Ghost Villages (4/5): Incentives for Startups and Businesses to Open or Relocate

Many small industries and service based companies could easily move to more rural locations. Disused buildings and farms are abundant ,so opportunities to reconvert those spaces into office space or disused warehouses into small production centres are plenty.


A friend of mine who is a great believer in local and fair trade production, daydreamed about a Sardinian made clothing brand and at first I dismissed him as even I believed he was way too utopian. After thinking it over, I started to reconsider it as a viable option due to the readily available wool produced from a strong sheep herding tradition and also the ideal climate for the growth of cotton plants. Even if it is a bit utopian, I think it fits in perfectly in this series of articles as some are so utopian that they could be considered borderline science fiction. But why should it be impossible to open this business or any other one in Sardinia?


There is a lot of land, many people are unemployed, the island is independent energetically and located in the heart of the Mediterranean, so any sort of production could easily be shipped anywhere. Tunis for Africa, Valencia for the Iberian peninsular, Nice for France and the rest of continental Europe and Izmir or Istanbul for Turkey and the east.


There are some great stories of entrepreneurial genius and resilience that started big businesses on the island. An example of one in a rural setting is SardEx based in Serramanna. It is now a credit circuit with thousands of businesses which trade €31.3 million and is a business centred around promoting businesses and commerce within the island itself. Another example is telecommunications giant Tiscali, based in Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital, the most technologically advanced broadband company in Italy in the late 90s early 2000s. Tiscali was the biggest provider in Italy of internet services and had branches in several other European countries such as UK, Holland and Czech Republic.


The lack of creativity and energy of younger generations of Sardinians is not the problem as, on the contrary, there are a lot of very good ideas on an ‘entrance level’ . The problem is that it is hard to do anything, as new ideas and entrepreneurship is frowned upon by many locals. It is a sort of innate envy towards fellow islanders which prevents cooperation and working together for common goals. The family tradition is strong and trying to change that is not an easy process. The political situation with the main political actors who currently rule the semi-independent regional governments all being descendants or connected to the old barons who controlled the land on a local level for the last 400 years,maintain the status quo. A personal example? The regional minister for tourism, cousin of a former local Sardinian president  and connected to a big wine producing family business, has not replied to her work emails concerning these matters, in nearly 3 months.

It is not all doom and gloom, the University of Cagliari has started a course called ‘Contamination lab’ which is a place in which young university students from different study backgrounds get given the opportunity of growing professionally and learning new skills such as how to develop an entrepreneurial idea,  pitching it, finding funding (from private investors, foundations and public grants) .

These start ups could choose a location in a remote area if there were good transport connections and the technological basis of having fast broadband. After all buying housing and office space is really cheap, food is of very good quality and of local production and the community atmosphere within the villages is very strong. If you add the beautiful nature surrounding them and the strong traditions and identity which these remote communities preserve it would be a great place to work and grow a family.

If you wish to read more ideas on how to solve the ever increasing phenomena problem of ‘Ghost Villages’ in Sardinia check out the start page.

External Link:

More information on Contamination Lab (available in Italian and English) can be found on their official website.

