Vincenzo spends every afternoon in Alianello to feed his chickens and “to pass some time.” Before darkness falls, he secures the animals in a natural cave, then he goes home to Alianello Nuovo. The mild-mannered retired garbage man, who lived here from 1976 to 1980, is the last caretaker of a town that was declared not fit to live in after the 1980 earthquake but was definitively abandoned only in 2000.
Alianello, a hamlet of the Municipality of Aliano, risks collapse, like many things in this part of Basilicata. The eviction order was ignored by about half of its 300 inhabitants at the time, those who did not want to move to the prefabricated buildings built a few kilometers away. But since 1980, the Municipality of Aliano has no longer provided essential services so one after the other, even the most loyal ones had to raise the white flag.
Among the abandoned houses there are cradles, bottles of preserves and liqueurs, telephone directories from 1988, strollers, chairs, hangers. Shutters creak with every gust of wind, yet Alianello isn’t as scary as many other ghost towns. Those who have abandoned this village have done so reluctantly, those who have experienced it remember it with a tender nostalgia.
“Until 1978 there was no telephone line, the only way to call relatives or children who emigrated to work was the only telephone booth in the village. Some houses did not have running water. But there was a grocery store, a minimarket, a butcher, a tobacconist, and a stationery shop. In short, we had everything we needed,” says Domenica Rinaldi, an employee of the Municipality of Aliano who lived in the hamlet up to the age of 14.
“I look at the trees that have grown up in the middle of the kitchens, the weeds everywhere and I feel sorry: we used to keep this town like a garden” Vincenzo reflects bitterly. He still remembers the names of those who lived in every single house. The 1980 earthquake started the diaspora of a tight small community. “In Alianello we shared everything. It was a big extended family and teeming of children. The little ones were always supervised by a neighbor” continues Domenica.
“If I close my eyes and think back to life there, I feel a sense of lightheartedness and tranquility. And I seem to smell of the bread that you always breathed in the morning. I have never felt it so intense anywhere else.”