The Italian Almanac

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Varese Ligure

Italian News - July 25

A little village in the Ligurian mountains has turned itself into a self-sufficient island of organic food and sustainable energy, becoming the ultimate in 'green' communities. The thousand-year-old settlement of Varese Ligure, with a present population of 2,500, could theoretically continue to exist even if everything around it disappeared.

Four wind towers on a hill nearby cover all its electricity requirements, it has thriving organic farming businesses and 21 aqueducts which steer water from streams into its own treatment plant. The mayor is particularly proud of the water system because, instead of using chlorine to kill germs, it uses rays of ultraviolet light.

"We've taken an environmentally friendly approach to all our needs," said Mayor Michela Marcone, who runs a local hotel and restaurant. Despite its small size, Varese Ligure even has its own rubbish treatment plant. Its careful citizens make sure a third of all trash produced is recycled.

Marcone explained that rather than being an economic burden on the village, its green outlook had proved to be a winning card in its battle for survival as a community. About 15 years ago the village was in danger of becoming a ghost town as young people moved away in search of work, Marcone said. It was then that local administrators decided to establish three sources of income for the community. These were organic agriculture, organic meat production and sustainable energy.

Fifteen years down the line, there has been success in each field. Cheese and other dairy products - all organic - are sold to supermarkets throughout the region. Children in Genoa schools eat beef from cows that graze in local pastures. As for energy, the four 70-metre wind towers supply all the energy needed in Varese and can now satisfy the energy demand of the 7,500 people in the surrounding Vara valley too.

Asked if there was anything missing, the mayor admitted there was: "We still haven't got broadband internet. But we're working on it".