by Ludovica Schiaroli
Interview with Eugenio Bordoni who tells of the painstaking work of the Fondazione Manarola. After the closure of the contracts for the first lots of the project, the aim is to find the owners of each land plot.
The landscape above Manarola has changed. The view is impressive: you can see how much is still to be done where before there were brambles, trees and mostly Mediterranean scrub.
“It’s very satisfying to see the work coming into focus. For decades when I looked out the window the scenario was one of progressive abandonment, with Stonewallsforlife we managed to reverse the trend, it is beneficial for everyone, for the community but also for tourists who come to visit Manarola.”
Eugenio Bordoni is the vice president of the Fondazione Manarola, one of the first to believe in the project and to commit himself so that it would be realized. It is a complex endeavor in which the Foundation has been involved since 2014 and which is now showing its results.
Like a treasure hunt
The first step was to cross-reference cadastral data with the owners and it was done through a map that shows a territory divided into many lots and parcels. “Through painstaking research, we traced all the owners – says Bordoni – many emigrated, others were deceased, and some didn’t even know they owned a piece of land. Luckily, among the Foundation’s counsellors, two or three are living databases and it is also thanks to their memory that we were able to contact everyone.” Where memory failed, the land registry helped and once all the names were put together, the owners were contacted one by one to present them the project. In addition, they were asked to sign a contract whereby they would rent the land with the possibility of subletting (afterwards to the agricultural holdings that would take over once the works are completed).
Properties as big as handkerchiefs
The Foundation identified an area of 11 hectares divided into lots and parcels. The average size of a parcel is 153 meters. “Briefly for each lot there are about 50 owners to contact. The Stonewallsforlife project corresponds to a little less than half of the hectares in our availability and to date we managed to close contracts for about two and a half hectares of land, it took us almost three years,” explains Bordoni.
The first lot had already been closed before the start of Stonewallsforlife. However, if before there was some skepticism and when contacted, some of the owners did not understand the importance of the project, now, especially those living in Manarola have understood that it is a way not only to enhance the territory but also to safeguard it.
“Now people stop me in the street, they are interested, and the percentage of signed contracts has increased: in the first lot we reached 75-80 percent of land, now we are at 90 percent – continues Bordoni – we have recently closed the contracts for the third lot and soon will start the cleaning work.
Challenges for the future
Despite some delays due to the pandemic, the project is proceeding as planned. Bordoni is waiting for the first grafted wines to be planted in the fields. This occurs as a result of the cleaning of the first lots, the subsequent reconstruction of the drystone walls that have fallen in recent years and the evaluations of the researchers of the University of Genoa, who will soon install the three multiparameter stations.
“I hope they will start as soon as possible with the planting of grafted wines or something else because now that the strips are clean there is a greater risk of runoff downstream in case of an extreme weather event – says Bordoni – at the same time we must keep the strips clean. But once the technical obstacles are removed, we must certainly evaluate how local businesses, composed mainly of very small families, will react after two years of pandemic”.
The project foresees that once the work is completed, the strips and walls restored and the land put under cultivation, local agricultural holdings will be identified to take over the management of the fields with a symbolic rent.
“Every abandoned land is both a danger and a potential economic opportunity lost – concludes Bordoni – I think that the work carried oud by the Fondazione since 2014 and now relaunched by the Stonewallsforlife project, is extremely important because it goes precisely in this direction.”