I’ve talked a lot about changes. Some were slow changes – like how My House has progressed; some were fast – for instance how in the blink of an eye they changed the direction of traffic in our part of Orvieto; some were dramatic – Piazza Navona then versus now, for example; and some you hardly notice until they’re right in front of you. In fact, my friend Liz Heath just wrote a wonderful piece, which you might enjoy, about change happening in her neighboring town of Allerona. (http://myvillageinumbria.blogspot.it/2012/05/this-is-sad-post-not-because-anyone.html)
You have seen the picture of Orvieto at the top of this page. In order to expand its limits, you’d have to either construct vertical houses and shops down its walls, pile dirt from the valley floor up to the current street level, or most fanciful of all — cantilever new land off its sides (my personal favorite). The footprint can’t change. The rock the town sits on is only so big, and it’s not going to get bigger.
But that’s not the case with what’s going on in the valley surrounding our rock. There are 3 main small towns at our base: Orvieto Scalo, Sferracavallo and Ciconia. You know how if you Google a place, something always comes up? Well, you’ll find very, very little if you Goggle these small towns, other than perhaps their altitude, population and a tiny pinhead on a map.
While Orvieto Scalo is the most unattractive, it’s probably the most important. It seems like it’s the oldest, but I don’t know if it really is, or it’s just that the buildings look so old. I believe they were built right after the war, when housing people quickly was more important than good design and harmonious materials.
I always thought the word “Scalo” meant an area below the old town, with “below” being the important point. But it turns out it has commercial significance, because it refers to the area having a depot or freight yard. Therefore, where you have a Scalo, you will also probably find a train station. Certainly in Orvieto today, the train service is crucial to our tourist trade, since we are on the main north/south line. And just as train tracks are usually built on the flattest land, so are the main roads – the result being that we also have an exit off the north/south Autostrada. Orvieto Scalo might not be the prettiest place around, but Orvieto would have only a small fraction of the tourists it has today without it.
In the valley at the opposite end of Orvieto is Sferracavallo, the smallest of these 3 little towns. It gets its name from its former importance as the iron working center — particularly horse shoeing (ferro = iron, and cavallo = horse). Today, the flat stretch of road out of town that leads away from Orvieto is lined with industry – including lots of car dealers and repair shops, which would be the modern day equivalent of horse shoeing in the past. This stretch of road is every bit as unattractive as Orvieto Scalo, but once again, as Alan always says – Italy is not Disney Land and people really do need jobs and industry. And let’s face it, there’s no better place for industry than along an already charmless road that parallels train tracks and the Autostrada.
Remember that I started this piece by talking about “change”? Well….across the Paglia River (we would call it the Paglia Creek) from Orvieto Scalo is the third and largest of these towns: Ciconia.
When we first got here, its main claim to fame seemed to be that it had the area’s hospital. As of a few weeks ago, though, it’s main claim is now a huge new grocery store – Eurospar. But that’s not all. In addition to this huge store, they’ve also built enough commercial/office space to double what’s available now, AND a lot of new houses. Yes – we saw them working on this plot of land, but had no idea of the extent of it. Overnight, it’s as if they added a complete new village onto the existing town. There’s no way to know how successful all of this will be, but the fact remains that whether it’s a huge financial windfall or a spectacular financial failure — it changes the make-up of Ciconia and the whole area.
– We have several grocery stores around us – our favorite being the Coop in Scalo. When we saw the Eurospar, Alan’s comment was that it was a shame it wasn’t an IperCoop – the bigger version of our existing store, but still with the same products. A few days later we heard that a stretch of land along the road in Scalo leading from the Autostrada was indeed going to be the site of a future IperCoop. That will mean 2 very large grocery stores within 5 miles of each other.
– There’s only 1 way to get into Ciconia from the Orvieto/Autostrada/ Sferracavallo side and that’s across the little bridge from Scalo. I heard there is talk of an additional new road to make it more convenient. It will not be easy to build a road that needs to go under railroad tracks and the Autostrada, and then over a River, but if the politicians want it to happen, it can get done surprisingly fast.
These 2 things might not sound particularly meaningful, but in a small area like this, they have potentially gigantic ramifications. I might not have enough time left in my life to see how My House finally turns out, but I could be seeing these projects finished in just a couple of years. They will definitely alter the character of this little pocket of Italy, and these changes will lead to further changes that we can’t even imagine. My hope is that, like My House, these projects will be done with care and respect. My suspicion is that the care will be that they care only about getting them done ASAP, and the respect will be respect for the (wavering) euro and not the people impacted by these events. We’ll see…..