Italy's Abandoned Towns Pt 2: Civita di Bagnoreggio
Our next destination was across Umbria and into Lazio. Originally founded by Etruscans, Cività di Bagnoregio (pop <15), lies on top of a wide spire of land that emerges from the countryside about 2km from its former suburb, Bagnoregio (pop 3,600), and about 60 miles north of Rome. It is known as the dying town (la città che muore).
Cività’s demise has been due to an earthquake in the 17th century that led many residents to move to Bagnoregio, eroding land that threatens the stability of houses on the edges and a general attraction to larger nearby cities, such as Rome. Today it remains as an off the beaten path tourist attraction for those willing to take the journey.
To arrive you must walk about a 1km on a small foot bridge that winds into the 12th century gate. The buildings with their exposed brick and creeping vines all give the sense of a perfectly preserved time. It is quite a romantic setup.
Yet, compared to Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni, Cività is not dying. It may be economically weak or losing its residents in larger population trends towards the city. It’s soil may even be eroding. But the town is preserved for what it is as a tourist attraction, come who may.
Cività is perfectly preserved and post-card ready. The signs are there, whether it is directions for the nearest trattoria or a summer theater festival. The town, at least, continues to inspire future generations with its beauty and safe abandon. Is it dying or is it just another quaint town to see outside of Rome?
I still wonder what makes a town die. Castelnuovo is falling apart and the flies indicate no sign of life. No one, aside from the oddity enthusiast, is interested in going. Cività is preserved in its historical state with romantic ideals of an abandoned Italian town ready for exploring. Yet with 200 tourists arriving each day, one would hardly be alone.
And then I think about the locks, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, in Bologna’s intricate canal system that allowed trade to Venice and was functioning from the 15th century into the 1950s. Today with 60 years neglect, none of the lock mechanisms work despite 500 years of good service and maintenance.
Italy’s record on preserving its cultural heritage, such as Pompeii, does not bode well for the country that rests its laurels on its own history and cultural achievements.
Furthermore with minimal management of abandoned spaces amidst all this beauty, it makes sense that an artist group would want to squat and occupy it, such as Bussana Vecchia.
Will these beautiful and unique places truly die? Or will they become preserved? Or will someone come around and try and breathe new life into them?
Today Managing Instability co-conspirator, Patrick Waldo, can be seen on page 12 of the newspaper, il Resto del Carlino! He talks about his experiences in Bologna, the MAM/GIOCA program, and of course the research!
For the last four weeks, I have been working as a management consultant facilitating a strategic plan for a non-profit film and media arts organization in Houston, TX. While I engaged in strategic planning with clients as a graduate student, this is my first gig fresh on the market.
I have been interested in figuring out what the role of a “consultant” is. Many other organizations here are also in strategic planning, where they bring in an expert from a far off place and who only comes in every couple of weeks for short periods of time. I tend to get this feeling that consultants are cold and calculating. We have tools like surveys and techniques like SWOT analyses that are foreign and full of management jargon that few understand. Most people I spoke with do not believe strategic planning is useful at all and that they do it “just because.”
And then I started thinking. The consultant should be like a massage therapist.
In other words, you need to work the organization like a body. You enter the room and set a scene that puts everybody at ease. The body is naked under a blanket before you, and by that I mean you have their 990s and full access to their budgets, files, databases, etc. Your one-on-one interviews and first retreats are your first touches that send a message: “I am here; Everything will be okay." Then, you identify the knots via surveys, semi-structured interviews, SWOT analyses and other techniques.
You are now ready to work the body. Depending on how tense the organization is, you may need to start light, or, if the situation is dire, you might need to work deep in the tissue. There might be scars to work around. Some things may need to be isolated using trigger point techniques. You may need to use a variety of techniques. Your humor and coffee purchases are aroma therapy. Your mantras are the background music. Your voice is soothing.
By the end, circulation of ideas or of finances is restored; the body feels better and ready to work again; and your job as a consultant ala massage therapist is complete until the next session.
Perhaps it sounds silly and a little unprofessional (in the management jargon I think they call it hippie bullshit), but, while some things require the clinical techniques of a surgeon, I’d say the majority of problems require some good old fashioned massage therapy. After all, the plans are paper problems. Realizing those plans are people problems.
So set your management intention bitches! Ommmmmmmmmm….