Covid recovery funding pits Italy’s dying towns against each other

Perched on a rock surrounded by a vast nature reserve, the hilltop hamlet of Trevinano sent tremors across the Lazio region when it was announced this month that it and its 142 residents were in line for €20m (£16.73m) from a Covid recovery fund to save small villages on the verge of extinction – equal to a whopping €140,845 per resident.

“This initiative is generating a lot of envy and bad feeling,” said Alessandra Terrosi, the mayor of Trevinano, who has the responsibility for spending the millions before 2026, when the funding programme ends. The hamlet’s good fortune has fuelled rancour among its neighbours who missed out, raised questions over how efficiently Italy will invest some of the €191bn coming its way from the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund and had critics asking if €20m is just too much money for one small village.

Trevinano was pitted against 14 other candidates in Lazio, including the region’s better known gem, the fortress-like Civita di Bagnoregio, for a slice of the €420m fund.

Alessandra Terrosi
Alessandra Terrosi: ‘We weren’t asking for the moon.’ Photograph: Angela Giuffrida/The Guardian

“We went through exactly the same procedures as everyone else, and our project was judged to be the best,” said Terrosi, who alongside her team of two councillors worked around the clock to come up with the hamlet’s winning project, called Re-Wind. “I think we won because of its feasibility – we weren’t asking for the moon, we simply proposed a series of things that were practical.”

Trevinano was settled by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago, and in the 1960s had about 1,000 residents before the population decline took hold. Today, it hosts two restaurants, one with a Michelin star, but there is no supermarket, school or cashpoint, and the post office is only open one day a week.

In five years’ time, Terrosi envisages it as a bustling place filled with students, remote workers, artisans and visitors enjoying concerts in the gardens of its…

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