Tuscany and will continue to the other Regions.
The only danger, we'd like to humbly suggest, is that by the time the project is completed the borders between town and country will have been eliminated, and people will thus travel among urban vineyards or cities with vines.
Recalling, perhaps, the highlands of the Langhe and even the ugly sites of the valley floor. with a pang of sorrow
Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.