What happened and what is happening at Torri Superiore Ecovillage during the COVID period? A reflection resulting from these months of suspension, turns into some key questions. To answer there’s Lucilla Borio, who has lived here for more than twenty years, to remember the exceptional period. From the first news, to the difficult but necessary changes for the whole community, to new developments. The questions, in fact, also want to try to investigate the future, in these times of uncertainty, to open up to new possibilities.
Lucilla, how did the community react when the first information about covid appeared? Which measures have been taken?
The first reaction was scepticism, it seemed impossible and for several days at the beginning of March we were watching what was happening with a certain detachment.
I had been in Milan to give a facilitation course on February 22nd and there you could already feel in the air that something absurd was happening but it was really inconceivable that it could have the impact it had then. We still felt safe in our village a bit isolated, even if for two weeks I was a bit anxious to see if I had the symptoms.
Then the closed schools gave us a sense of the gravity of it. We discussed a lot the first few days, we also had some volunteers who had just arrived here, and we had several meetings to listen to everyone’s needs and fears. The internal debate on the nature of the pandemic has always been very lively, there are different positions between natural event and a world plot, but nobody is sure of anything and we listen to each other with interest and curiosity, with respect.
We made our own multi-layer masks so that we could at least go out shopping, and we limited our outings to the minimum possible.
What was the impact on the social life of the community? How to interpret the rules government designed for nuclear families in the city, on the reality of an intentional community sharing common spaces? How was it experienced by the community?
Immediately after the closing we decided to close the dining rooms of the accommodation facility, and as a cooperative to suspend the use of the guest house.
The management returned to the Association at least until June, and then we’ll see. We closed the main door (never done before!) and posted the closing signs outside, this gave us chills, and it seemed surreal.
We have kept centralised the food shopping service and the common kitchen, run by one person at a time. Family groups have taken food to eat in private homes, fortunately we have adequate space for everyone’s well-being. Of course it was a very painful decision, the first time in thirty years, but we did not want to take risks and we adapted.
The community is not legally recognized as an extended family nucleus, there is a draft law in preparation on this issue, but at the moment we would be considered as a “grouping” and therefore subject to a fine. The whole community has participated in the decision and supported it, finding other ways and moments to keep the spirit that unites us alive (for example on our internal chat and greeting us from the terraces even with our friends in the village of Torri).
What impact have the restrictions had on the cooperative's economy? What are the negative aspects and what are the positive and innovative ones?
A huge impact, March 1 was the day we had to open to the public and we were frozen.
All activities already scheduled (the Spring Festival, groups booked – trekking yoga, painters formations etc.) have been canceled in a flurry, for this year I do not think we can work, or very little. Tourism collapsed in a week, and it will take at least a year to recover. A great pity because we had a beautiful season planned, full of events and groups, we had worked a lot thanks to the new social developed with Francesca and Tiziana.
Every day at noon we sent live videos to FB to bring images of nature, serenity, sky, to the sound of church bells, together with posts and videos on Instagram. We wanted to keep active the network created with the artists of the Festival using social channels.
But seeing it all fade away suddenly left us stunned, we didn’t recover from the shock at all. The awareness of our dependence on this sector, however, stimulated us to look around and look for alternatives, and we proposed to the social cooperative SPES to help them in managing the gardens of Varase that supply a large purchasing group of about 200 families.
With them we are part of the network Le terre di Confine (The Borderlands), this new proposal has brought us even closer, it is supported with great enthusiasm by our community. Now we take three shifts a week in greenhouses to grow zucchini, we participate in many and it gives us pleasure to think that we produce good, local and organic food, and not only for us.
Many of us are dedicating ourselves to agricultural work, not only in the greenhouses but also in the former vegetable gardens that have returned to cultivation. The contact with the peaceful land fills the days with useful work and also with joy for the splendid nature that surrounds us.
Our beautiful hens have started laying eggs every day, taking care of them gives us a lot of satisfaction, Daniel and Cristina are very good at it.
What predictions, even if only hypothesized, does the Cooperative make for the future? Do you still want to open to tourism and if so, how?
We had been planning for some time to transform the Ture Nirvane cooperative from a work production to a social cooperative, Massimo invested a lot of energy on this and after months of preparation finally on May 21st we go to the notary (almost all online!).
The social world represents us better because we have always been between profit and non profit field, and the commercial tourism sector is not suitable for our needs, it penalizes us and distorts our vision of it.
This transformation will give us the opportunity to open new areas of work, such as social agriculture in its own right, but also the management of the territory, the offer of services of various kinds, the enhancement of local products. We will also take the name of “community cooperative” to highlight our historical role of service both to the internal community and to the territory around us.
Val Bevera over the years has lost all the bars, restaurants and small shops, so all the meeting places have disappeared. Remains the summer feasts organized in the village of Torri and here with us, the religious services and little else, we would like to find a way to revitalize this beautiful and so neglected area.
Future tourism? Yes of course, we will reopen to the public but we don’t know when or how yet. The regulations on social distancing make our tourist offer, which is based on the meeting and knowledge between people, meaningless.
Torri is a place of training and transformation thanks to the human experience of sharing spaces, times, language and thoughts that goes far beyond a conventional tourist stay. What we offer is to get in touch with our experience as a sustainable community that in thirty years has transformed a ruin into a jewel, and makes it available to the world to stimulate the social changes in which we believe.
We had a lot of discussions with our friends at RIVE and we shared with the other ecovillages the great importance of our social model, our roots in the territories, collaborative work and ecological commitment. Something positive can emerge from this emergency if we all commit ourselves to it: the limits of consumerist and individualist society have emerged in a brutal way, and we know we represent an alternative possibility that today, as never before, is attracting attention and consensus.
Support us in this difficult time, stay close, don’t let us out of your sight!
We remain here firmly, and we wait patiently to reopen the front door to welcome you to the ecovillage.