2. Woods


2. Woods

Underwater Tales

The Bormida Valley includes an extensive territory that stretches from the Ligurian Apennines in the hinterland of Savona up to southern Piedmont. These are the places that have given rise to Atlas Bormida: a collection of stories, a choral work of revelation, a space where visions and documents, sound experiences and stories strike sparks off one another.
Necessarily partial and subjective just like any work of fiction, Atlas Bormida does not focus on the best known places, the most popular images, and the official histories. It is consistent with the land where it was born: a complex, polycentric, and contradictory valley. Those who wander through these places and discover other stories will continue this opus.
by Alessandro Sciaraffa
28 audio tracks, recordings of a world
undeclared but real. Experience sound
literally immersive that can be chosen,
turned on and off. To change tracks
click on the sound player in the top right.
Bormida. Alberto Momo, Laura Cantarella and WPA

Excerpts from a (recorded) conversation
with an Officer of the Air Force,
who served for "some" years in Liguria..

Adapted from La base segreta sul Colle del Melogno by Massimiliano Siccardi Rinta_157, 2013

"The area where we are, at the top of **** *********, has been occupied since time immemorial by military personnel and military installations (...)

In the late nineteenth century, work began on the construction of the fortified complex on the hill, which also involved the creation of the ''Engineering Headquarters"; (...) you can see the ruins on the low side of the road that begins to descend from the pass towards Calizzano.

In addition to Fort Central, Fort Tortagna, Fort Merizzo and, of course, *********, the mountaintop was fully exploited: for example, from the entrance of the Fort, you can see a road that descends to a large clearing, for about 150-200 meters, the one we saw before (...)

This is where a deposit was built, excavated at the foot of the mountain, including rooms for the packaging and storage of bullets and various kinds of ammunition to "serve" the different secondary artillery stations, located on the ridge of that clearing; let's just say it was a sort of powder keg, at a safe distance from the operational area ... even at the time (...)

At the entrance, there was a steel door that has long since been torn off (...) the one that you saw on the ground buried in brambles, near the front gallery of this huge "warehouse"; today, it is walled up, but for some years now "someone" has been breaking in there, but we don't know who! (...)

Later on in the '50s, it was decided to build a huge radar, making the most of the strategic position of the hill, but above all, the ancient structures on them from the original project.

Then they built the "mushrooms" entrances to the wells descending to the tunnels (...)

As part of this new complex, these were expanded and reinforced with cast concrete planks; new paths were built; did you see that? one of the two "mushroom entrances", the only function of which is air intake; it's fake (...)

However, such as it had been conceived, the radar was never built: whether because of the technology already present in the ********* (still good enough at that time), or because of the operational "birth" of Pian dei Corsi.
Everything remained there, it was used as small deposit: (...) I remember, however, that it was hard: forest, snow, mud ... it was a problem ... over time, it was not even used any more; then, you know: having become only an important "control point", there wasn't much to be stored.
The American base (Pian dei Corsi): Trucks? Helicopters? Missiles? The doubts are easily explained away: the base was served and supplied entirely by the helicopter that took off from the ship anchored off Finale Ligure (when it was there), and landed on the airstrip that is still there and used even today (...)

The trucks did nothing but bring supplies to the American personnel at ********* (until recently, ********* was physically divided in two by a glass window: on one side, there was our Air Force personnel, and on the other, the US soldiers).

Missiles? Install them in Liguria to hit the enemy at the time, that is, some eastern European country? And how far were you going make them come to get there? Wouldn't it have been better to install them in Friuli or Trentino? (and in fact, there were some...) (...)
Use them to defend themselves? From what? Air strikes all the way up in Liguria? What did we have that was "strategic" for the enemy? Attacks from the sea? From our sea that was being guarded by the Americans and the French? Hardly...
Instead, you know (...) there at the Base ... you'd go there but sometimes (...) look, never mind, anyway it's all over, completely abandoned now...
It was operational ... there was a reason, but so much for that (...)

Now I have to go back, but I'll be pleased when we meet again, ok? ... bye, bye.”

Yes, good-bye, I'll be pleased when we meet again.

As of late, this Officer is no longer with us.

Much Manpower

Walter Orsi (interview transcript)

In an environment like this forest, people had and definitely have their function. First of all, that of efficiently maintaining the plants, therefore pruning them, taking care of them, but then also keeping the spaces fairly large, as you can see in this clearing.
Now we are taking what was really a trail some centuries ago, you can still see traces of some kind of pavement. The same that then continued and arrived at the farms placed higher, up to the edge of the beech forest, and finally to the Settepani mountain, to the Rocca dei Francesi, and to that entire ring of mountains that are 1,200 to almost 1,400 meters high, pretty high considering that, as the crow flies, we are not far from the sea.

Sometimes I think about how many people must have been in the very place where we are. Now it's just us here and no one else, but probably in the same situation, on the same day of the year, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years ago, there might have been fifty or seventy people intent on taking care of the chestnut grove and the fields and procuring what they needed to live on.

It is amazing to think today, when you come here and find a silence that at times is almost ghostly. I imagine a time when there were people's voices, the noise of carts, someone cursing because something had happened, they'd fallen or an animal had eaten something it shouldn't have. Ever so often I find myself lost in this kind of thinking.

These areas were fully populated until the thirties and forties of the twentieth century.
The Second World War brought about great difficulties. Then the industrial development drained all the resources, shifting the interests of the people who lived here to completely different areas. About twenty kilometers from here are the areas of some of the most significant development in those years: just to give a name, which is also linked to many other things, there was the ACNA (National Dye Company) factory, where many of these people worked.
The people who were once farmers became workers, pipe fitters, chemists, surveyors etc..

Therefore, a fundamental function of these areas had disappeared, above all, that of being a source of income, whatever one's income could have been in those years: the territories were abandoned little by little, with a gradual but steady progress.

Structures such as the one that you see in the woods were called sheds or warehouses and were often constructed leaning against a tree, which served as a beam. A rudimentary structure with a simple roof frame was made out of the chestnut wood, and hay and foliage were stored there: they were service structures, like small warehouses, or at least, having the same function.

With the intense phenomenon of urbanization, the lifestyle has also changed. The previous life of poverty and hardship was also perceived as very negative. Meanwhile, as the possibilities and income increased, along came the first household appliances. This world, built over hundreds if not thousands of years, had become almost an anachronism in the space of twenty years, inevitably existing only in the memory of the elderly, of the fathers, with changes that were not easy for them to manage. Everything we see around us required daily care and many arms: but these needs gradually disappeared.

I am a child of that generation which abandoned these places, someone who has remained here and lives here, but worked in some industry somewhere else. Therefore, those who did not experience these territories as a source of income, but as something more that they attempted to maintain efficiently as long as the elderly were still alive, and then which has gradually led to these outcomes.

That generation now lives these things with regret, as memories of their childhood and youth, as a world in which they lived with other rhythms. They are still witness to a way of life that was completely different from the contemporary one. Here life was punctuated by the natural biological clock: when there was no longer any light, life ceased. Perhaps it would begin at 4 am and end at 6 or 7 in the evening, then there were pleasant aspects, there was the custom of the vigils. People talk wistfully about these things, almost wanting to evoke them, and hope that, maybe in a few years, they can also return.

The most authentic witnesses of the past are more than 90 years old, they are all leaving us. The flashes and the traces of life in the past attest to how these places could have once been. In a hundred years, the landscape has changed and it has lost one of its key elements: people, and human action.

The Child and the Molecular Dog, Andrea Botto


Locations, routes and directions

Melogno. Alberto Momo, Laura Cantarella and WPA