Succiso is a small village in Reggio Emilia, a short distance from Lunigiana and fewer than 15 kilometres from Lagostrello in the Parco Nazionale dell’Appennino Tosco Emiliano. Like many such villages, Succiso has suffered from depopulation following the two world wars. Once a thriving community of over 1,000 people (and 4,000 sheep), by 1990 most of its inhabitants had emigrated or moved to the cities. The village’s bar, shop and school were a distant memory.
It was in 1991 that nine volunteers got together and decided to do something about it. They formed a cooperative, Valle dei Cavalieri. While still working at their permanent jobs, they opened a bar, then a mini market. In 1994, they opened a restaurant, which has an excellent reputation for using and promoting the best local produce. In 1998 the cooperative started producing pecorino (of DOP standard) and ricotta cheese. Today, over 60 tons of cheese is produced each year. In 2003, the farm started offering accommodation. The latest venture is a wellness centre.
Photo courtesy of Valle dei Cavalieri
The cooperative has taken advantage of its mountain location to support a whole range of outdoor activities. It hosts a visitor centre for the national park, a conference room provides a venue for educational activities, and it works with the organisation, Altri Passi, which ensures environmental guides and instructors are on hand to provide support. Activities include hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, Nordic walking and snowshoe excursions. The village has its own stables, as well as mountain bikes, cross-country skis, snowshoes and Nordic walking gear for hire. Changing facilities and sports lockers are available.
Today, Succiso has a population of around 65 people, seven of whom are now full-time employees of the cooperative. In addition, there are roughly 33 volunteers who, in addition to their permanent jobs, have a variety of roles in the cooperative. For example, the driver of the school bus is also the pizza chef in the restaurant. In addition, he collects supplies for the local shop and medicines from the pharmacy 20 kilometres away. The cooperative is considered to be so successful that several academic organisations, including one from Japan, have taken a close look at it in the hope of replicating its model in other small communities.
Most recently, the restaurant came ninth out of 23 restaurants in the national park’s latest annual Menu a Km Zero competition. It also received a special award for making the best use of its local environment and produce to encourage tourism.
Succiso, the village that refuses to die appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 21 August 2015.