Ghost Villages in Sardinia (2/5): Transport Connections

This part of the series on ideas to counter the increasing ‘Ghost Village’ phenomenon in many rural areas in central Sardinia, is dedicated to transport connections. As you might have figured out from many other posts on this website such as #BusNotturniCagliari campaign, I am a massive believer in public transport. For me this is the most fundamental part in countering this phenomenon and also making the roads safer and less clogged up with traffic and hence this is the longest post in this series. 
When talking about small communities the importance of good transport connections is vital. This can be the ‘make it or break it’ factor when choosing whether to stay or leave the village you grew up in. Whilst in the past the communities rarely needed to move much,now times have changed and so there is the need and wish to be in contact with the rest of the world. 
Whether to go to school, work, see a doctor or to hang out in the cool bar in the neighbouring village, it is important to provide safe roads and reliable, frequent and affordable public transport connections. 
Sardinia has two railway systems: Trenitalia and Ferrovie della Sardegna. Trenitalia is owned by the Italian state whilst Ferrovie della Sardegna is owned by the Sardinian regional authority which also is the owner of ARST, the biggest bus company on the island. The problem is that amongst the many illogical things on the island, there is no cooperation whatsoever between the two transport systems which are still ultimately subsidised by the Sardinian tax payer.
What is my idea?
The network
Well, first of all Trenitalia should run frequent express services between the big cities with very few intermediate stops. Simutaneously there should also be local ‘slow trains’ that run between the two larger stations where the express train stops,connecting those two centres to all the minor communities by stopping at every station.
Ferrovie della Sardegna should also do a similar operation and this must come with a modernisation of its fleet which is still mostly based on the ‘Litorina’ model, originally introduced under Mussolini’s regime with the most recent up-dates in 1970s/80s to most parts of the network. These modern trains with air conditioning, step free access, wifi could also potentially reach higher speeds than the current average of 50 Km/h. Most of these routes are only used in Summer for tourism purposes as the single track route offers beautiful views over the undiscovered inland heart of Sardinia. The modernisation of the fleet would also require a certain amount of maintenance to the tracks and stations adding, for example, information screens with train timetables and ticket machines (possibly available in several languages). Same as Trenitalia, there should be local trains and longer distance ones.
As most of the island ,however,is not connected by the railway network there needs to be a good bus service to integrate with the railway connections ensuring the bus arrives at the station a few minutes before the arrival of the train,and also leaving a few minutes after it departs in order to take the railway passengers onto their final destination with minimal delay. The bus fleet is modern yet really uncomfortable, has no wifi, no card readers to sell tickets onboard and very few cater for handicapped people. As if this wasn’t bad enough the buses are also large which makes it really hard for them to be driven up narrow and winding mountain or coastal roads which characterise more than 80% of the country roads in Sardinia.
To sell the entire fleet and invest in a new one is a must in my view. The waste of public money for these very good looking and modern luxury* buses seen from the outside is sickening (* ‘luxury’ by definition as they all have an espresso machine incorporated on board which has never have been used but is there just to tick the box in order to comply with the definition, this is how low Sardinian politics can get). The new buses beyond being modern (card reader, air conditioning, comfortable seating and Wifi) together with a step free access should be of two types: long and short distance. The long distance ones, which should be used only in areas that are not covered by the railway network, should have a greater capacity maybe even double deckers to maximise the number of people that can be transported by one driver, hence controlling the price of the individual ticket. These buses should run an express service, similar to the one previously mentioned for trains. The local buses should be smaller or even perhaps mini-vans which can move with fewer difficulties, more engine power and faster along the winding roads compared to the current large buses (which in most cases travel half empty). These buses would pick up passengers even from non designated bus stops like a sort of taxi service along the route and do the same for dropping people off. The local drivers, with good road knowledge of the area covered, could even offer to make small detours to accompany people to their door which could be really good for people with reduced mobility and the elderly. This sort of bus system is very popular in Eastern Europe. 
Finally it is important that the bus system must be perfectly integrated with both railway systems. This means an efficient website in several languages where tickets can be purchased online from A to B which would include local buses, trains, coaches and if necessary ferries to the smaller islands. These combined tickets should also be available for purchase via an App and in newsagents, tobacconists and supermarkets across the island. The option to buy tickets on board with a surcharge should also always be guaranteed. 
Offering free travel to all the residents of these communities over the age of 65, handicapped people, children under 16 and reduced fares for students would encourage a more proficient use of these transport networks. 
Throughout this post I have stressed the availability of free wifi but offering this service (when technically possible) would allow businessmen and students to work whilst commuting and other passengers to enjoy entertainment whilst being driven from their rural community to the bigger centres.
This may be a utopian dream but as Walt Disney said ‘all of our dreams can come true – if you have the courage to pursue them’.

Ghost Villages in Sardinia (1/5): Education

As a guy from the village of Ales, in central Sardinia, once said: ‘Studiate, perché avremo bisogno di tutta la vostra intelligenza’ / ‘Everyone should study, as we will soon be in need of all of your intelligence’ (Antonio Gramsci). Learning English properly is the key, not only in order to offer good tourist services, but also for personal enrichment to be able to make the most of opportunities that extend beyond the village and can reach the far corners of the world.

Starting from nursery schools, the English language must, in my view, be taught at all levels of schooling, ideally reaching a good enough level in high school to be able to study all` sciences 100% in English as opposed to Italian. This may seem to some as extreme globalisation, but on the contrary, having a solid basis in English would allow future university students to be able to choose to study in whichever university worldwide and also enable them to take part in global debates from their laptops and smartphones thanks to blogs, forums and social media platforms. Also, from a ‘Sardinian identity’ prospective, if English is the language spoken at school, the family could speak Sardinian at home without running the risk that their children would mix Sardinian and Italian which can be quite similar and which leads Sardinian pupils to make many grammar mistakes when writing in Italian.

If many more Sardinian youngsters were fluent in English, even university courses organised by the University of Cagliari or Sassari, the two universitie on the island, could be held in English, potentially by professors from other countries, thereby making the educational offer more interesting. Also, having courses taught in English would enable non-Italian speakers to be able to study in Sardinia, both as part of exchange programmes, but also for entire degree courses which in turn would be a great source of income for the universities and the entire island economy. Imagine if there were good courses in architecture taught in English, an English or American student who is used to paying over €10.000 / €20.000 for one year of tuition fees would pay a maximum of €3000 and would also have cheaper living costs. Not to mention the fact that the foreign students would love to have the chance of going to the beach when not in lectures and eating authentic pizzas and drinking Italian wine yet at the same time they would share with the locals part of their own traditions and culture which would benefit the island.

Distance learning courses could also be offered by the universities in Sardinia so that young people in the villages would not have to make a choice as to whether to study or continue their family business; they could do both. The knowledge given them through studying at university would empower them to improve and modernise their business in order for it ,not only to survive,but flourish in the modern world. This should not be too difficult to implement nowadays, as most articles and literature are available in PDF; the lectures could be streamed via video link and assignments uploaded to a student portal. The student would only need to go to the university to take exams and for certain seminars or events, but could still live and work in the inland village.


