Nortosce: the Italian city the place simply two individuals stay, however put on masks
(CNN) – They’re the only residents of a tiny Italian hamlet, but these older retirees don’t take any chances when it comes to complying with the country’s strict Covid-19 rules.
Giovanni Carilli and Giampiero Nobili wear masks every time they meet and insist on standing a meter apart, despite having no neighbors and rarely leaving the remote town of Nortosce.
Nortosce is located in the popular tourist province of Perugia in Umbria above a rocky gorge in the Nerina Valley at an altitude of 900 meters, which makes it extremely difficult to reach.
Despite their remote location, neither Carilli (82) nor Nobili (74) feel protected from the virus that killed almost 37,000 people in Italy.
“I’m scared to death of the virus,” Carilli told CNN Travel. “If I get sick, I’ll be alone, who would take care of me?
“I’m old, but I want to live here and take care of my sheep, vines, beehives and orchards. Hunting truffles and mushrooms. I enjoy my life.”
“A question of principle”
Giovanni Carilli and Giampiero Nobili are the only inhabitants of Nortosce.
While local police are handing out fines of between 400 and 1,000 euros (about $ 470 and $ 1,170) to those who refuse to wear masks in some of the country’s crowded cities, face covering is a sacred rule for Carilli and Nobili.
Nobili believes it would be disrespectful for either of them to ignore the stringent measures taken during the pandemic, despite their rather extraordinary circumstances.
“Wearing a mask and respecting social distancing isn’t just for health reasons,” he says.
“It’s not ‘bad’ or ‘good’. If there are rules, you have to obey them for yourself and other people’s sakes. It’s a matter of principle.”
When the two meet for an espresso at Carilli’s, they sit at a two-meter-long table, one at each end.
They also take care to maintain social distance during their regular walks to an ancient Roman stone well to collect fresh spring water.
Carilli was born in the village but spent much of his life making sausages in Rome before moving back to his parents’ house after retiring.
Nobili, Carilli’s brother-in-law’s brother, also decided to live here in his twilight years.
However, he still makes artisanal jewelry and explains that the abundance of nature in the city surrounded by beautiful forests inspires his art.
With many former residents fling to Rome and other cities to find work after a series of earthquakes in Italy in the late 1990s, Carilli and Nobili have the city to themselves most of the time.
Aside from each other, her only other companions are Carillis Truffle Dog and the five sheep he keeps in his backyard – though they still occasionally hang out with a family outside of the hamlet.
The only other companions of the couple are Carilli’s five sheep and his truffle dog.
Nortosce is connected to the mainland by a single picturesque road with hairpin bends and no guardrail and offers a breathtaking view over the wild Sibillini Mountains, in which pilgrims and travelers once passed.
“This road ends right here, so no one comes unless you go straight to Nortosce,” says Carilli, who often goes truffle hunting with his beloved dog.
“Especially in summer, when families return to their ancestral home, there is a certain social hustle and bustle. So many people have fled in the past because of several terrible earthquakes.”
Tucked away in the hills, Nortosce is ideally located for visiting the nearby regions of Abruzzo and Marche, in particular the ancient Roman city of Ascoli Piceno.
The village dates back to the Middle Ages and legend has it that its first settler was a farmer from the nearby town of Rocchetta who planted a walnut tree in an orchard.
The name Nortosce is derived from a combination of the words “nut” and “orchard” in the old local dialect.
Carilli has fond memories of watching harvest festivals in the small piazza in front of his house, where the villagers brought cows to stamp on the grain to clean it.
He also remembers his mother and her friends who went for a walk with ceramic pots on their heads to collect the refreshing spring water that gushes from old troughs.
The town’s narrow winding streets and arched corridors lead to an old church with a breathtaking viewpoint, as well as the ruins of the oldest part of the hamlet, which is covered in lush vegetation and where a number of new houses have since been built.
While the old Nortosce Castle fell to the ground years ago, a cluster of pastel-colored houses in red, pink, green, orange and cream with brightly painted windows and medieval sloping walls remained – although they were partially new after the last great quake in the city were designed in the 1970s. The cobblestones are also remarkably well preserved.
The numerous dilapidated stone barns and stables with thick medieval wooden doors and metal bolts offer a glimpse into rural life in the past.
Meanwhile, former donkey tracks, now obscured by trees, meander down a hill where an old railroad used to run, while abandoned RVs once slated for post-earthquake relief cover the manicured gardens.
Nobili, seen outside his home, says he loves the simplicity of living in the abandoned city.
With no bars, hotels, restaurants, or even a mini market here, the duo have to get by on the essentials and occasionally visit nearby towns if necessary.
“We lead a very simple life: we only have fresh, oxygen-rich air, peace, quiet and healthy mountain water to offer,” says Carilli.
“This is our salvation. Whenever I have to go to a big city, I feel sick, I hate the noise.”
With forests of oak, hornbeam, chestnut and pine next to fields of wild berries, truffles, wild asparagus and mushrooms with grazing goats, the landscape of Nortosce is fascinating.
But winters are harsh and seclusion can be difficult for residents.
The city currently has several renovated rural apartments for sale. In fact, one recently sold for € 20,000.
However, Nobili emphasizes that those planning to move here should prepare for a major lifestyle adjustment.
“The lifestyle is comfortable, but you have to adapt,” he says. “There is no shop, no pharmacy, no doctor.
“Every time you need to buy bread or get a prescription for pills, you have to go to the nearby town of Borgo Cerreto.”
The town has a creepy atmosphere too, with wild boars and wolves chasing the area and the occasional killing of sheep.
Years ago, elderly residents told stories of witches hiding in the white granite caves and stealing horses at midnight to go wild – villagers would apparently spot the animals sweating the next morning.
Although he admits that Nortosce is not for everyone, Carilli wouldn’t trade his life for anything and loves to live in such a unique place that allows him to be close to nature.
His small vineyard produces a few bottles of wine that he enjoys with plates of gnocchi and twisted handmade Strangozzi noodles with lamb ragout.
“In winter it snows and it’s very cold,” he adds. “But we are used to it and the day goes by very quickly.
“In the morning I am with the animals. In the afternoon I put myself at home and light a huge crackling fire. I stay locked in the cozy warmth until the next day.”