In the central Apennines, Ivan and Elisabetta have never been just weekend tourists. They have always been an active part of a community that is striving to fight depopulation through participatory projects of urban and social regeneration. They introduce us to Luca Santilli, who, aged 37, has been the local mayor for six months. Together, we visit the monastery of Santa Chiara and its beautiful cloister, a 13th-century building that housed a monastery of the Poor Clares for a long period of time. “We have started a process of participatory planning, involving the citizens, as well as architects and anthropologists with different backgrounds, from the Turin Polytechnic to the University of Valle d’Aosta”, says the mayor. The space already hosts a museum (the Bear Museum), a restaurant (the former canteen of the State Forestry Corps) and 70 beds in the former cells. “Craft workshops and shared work spaces could also be accommodated in the cloister. It is a very challenging project, but we will try hard. The Poor Clares also passed down an important culinary tradition, which should be put to good use. There is a dish, in particular, that is made only here, J’Entremè, with lamb offal, celery, peppers and vinegar”, he explains.

For 11 years, every summer, the former convent hosted 60 students from the universities of Detroit, Pescara and L’Aquila, as part of an intercultural exchange. An experience that was discontinued due to Covid. “If we had not conducted renovation works in the ‘90s, the building would have collapsed with the 2009 earthquake”, the mayor explains.


An Apecar is parked in the cloister of the former Poor Clares convent in Gagliano Aterno. Every weekend, in summer 2021, starting from 1 June, it will churn out ‘virtuous’ sandwiches using local produce. The ‘Comè. ‘Il panino virtuoso’ project, which also involves Essenziale Come Natura as a supplier, was created to promote one of the traditional dishes of Gagliano Aterno, J’Entremè: a recipe that was concocted in the monastery of Santa Chiara, consisting of lamb offal, celery and peppers cooked in vinegar. From 2007 to 2018, the village organised and hosted a festival in honour of this historic dish, which is now experiencing a second life as street food, thanks to the efforts of 24-year-old Giovanna Corsini and 47-year-old Stefano Sacerdoti, who decided to go for it and invest in a food truck after scouting the area for quality suppliers.

Today, Gagliano Aterno also hosts one of the research & action missions of Montagne in Movimento, a group that was set up by the Department of Philosophy and Educational Sciences of the University of Turin to deal with the topic of public anthropology in mountain communities throughout Italy. When we meet up with Elisabetta to record her story, an ‘ecology day’ is under way, with dozens of people. We take part in a community lunch, with tables under the trees, next to the former convent and a stone’s throw from the only open bar, run by a local association.

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