The Abandoned Italy Tourists Never See

When Bello first mentioned he had no desire to ever live in Italy again, I was shocked and in all honesty, a little disappointed, there went my retirement dreams!

Like many, I imagined Italy through the lens of cinema, the food, the wine, the passion for the sweet life! How could you not want to live here? Outside of the scant headlines like Italy Mountain Town Celebrates First Baby in 28 Years, I was largely unaware of Italy’s population decline.

From the Northern Alps to the central plain all the way South to the rugged seaside cliffs, Italy’s youth are leaving, and as of yet, not coming back. Italy is now dotted with Ghost-towns.

It was not until my first visit to Campo Canavese in Northern Italy to see Zia Emilia that I fully understood. An hour North of Torino tucked into the winding roads at the base of the Alps, sits this one church, one store, one café town. This is not the Italy that tourist flock to see. This is however the Italy that I blog a bit about at The Art of Living On the Road.


When Giacomo, Emilia’s beloved Husband passed, she was left as the last resident of a neighborhood once home to 38 people.

Empty Homes Out Emilia's Backdoor Empty Homes Out Emilia’s Backdoor

On her daily walk up the hill to the cemetery to visit Giacomo, Emilia passes a few beautiful well kept homes, but it’s the patina of time on the walls that’s interesting. On the day we visited, there is no traffic, no kids playing in the street. The only signs of life on that same walk up the hill are the three dogs that bark like mad.

It should be said, visiting Zia Emilia is inspiring. Emilia turns 80 this year and still farms her land, raises her chickens and grows bold flowers in the windows overlooking countless empty homes in Campo Canavese. Her strength and independence are those of pure steel.

Her garden is a riotous celebration of life, herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers grow in abundance. One Rooster and three happy hens give her…

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4 Comments Add yours

    1. It’s truly sad for Italy’s small towns and even mid sized. In Gallipoli were we alone walking the shores of a beach just outside town. There was only one other man, he struck up a conversation. He too was a Italian who could not find work at home (which was Gallipoli). So he lived half the year in Germany and returned in the summer tourist season to work his cousins Pizza shop. He wished he could live all year in Gallipoli- who wouldn’t it’s lovely but he could not sustain himself with work.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. happynfull says:

    Wow! Farming even at the age of 80! She belongs in the documentary Happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ALOR says:

      I love that documentary! Thanks for stopping by and saying something so sweet.

      Liked by 1 person

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