Crosses and Delights – Microcosm in the upper Val Grana (Cuneo, Italy)
Val Grana is a part of the area called “Italian Occitania” like other valleys in the provinces of Turin, Cuneo, Imperia.
Around the 1960s there was a gradual abandonment of the villages by the inhabitants, attracted by the industrialization of nearby Turin and searching for a friendly life for their children. Within a few years, the valleys were depopulated, only the slate houses remained, which soon became ruins.
For some years, with European and regional funds, it is in place an architectural recovery and agricultural activities, with difficulty and with a strong orientation towards tourism. Pastoralism continues to live, partly thanks to these funds, in this way the tradition of the famous Castelmagno cheese continues, which once the locals used to mature under manure. Today it is a DOP product of some municipalities of Val Grana.
But the place is pervaded by a sense of mysticism that endures. The Sanctuary of San Magno, the countless votive pillars, the frescoes that peek out from the ruins, the semi-abandoned churches tell how much need for spirituality the inhabitants of these places are so difficult to live in, lands from which they snatched the survival of entire families. In winter, when the snow fell even more than a meter and it was impossible to leave the house. A spirituality expressed in a simple, farming culture way, but which blends well with the altitudes of these places. Even a group of Tibetan monks in the 1970s chose the Batuira village to live there for thirty years, a village made up of a few abandoned houses placed on a spur of rock that releases a mystical, internal energy.
Well, in these godforsaken places, a god still exists.
All images and text © Luisa Montagna
By Luisa Montagna
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