This “village without babies” will welcome the birth of its first child in 23 years.
Italy is plagued by what has been called the “empty box syndrome”. The country is experiencing a steady decline in births with the COVID-19 pandemic only making its prospects more bleak.
But there is one hamlet that is worse off than another and where the syndrome has turned into a chronic disease. Welcome to Fascia, a small mountain village with nearly 70 inhabitants located in the picturesque northern Liguria region. Fascia is a village steeped in mystery and was founded in medieval times as the seat of the Holy See. Now has two records. One: Fascia is known as the “oldest” city in Italy – no, not in the ancient sense historically, but full of old people. Mean age over 66 years. And two: Fascia has been dubbed the “village without babies” because in the past 23 years not a single baptism party has been held.
But things will change. One crib was finally empty. It will be occupied by a crying baby who stands as a beacon of hope for this dying community. After decades without birth, Fascia welcomed her first birth. It’s party time and enthusiasm meets the oxygen-rich fresh air. A blissful atmosphere can be felt in the surrounding pastures and along beautiful narrow alleys where no strangers pass by.
“We are so excited, we can’t wait to celebrate the birth of this baby,” said mayor Marco Gallizia. “Parents are young couples who prefer to be alone in important and sensitive times. The baby will be born in mid-March but could be in the near future. “In Fascia, the only events announced with chimes are usually funerals. Now church bells will ring merrily for births and baptisms. And when church bells ring, the village curse will be lifted, allowing Fascia to escape fate” nowhere. for children”.
“The Italian national statistics office officially states, based on regular population studies conducted across the country, that Fascia is the oldest village in Italy due to the high number of elderly people living here. Many are over 80 and over 90, ”said the mayor. Gallizia, 49, is considered a “young man”. The town hall population registry displays the names of those born in the 1930s and 40s, but now, with a baby en route, one entry is dated at least 2021.
The future parent, running a small tourist activity in the city, held his breath and avoided journalists and interview requests. They don’t want to talk about their upcoming child for fear that birth could be bad luck if they discuss their joys and family plans before the baby is actually born, explained the mayor. Italians are very superstitious. Couples often don’t even want to know the gender of their previous baby, preferring to wait and see if it is a boy or a girl when it shows up.
What makes this sweet story even more heartwarming is the message it conveys. The lucky couple who will bring joy to the village are not local. The mother and father recently moved from a nearby, larger city to escape the COVID-19 pandemic, stay safe, and make plans for the future.
“It’s very positive,” said Gallizia. “Locals tend to flee but now, thanks to remote work, this family has chosen our charming village to call home and give birth to their child. It makes us proud. “This pandemic has at least one positive effect: it saved many of Italy’s small rural communities, as new arrivals flock for safe havens.
At Fascia, social distancing is not a problem. Forget the crowd. If you happen to meet a soul or two, it’s your lucky day to chat. No wonder this village has managed to remain COVID-free.
This ancient and unknown place is charming, remote and unique. It is sleepy and freezes in time. Younger residents of Fascia are constantly leaving their homes and fleeing villages in search of a better life in major cities in Italy or abroad, including the US. With most of the families and young people leaving, those left behind are the elders who spend time sitting on front porches or village benches, gazing at the majestic panoramas that are neon green in summer and glowing white in winter.
The village is divided into five small districts situated at different heights and separated by hills and forests of chestnut trees which wild boars explore. In the past, cutting down wood and chestnuts was the main source of income for local families who until recently harvested their own wood for the winter. Trekking routes take off the side of the mountains and, in May, day trippers flock to enjoy the scenic flower trails. Unpolluted rivers and streams flow through a sea of green valleys and a protected park with a planetarium to gaze at the clear starry night sky. Light pollution does not exist.
There is only one official hotel restaurant in town, but many locals rent apartments out to tourists. A traditional tavern with a stunning view serving local dishes, such as savory donkey meat and porcini a mushroom dish, is La casa del Romano – House of The Roman. According to the city’s story, the tavern was opened by a local farmer who left Fascia for Rome, but returned with a partner who had been fooled into believing that his lover’s hometown was the city of Genoa. When she realized it was in the isolation of the dead mountains, she was angry but, instead of throwing it away, decided to move further up the hill, on a remote peak where she ordered her husband to build a house and tavern. The restaurant even has a stable for guests arriving on horseback.
The sleepy Fascia community awakens in the spring from its sleep and the village comes alive in the summer with the descendants of migrants who return to tidy up their old family homes and take part in gastronomic events. Locals love to enjoy barbecue parties. Mutton and donkey recipe food exhibition, Porchetta roast pork, and buffalo are staged regularly. There is also a folklore festival of Mother Earth with pagan nuances to honor the produce of the land.
The villagers had the talent to make magic herbal potions with special mountain roses that only grew in this very remote corner of Liguria. Housewives and grandmothers enjoyed their free time preparing rose syrup, jello and jam which were believed to have healing and rejuvenating powers. Perhaps this is Fascia’s secret to longevity, which keeps its inhabitants up and running like teenagers (even when accompanied by walking sticks).
Fascia is ideal for people looking for a detox. The cry of this new baby will be the only sound that cuts through the air with the sound of a hawk and a hawk. “Some time ago, environmental tests were carried out in our area and the results were astonishing: our pollution levels were practically zero,” said Gallizia. No wonder. With few people around, no major malls or industries, and only a few bars and hangout piazzas where elders meet for coffee and daily gossip, the lack of momentum has become a bliss. This has helped preserve the native environment and the authentic slow pace of Fascia.
While being Italy’s oldest city can have its downside, it can also prove just what a great, healthy and rewarding small-town lifestyle it is today.