Surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the Pollino National park, San Lorenzo Bellizzi is a charming small village in Northern Calabria with 700 inhabitants. There is a small bar, pizzeria, lovely bakery and even an art gallery run by a local artist in the village. Sanlorenzani, as the residents are called, are a friendly folk and say “Buongiorno” to everyone who happens to arrive to this tiny unspoilt corner of Italy.
Like many other villages in rural Italy San Lorenzo Bellizzi has seen better days. Very little is known about its origins, although, it was mentioned in a document in the 12th century. A while ago, the narrow streets were full of the hustle and bustle of village life. Years went on and the younger of San Lorenzo moved to greener pastures of bigger cities and richer foreign shores. For the last 40 years the old centre (“centro storico”) has remained unoccupied. About 80 traditional stone houses that have been transferred to the commune ownership are slowly crumbling, as there is no money for restoration. Last year the local authority put 25 old stone houses up for an auction for very attractive prices. €1500-3000 euro can buy you a piece of history and authentic Italian life!
“It is not in our character to sit and wait while knowing that in a few years the village of San Lorenzo Bellizzi might not exist anymore”, told me Antonio Cersosimo, the mayor of San Lorenzo. “We have to do something and try to save it. We are die-hards who don’t give up easily!” The mayor was born here, so were his parents and grandparents. He is 37 years old, full of energy and fiercely passionate about his land. Cersosimo and his team have a mission: to revive the old village centre. They do not want to wait for the state money that might never arrive but hope to attract private buyers who will bring the lovely stone houses to their former glory. So far, seven houses have been sold. There are very few tourists in the area but doesn’t it make the idea of having a house here more attractive?