America rediscovers Calabria. In Acquaro the recovery of an oil mill dating back to the 1930s


By John

What an idea! The right exclamation to summarize a story with extraordinarily virtuous implications. A singular vision of “experiential tourism” is mixed with the valorization of forgotten places and the consequent recovery of buildings and structures otherwise destined for inevitable historical, social and economic oblivion. The creators are the “usual fools”, Evelina Santaguida, Dasà's language teacher who emigrated to America, and her husband Harper, a director. Assisting them on site are an active association set up to manage the reception, “Dasos Elios”, and a travel agency from Chiaravalle.

The “crazy people”, starting from their YouTube channel “Pasta Grammar” (on which, with witty gags, they prepare succulent Italian recipes, followed by almost 300 thousand followers), for a few years have been bringing to southern Italy, and to Dasà and nearby towns, hordes of foreign tourists, eager for an “alternative” holiday, immersed in small and non-frantic local realities. Where they can enjoy habits that are “normal” for residents but “special” for them. They can taste good and genuine dishes, actively participating in their preparation. They want to see what the landscape and architectural heritage offer and be in contact with nature. In short, like Columbus, America, and other parts of the world, want to rediscover Italy. This mechanism, already virtuous in itself for the economy it drives, has led to another virtuosity: the purchase of structures, both residential and non-residential, to be used as one's home in the future or transformed into a B&B, to support this wonderful idea of “experiential tourism”. In an area where many houses are uninhabited and many of the countryside abandoned. Where young people emigrate and are “surrogated” by immigrants. 4/5 Americans who have purchased a house have already done so. Eva and Harper did it, who acquired and are renovating the disused pizzeria, with adjoining house, which welcomes “experiential” tourists when they arrive in Dasà. Amazing. Since locals tend to place little value on what they have. Even more astonishing – and here we get to the heart of the story being told – was the “random” acquisition, on loan for use, of a structure in Acquaro. An oil mill dating back to the 1930s: a rare, if not unique, example of industrial archeology which houses a precious treasure inside. Beyond the grinder, with a reel made of stones chiseled by local artisans. Beyond a tank and a furnace, where the various stages of processing were carried out. Beyond the structure, it is as intact as it was over 90 years ago (albeit with the necessary works to be carried out). Beyond all this, the treasure is represented by a wooden triple-screw press (also made by local artisans), where the pomace was squeezed onto small hemp bags (some of which were preserved intact without ever being used ). What is surprising, in addition to the integrity of the structure, is the way in which those who acquired it learned about it. In fact, a simple comment on Facebook was enough to trigger an unlikely mechanism, which led to the difficult contact with the owner, resident in Bologna (where he had the keys to the site with him). Having overcome the difficulties, he came specifically from the place where he lives, showed the factory and, within a handful of days (no more than 3), everything was completed, with the start of the first cleaning and renovation. Eva and Harper plan to create a sort of museum/accommodation facility for their foreign guests. The natives, the town and the entire area will certainly enjoy it, benefiting from a structure of praiseworthy beauty and historical value. A “crazy” idea. But: “what an idea”!