I am continuously finding myself more and more fascinated by the neighborhoods in Perugia. Especially knowing the history, incorporating the five different gates and their surrounding areas and the way each distinct place defines itself, I feel the city is filled with vibrant and vastly unique areas. Borgo Bello is a reflection of this, a mix of children and young people and a variety of shops and historical sites, with food and coffee sprinkled throughout. While the neighborhood is cozy and homey, I found the most incredible aspect of exploring this place was definitely the people.
Sitting in the coffee shop listening to a man who has poured his heart into his city, into his place, really made me understand the work that we are doing and it’s importance. Seeing the passion, thought and love that is going into making Borgo Bello a lively and complete place is so inspiring. I can understand why work like this can be both frustrating and beyond rewarding. I was really excited to learn that there is a mission to make Borgo Bello an Alzheimers and Dementia aware area. I think this is a very admirable and complicated goal and hopefully, one that will be adopted by other parts of the city as well. It is dynamic and life-changing ideas like this that really bring the community together and make it an area that can truly make a lasting impact
There is an incredible book by Wangari Maathai called Unbowed that explores her journey fighting for positive environmental and social change in Kenya. She worked on specific projects in smaller communities, usually with small groups and education, helping to begin with growing plants and giving them a basis for how to continue to be environmentally friendly while also being economically intelligent. One thing she really focused on was making local women the forefront of the projects, which was incredibly beneficial to their success. In Kenya, women are not given the same rights as their male counterparts, by bringing them into local projects, it gave them a purpose and a responsibility. This coming together increased confidence, work ethic and also created close and lasting bonds within the community. She is a placemaker, in many different ways and while her goals are a bit different, she is an inspiration and a warrior for people, places, and positive change. One of the best lessons I have learned through her story is that the people who are invested, who love and care and feel responsible for a place, are those who will always try to make it better. I also learned that those people sometimes don’t have the resources to begin, aren’t the obvious choice and may not have the means to join on their own – so reaching out to unlikely or underpriviledged parts of a community can be an incredible way to really make place-making successful and also change the lives of people living in the areas. Of course, this would involve studying the social dynamics of Borgo Bello, but it could be something to dicuss within the class.
Beyond this, while exploring the area, there were also plenty of other ideas I wanted to explore and look into. There were quite a few art studios and shops in the area and it would be cool to maybe ask the local artists to make signs/art/ etc to draw people into the areas, especially the terrace. The Terrace is a really wonderful area, but a juxtaposition between nature-made beauty and human-made beauty would be quite striking. I also wanted to look into the rocks that cover the base of the area. It is the type of perfect spot where I would love to come bring a blanket and have a picnic, a pocket of green in a sea of concrete like lots of Perugia. But I know there is an issue with dogs and dog feces, so maybe that would increase that problem. Regardless, plants of some sort and a consistent flooring would really benefit the place. It is difficult for me to see the scope of projects, especially since I have never taken a class like this, but I am hoping that our class will come up with something really wonderful and exciting for this semester.
Photos of Environmental Activist Wangari Maathai