Elcito, the bitter love for nature
The ancient medieval village witness of the harsh mountain life
If living in the midst of nature seems wonderful or if the arrival of snow is exciting you should ask the inhabitants of Elcito.
Too bad no one lives in Elcito anymore. It’s a ghost town, they all left.
It’s not a good start for a travel blog article but you’ll understand the reason for this introduction. But let’s go by order.
Elcito is a town a few kilometers from San Severino Marche and is located at an altitude of 821 a.s.l. It was born from the need to protect the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria di Valfucina, in the 11th century, erecting a fortification on a spur on the slopes of monte San Vicino and the Canfaito beech forest. A strategic point difficult to conquer and that enjoys incredible views.
Santa Maria di Valfucina
To understand the history of Elcito we have to go back a little bit in time, as mentioned, around the year one thousand. The Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria di Valfucina was experiencing a period of great prosperity and expansion as evidenced by an ancient document dating back to the year 1058. To protect themselves from raids and sieges the monks decided to build a castle. In the Middle Ages the lands belonging to Valfucina were cultivated and taken care of by shepherds and farmers. The fortification and the peasants’ dwellings gave life to the rural life of the inhabitants of Elcito, who dedicated for centuries to the cultivation of the Benedictine fields following the slow and hard seasonal rhythms.
In 1487 the abbey was closed and abandoned due to a period of crises, looting and fires. Two years later the property was managed by the Ecclesiastical Chapter of San Severino until 1986. Unfortunately in 1799 an earthquake destroyed the abbey. Today we find only a humble built parish chased in the nineteenth century.
The name of the town derives from the Mediterranean oak species “leccio”. In the medieval past the notaries named the toponym in the following ways: “lawful” or “ilciti” up to the present day with Elcito.
Reaching the village requires time and patience. Once parked the car I immediately understand that the country is linked from its origins to the severe rhythms of nature. Pastoralism and agriculture have always been the only sources of life for the inhabitants. The main street rises and opens onto the small square where the church of S. Rocco is located, built after the destruction of the castle. Only some parts of the wall and the arched entrance, still present, are part of the ancient stronghold. The center is a labyrinth of alleys, streets and steps that lead you to discover the humble homes.
There is no one here anymore
A surreal and almost sinister quiet is disturbed only by the curious mewing of a cat warmed by the sun that is about to hide behind the San Vicino mountain. Walking through the narrow streets the question arises spontaneously: “but how did people live up here?”
The answer comes directly from the stone walls of the houses. Some photos hanging on the walls tell the cold winters when the snow isolated the town for a week or the brief moments of celebration after the harvest. The raw and harsh life of the village is shown thanks to the silent images, a little discolored by the bad weather.
In Elcito the electricity came in 1933 and the telephone only twenty years later. At the beginning of the 20th century, around 200 people lived, here the word supermarket has no meaning. The entire community has always supported itself through agriculture and pastoralism until the seventies.
The closure of the school in 1972 decreed the definitive decline and flight from the country. In 1996 21 people lived permanently, in 2003 only 6. Today it appears as a town trapped in the past. But the more I stop to fix the alleys and hidden corners, the more I feel a great sense of respect and who know a little bit of envy for those who spent their entire lives perched at 821 meters above sea level.
Elcito is not a ghost town
Despite the obvious difficulties and depopulation many returns or wish to visit Elcito. Journalists, poets, art critics such as Federico Zeri and Vittorio Sgarbi have come this way. Why?
Because this place demonstrates that man can live with little, fighting a harsh and merciless nature, receiving in exchange a priceless freedom combined with the sense of communion with the earth. Nowadays homes are mostly used for summer holidays. At Elcito for the whole year reigns a quiet that makes you rediscover the ancient bond that unites man to the mountain. A place where it seems to be closer to the spirit than to the body. If you come in the Marche region, a visit to Elcito is a must, especially on August 16th when the feast of St. Rocco is celebrated in the church of the same name.
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