Reportage by Virginia Stagni

Translation by Elena D’Ottavio

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Video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdJRVFl_ntA

Gangi, PA – A proud businessman who gives his service to the local community, and who is trying to change the political behavior in the wonderful natural ecosystem of the Madonie Mountains in Gangi, Sicily. Giuseppe Ferrarello, born in 1970, is not only a politician but also businessman. He is interviewed weekly by the media worldwide.  Since eight years, he is the major of Gangi and he works both in the village and in the chief town of Palermo. There, he continues his activity as managing director of a major hotel group in Sicily.

The question is always the same: “How did you create a situation like this in the Sicilian hinterland?” If we wanted to answer the question by ourselves, we could say that Ferrarello is not a Mayor. He is a manager who likes both the risk and his village. He shaped and thought of Gangi as a company, and therefore, he combines two basic principles: efficiency and effectiveness. After two mandates, the results are more tangible today than ever before.

On one hand, the enhancement of Gangi architecture and heritage is the symbol of a careful attention to the culture as an economic source and a possible way to attract tourists. On the other hand, culture is also seen as a source of inspiration for the life of the inhabitants. Gangi is the headquarters of five hundred farms and zoo technical companies, producing high quality products and presenting a diverse and easily accessible cultural world.

A decade ago, this heritage was kept quiet and scattered, and there was no link between entrepreneurs or local administration. Heritage protection was the fundamental step to allow the economic and the urban development of this village of about 7000 inhabitants: the Mayor tried to give political importance to culture at first. Even before thinking of the economy of the territory, he tried to instill the importance of having a cultural identity to his citizens. This is only because, by recognizing that we start from a common foundation, we can understand the benefits of internal and business collaborations. It is necessary to go beyond personal interests to promote an internal cohesion, which brings general improvement to the village itself.

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There is great love and a remarkable dedication in the Mayor’s mission of business. On one side, he tries to demonstrate that a collaboration between the public administration and private entrepreneurs is possible. On the other side, he shows that “through culture we feed people”, and this statement contradicts what an ex-minister has declared a while ago, reaching the peak of the cultural Italian decline.  Ferrarello meets with me, even though there are several other meetings in his day.

Municipal hall, 10 p.m.
An absolute availability in answering to my questions and a very communicative attitude. Why? Giuseppe Ferrarello knows something that can be obvious for many people, but which is difficult to observe in this journey through Sicily. He says: “we are sitting on gold; we just have to take advantages from what our fathers left and work on this”. He also knows that every tangible improvement of the bureaucratic public administration stems from good conversational skills and political acts.
“Improvements of the territory are possible, but the citizens themselves will not effectively contribute to them, if they don’t perceive them as necessary. Neither visitors nor tourists will contribute to the enhancement of an historical village: they will not be even informed about the existence of the town itself and its beauties, unless an extremely focused communication is done by using the media and the Net. That is why we are open toward the media.”

One of the most beautiful towns in Italy, indeed, “Italy’s most beautiful village” in 2014, Gangi features cultural relics, from the Neolithic to the domination of the Ventimiglia family first, then Charles V, and the Graffo clan afterwards. Here and there, we can even see Masonic symbols: just have a look to the fresco vault of the Palazzo Bongiorno, in which you can observe both the compass and the eye. Of course, not only Masonic references are to be noticed, but also religious and mystical suggestive myths (as the Capuchin crypt, which has nothing to envy to the one of Palermo or the museum of the mummies of Burgio). Everything is allowed to preserve the infinite wealth of content of this Sicilian village. It is a stronghold of history and culture, and therefore worthy of protection and publicity, like all the places traveled on this tour of the island (and this is not an hyperbolic expression).

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In the old town center of Gangi there are eighteen churches, all requalified during these years by removing the asphalt shingles with the insertion of coat of arms made of stone. The Ferrarello administration tried to let us understand not only the necessity of a cultural and aesthetic relaunch of the village to have economic effects on the territory, but also to let the citizens understand the importance of their involvement in the defense of what is the reflection of their personality and tangible symbol of their cultural identity.

It means that the street cleaning, which is surprisingly constant (my visit lasted four days and aesthetic perfection has been perpetual), is the output of a cultural political awareness of a Mayor who, walking, collects from the ground a handkerchief: self-respect and good example. And like him any citizen: who takes away the glass bottle abandoned on the step, who can clear the white and red curb of the gate because they “bother”. Because here, the village is citizenship, the citizenship is the village: an old concept of politics which too often seems to be forgotten, especially in large cities where everything seems owed to citizens, and the completely disregarding of the urban aesthetics is justified by a “so they do all “. After the comprehension of this step, the virtuous circle of Gangi began. And the media effect helped accordingly.

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The effort that has been made is defined as cultural effort that, needless to say, is medium-to long-term, but as a good entrepreneur of the private world, Ferrarello knows how to be more stable. In the video-interview we understand the mindset of an administration which believed and believes in the cultural relaunch and in culture as a source of essential nutrients for any urban reality.

But how can it be possible to create virtuosity like this, in a hard reality like Sicily is, in the hinterland of the region itself? Nobody believed in a tourism away from the sea: “it’s a mission impossible”, screamed and screamed some people, because everything is rounded by buildings that make the Sicilian population cry, let’s imagine foreign tourists. “What we do as public work is urban redevelopment and equipment to tourism.” If in the 70s and 80s cement was poured, even in Gangi, the Mayor demanded a re-placement of the stones, thereby overcoming the problem of aesthetic inconsistencies.

Inconsistencies also avoid silting, in the course, any cable blocking the beauty of the village. Aesthetic attention but also the accessibility of every type of tourist: the blind one (dedicated to him in braille all the plaques of the monuments in the city), the stranger (audio guides in three languages on GPS devices), the technology (QR codes in museums), the one who travels with his camper for which they were engaged on the appropriate areas, and more.

During these years, four museums have been reconstructed and brought to life and four other museums have been built, each one open and supported by volunteers of the civil service; moreover, also a theatre rose. All accompanied by the constant presence of events, and all sorts of festivals.

In short, a municipality that has worked hard to overcome the infrastructural disadvantages that can’t be directly listed in the local government expenditures. Simple, linear and exemplary in its rhetoric of a politician, Ferrarello, point-blank, administered a village full of awards today but which are not only nomenclatures but rather acts of awareness of the strides taken.

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If the connecting infrastructure are now the fault of Gangi, perhaps the solution is already under way in the network connecting the villages of Madonie, a network of which Ferrarello is one of the supporters: a greater political weight of the same, and when the numbers of tourism speak and will speak in terms of regional competitive advantage, they are certainly a boost to make at least this part of the Sicilian province, united and efficient, ready to welcome tourists and its riches.

The hope is, however, that one day Gangi can be seen as a role model, at least for this part of Sicily, which is already evolved in its own right than a cultural ecosystem very complex as that one of the islands, which unfortunately too often fails to go beyond the political dispute, beyond the parts of the heights of power or of the prides of local factions: they all have the appearance of cultural backwardness that never actually wanted to be deleted.

One Response

  1. Joze

    Hi,

    can you tell me addresse of Capucine crypt (musseum of mummies) in Gangi?

    Thanks and best regards

    Joze, Slovenija

    Reply

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