Tales from Torri Superiore ecovillage

After nearly 30 years of activity, Ecovillage Torri Superiore, in western Liguria, is a solid reality and an active member of the Italian Ecovillage Network RIVE. The restoration of the abandoned medieval village is now complete, the ecoguesthouse is in full operation and offers holidays, seminars, conferences and retreats for groups of up to 25 people. The community now counts 22 permanent residents, among which four are teenagers and three children.

As years went by, many things have changed for the residents. Some of the children have grown and moved out, other children were born and are now stretching their wings, waiting to leave the nest and fly towards their own destiny… the founders are in their 60s, some are retired, some have become grandparents… but the determination to keep the ecovillage going is still intact, supported by energy of younger members who have joined the group.

The relations between the Ecovillage and the nearby Torri village is good and mutually supportive. After an initial time of cold relations, many steps were taken by the ecovillage to build connections with the locals and show the will to cooperate rather than be in conflict: participation in the voluntary shifts to maintain the farming road up the mountain, the constant maintenance of the valley trails, the public water canalizations and dry stone walls, and the creation of jobs for village residents. Recently, some new frictions have arisen with the local community, when the Ecovillage supported the arrival and temporary residence of a small group of African refugees. The Ecovillage people are reflecting on how to support the refugees without breaking the delicate balance built over the years.

In 2010, with the Transition Towns programme promoted by Torri Superiore in partnership with GEN-Europe members, the Ortinsieme (Gardening together) project was born in the nearby town of Ventimiglia. Three abandoned greenhouses were converted into organic gardens to grow vegetables for family use. Ortinsieme now involves more than 40 people, started a food coop (for 60 families), and farms 1200 square meters in three greenhouses, plus some orchards.

The most recent development of the collaboration between the Ecovillage and other local firms, united by the principles of sustainability and social responsibility, is the creation of the Network “Terre di Confine” (Borderlands), focused on the Val Bevera — Val Roya Bioregion. This network unites six firms active in the field of social care, organic farming, beekeeping, ecotourism and trade of local products. The first practical project is the construction of a pilot aquaculture plant for a future production of fish, and natural fertilizers. At the moment, a local production of spirulina has started.

The restoration of Torri Superiore was the main aim of the Association from the beginning in 1989. Now that the goal has been reached, a new vision is emerging to guide the community in its next steps, a vision made of collaboration, creativity and openness to share resources with the surrounding territory. In this perspective, we expect to see the emergence of a new vision not only for the Ecovillage itself, but also for the valley community at large in this moment of epochal change in civil society.

Editorial Note: The Torri Superiore story reflects a growing tendency among ecovillage projects to expand their zones of influence and begin working on a bioregional scale. Here is an article about this third wave of eco-social innovation.

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This article was originally published at www.gaiaeducation.org.

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