The journey for the Town Ambassadors of the Aniene Valley took me to Jenne, the 'wildest' of the villages in the Mount Simbruini Park.
I had spent an entire summer in Jenne when I was 11, with the Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movie in the square and the evenings at the fortress (la Rocca) with the first heart palpitations. With my cousin we tried to be hairstyles and the result was that I had to cut my hair because we could no longer untangle it. Jenne is always remembered as the attempt to curl my hair.
This is why I was anxiously waiting to go back and when the mayor Giorgio Pacchiarotti gave me an appointment, I was really anxious.
The road that goes from Subiaco to Jenne and crosses the woods of the Simbruini mountains is one of the most beautiful in Italy, with its high tunnels dug into the rock in the last century. I share it with many cyclists and motorcyclists who are an unequivocal sign of quality (like the trucks in front of restaurants).
The arrival in the square leaves me speechless for the grandeur of the church of St Andrew, and the delay of the mayor gives me the opportunity to go around in solitude. Everyone in the village knows that the mayor is not the best punctual because he loves walking in the woods and loses track of time. And how to disagree with this way of taking life.
I think it's the best advertisement for Jenne.
I walk towards the fortress going by heart and I find myself entering the craft exhibition, two rooms full of ceramic objects, paintings, knitwear and shawls. Three ladies welcome me and the most expansive is Angelica, the one who creates knit masterpieces. She tells me how they have become a point of reference for the town but also for the valley. She proudly point out a plaque dedicated to the writer Antonio Fogazzaro who was struck by Jenne, but I leave them to go towards the fortress.
The alleys are clean with well-kept houses and it feels like I'm walking in a fairy tale. When I get to the fortress, I hardly recognize it. In recent years it has been treated like a jewel: it is called fortress but iti is a church. The rock church stands out against a splendid blue sky and the green of the mountains. Perfect for photographs!
I see a statue dedicated to Pope Alexander IV who was born in Jenne and I justify myself if I didn't remember it: it shouldn't have been my priority at 11 years old.
I go back to the municipality to meet Giorgio Pacchiarotti and the deputy mayor Cristiano Lauri and tell them about the project wanted by Pierluigi Sanna to promote the villages with those who left them. With Alessia Pieretti we are trying to develop a development model that can also be used in other parts of Italy.
I begin by saying that we are looking for people who care about Jenne and the mayor stops me: “it's a nice coincidence that we have created an event that is called Jenne in the heart. We always use this definition and right now we are experiencing a particular moment”.
Covid has brought new families back to live in Jenne, like that of the engineer Massimi from Milan. The whole family had been hospitalized in serious condition and during their illness they had had the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life. Back home, they had started making biscuits following Jenne's grandmother's recipes and finally, a year ago, they just resigned and moved to Jenne by opening a biscuit business. They are the ones who manage the old municipal oven.
But the surprises don't end.
It's lunchtime and we all go to taste the 'ndremmappi, the typical pasta of Jenne, at the Il Lescuso center where we park the cars near a paddock. To my surprise, I am spied upon by the curious eyes of a powerful, perfectly shaped horse.
At the exit I pause to insert the position on the phone and a boy arrives on a tractor with some hay. I decide to talk with him.
His name is Andrea Benedetti and he is an electrician but he has a passion for horses. This is his young stallion of just 2 years and in September he will take him to the CAITPR-Cavalli Agricoli Italiani da Tiro Pesante Rapido competition.
They are such big horses that they intimidate, yet they have a good heart and have always helped man in his work in the fields and in the transport of goods: “This stallion is far from the herd because I want him to grow well and bring him to competition. But my real problem is the wolves who love to attack the foals. Today I was born a little horse, but I know that he has little chance of survival. The problem of the park is precisely the relationship with predatory animals with which coexistence is difficult".
He shows me the restaurant garden: “to cultivate a vegetable garden we have to dig and make a concrete curb against wild boars and then build a two-metre high fence against fawns that jump to eat the vegetables. I love horses very much, I have about 15 that I take care of with great sacrifices but I'm tired."
Roberto approached horses with his uncle and a Jenne-Anzio transhumance made when he was 19 years old. His eyes shine with love and I would really like to come back during the next transhumance.
But I realize that we have not really understood how man and animals can coexist, and even in Paliano the crops are destroyed by wild boars now out of control.
In the meantime, let's hope Jenne finds its Town Ambassador because it has so much to tell and show. And I want to come back!