Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Garessio Italy

Photo by:angie tan burns Text by:gregory burns (all rights reserved)

An old iron green bell gongs from the tower jutting above the church across the cobblestone street from our third floor apartment. On the hour, and dramatically during Catholic festivities, bells sounds from all around. Dating back a thousand years, there are four churches in this village of 3,000 residents. Either there was much to be repentant for or this is a very special spot. I choose to believe it is the later as the town of Garessio, nestled into the Maritime Alps of Western Italy,casts a spell on all who visit.
The water is good here. So good, that the St. Bernardo water bottling company pulls its liquids from the nearby spring. But the factory is about the only modern structure around. The rest of the town consists of medieval stone buildings, some almost as old as God herself. A single narrow cobblestone road runs between the three and four story row houses, channeling people through this historic village.Romans, Moroccans, Germans and tourists all descended upon this village at some point, looking for something. They found kind country people and buildings of stone and plaster steeped with time and history.
As an important relay station for salt and provisions between the bustling Albenga port 35 kilometers to the south and the Italian interior, the town was once home to ten thousand people. Where once stone forts commanded the highest points on the surrounding mountaintops, today Vodafone telephone relay towers control and command the best views.Now, with little industry and left only with an abundance of clean air, water and the Alps at your doorstep, the town is loosing its locals. Of those left behind, the median age seems to be around 70 years old. Young Italian townspeople leave for big cities to find work. The elders remain to grow old with friends. In the midst of this transition, artists, writers, skiers, hikers, mountain bikers and lovers of a natural tranquility have discovered Garessio and are reinventing the place.

Angie and I are here for more than the beautiful views. Our friend Julia has started a program where she will invite other artists and interested seekers to visit the village for a Residency Program. Eventually we will offer classes in drawing, painting, screen-printing and photography. It will be open to those who seek a quiet ancient place where history and nature can inspire art. Interested parties should log onto www.juliamontforte.com. We plan to spend more time here as we draw nearer to the median age of the village. Maybe someday along the mountain trails or on a journey through this inspiring ancient village we will meet you here.