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Zampani (Perugia province)

A hamlet of central Umbria: 42°47.5N, 12°32E. Altitude: 566 m.

[image ALT: A narrow dirt path along a steep drop in the land: a view onto a long continuous range of low mountains many miles away, and the intervening agricultural plain, is largely blocked by the upper part of a crumbling old stone house; we see the tiled roof and pair of chimneys. The house itself presumably being entered from well below and on the side opposite the camera: at any rate, it presents no windows or doors to us on this side, and is partly overgrown with vines and weeds. It is part of the now abandoned fabric of the hamlet of Zampani, near Massa Martana in Umbria (central Italy).]

Peeping over one of the roofs of Zampani in the general direction of Todi (10½ km WSW).

Zampani is, or was, a hamlet high on a forested ridge in the comune of Massa Martana, NNE of that town by about 2 km: "was", because as I write (2009) it may no longer be inhabited at all.

Already when I passed thru in 1994, surely no more than two or three families lived here, and most of the houses were at that time in ruins, grass growing tall between them: the last days of a dying village — yet in the 16c, not so long ago by Italian standards, Zampani looked to become the important town in the area. I don't actually remember streets, and certainly there was no store, and had been none for years; and the only two roads up to the village were unpaved: pleasant and peaceful, but not friendly to that deity the automobile.

A dismal preamble for some, but the views are attractive, and the stone fabric of the place looked good to me; Zampani is one of the natural beauty spots of the area, and on that October day (see my diary) she was the highlight of a walk that had taken me over more than 20 km of Umbria — so I approached her by a long gravel road, not more than a path really, completely arched over by trees, and after a good climb was glad to see an old church, and this irresistible traveler's stop:

[image ALT: A curved stone bench. It is in the Umbrian hamlet of Zampani.]

A few years later, though, I saw a couple of small websites online advertising the entire village for sale; a few months of that, then a few years with no websites, and now recently yet another website, showcasing the village, with some attractive photographs and suggesting various types of possible development. The unruly grass is gone, but so are the people.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is a view of the façade of the church of in Zampani, Umbria (central Italy).]
[image ALT: missingALT. It is a side view of the church of Zampani, Umbria (central Italy).]

The 16c church is deconsecrated, although it was restored, or at least significant repairs were made, as late as the 1980's; something I wouldn't have known had I not been a dinner guest in a family where the man had worked here with a small crew for a few months.

Of the twenty regions of Italy, Umbria is marked by the most urban of countrysides, the one where population is most evenly distributed in hundreds of little villages: so when villages die, something of the very spirit of Umbria dies with them, more than anywhere else in Italy. Yet our modern age, providing far-flung opportunities, easy travel and greater choice, is inevitably producing a sea-change in the fortunes of many of these little places.

The options open to the smallest hamlets are few. When they're remote, death and decay are likely, as at S. Pietro Aquaeortus. When they're easily accessible by flat land, absorption and loss of identity: nearby Raggio is on its way, I fear, as are many small places along the highway corridors to Foligno or Città di Castello. Finally, survival may mean gentrification and/or colonization by outsiders, often non-Italians, something frequently seen in Tuscany but also here and there in Umbria (near Umbertide: Montemigiano and Borgo S. Giuliana, but elsewhere as well, all over the map): and this is what seems to await Zampani if she's lucky. Reading this, you sense my ambivalence; I hope she gets to keep her name, at least.

[image ALT: missingALT. It is the church of Zampani, Umbria (central Italy).]

Page updated: 1 Aug 18