The Problem of the ‘Ghost Villages’ in Sardinia

In September there will be a one week course held in a rural community in the centre of Sardinia in which there will be lectures and discussions on the ever increasing problematic of ‘desertification’ of inland remote villages. As part of the application process the organisers asked me to write about what pushed me to sign up for the course and my answer was: will to learn and contribute to the discussion to find good ideas which could be, one day, put into practice.

The problem lies in the fact that communities are getting torn apart from the high levels of unemployment, lack of opportunities and future for the fact that many young people are leaving the villages to move to bigger cities in the island or go to the mainland or in other parts of Europe or the world. If one looks at the number of people who identify themselves as Sardinian I would guess almost half of them are not living in Sardinia. There has been a massive diaspora not due to war or persecution but due to another deadly factor: hunger. This does not merely mean hunger as in food deprivation as our land is fertile and we can be self-sufficient in terms of food production it is mainly hunger for opportunities, not living on the bread line and also getting in contact with the world which is portrayed via the internet and television. This phenomena is not necessarily a bad thing but there is the need, for the sake of preserving part of our identity, to strengthen these rural communities. Question is, how?

I think what is needed is a 5 step plan:

  1. Education
  2. Transport network improvements
  3. Technological improvements
  4. Incentives for start ups and businesses to open or relocate to one of the communities
  5. Better localised social and medical services for the population, especially the elderly.

Details of this plan will be further explained in the linked numbers or articles. Click on one of the five titles to read more about the specific idea to fight desertification of rural communities. If you like share the idea or drop a comment, having a debate and exchanging ideas in the hope that some concrete action takes place in order to reduce or maybe even reverse this phenomena.

Alitalia, 70 Anni di Storia tutta Italiana


Proprio come l’Italia, la Compagnia Aerea Italiana (Alitalia) tende ad avere un ricordo romantizzato del passato come i poeti neoclassicisti del 1800 o gli scellerati che acclamano che si stava bene in Italia nel periodo del fascio perché “quando c’era lui i treni passavano in orario”.


Bello vedere il cambio di divise degli assistenti di volo negli anni ma il regista si è dimenticato di citare qualche importante avvenimento nel corso della storia della ex compagnia di bandiera. Cerco di porre rimedio:

  • 1996 Prodi cede parte delle quote pubbliche alla borsa
  • 2006 Prodi tenta di privatizzare il resto della compagnia, buone trattative in corso col gruppo Air France – KLM
  • 2008 Air France – KLM si ritirano dalle trattative per via della quasi certa vittoria di Berlusconi alle elezioni che voleva ‘mantenere Italiana la ex compagnia di bandiera’.
  • 2008 Alitalia fallisce, il governo divide l’azienda in ‘good’ e ‘bad’ company. La ‘bad company’ se la tiene lo Stato (debituccio per lo Stato Italiano di 2 miliardi di euro). La ‘good company’ viene venduta a degli investitori Italiani che comprano un’azienda con ottimo personale, una nuova flotta e un marchio con reputazione internazionale non indifferente. – 8000 dipendenti Alitalia in meno, cassa integrazione pagata dallo Stato Italiano.
  • 2009 altri 2400 esuberi e tagli di stipendio del 20%. Mi meraviglia il fatto che una cordata di imprenditori Italiani di successo non riescano a far andare avanti una grande azienda essenziale per collegare un Paese abbastanza esteso geograficamente con una popolazione di 60 milioni abitanti con legami internazionali e intercontinentali non indifferenti (dovuti a generazioni di emigrazione nota come la ‘diaspora Italiana’ che tuttora continua).
  • 2014 Nuovamente lo Stato Italiano interviene per salvare l’azienda con l’acquisto di azioni Alitalia da parte di Poste Italiane (spa a capitale pubblico). Questo permette le condizioni necessarie per concludere la vendita di 49% delle azioni al gruppo Ethiad (nel 2008 molti sostenevano Berlusconi che non voleva un favorevole affare con Francesi e ora firmano un accordo con Emiri). Ulteriori tagli al personale.
  • 2017 Alitalia festeggia 70 anni di attività commerciale con un’ottima campagna marketing ed uno sconto del 25% per tutti i voli prenotati in questo periodo per volare su tratte in Italia entro Giugno. I vertici Alitalia sicuramente sono fortemente influenzati dal movimento indipendentista Sardo quindi questo sconto non viene applicato sui voli ‘nazionali’ da e per la Sardegna.


Tutta questa pagliacciata marketing per cercare di velare le grosse difficoltà finanziarie dell’azienda che, secondo una stima Reuters, sta perdendo mezzo milione di Euro al giorno. Nonostante 70 anni di aiuti dato dallo Stato Italiano continuano a non riuscire a decollare.

A questo punto qualcuno si potrebbe chiedere come tutto questo sia possibile, anche io me lo chiedo ma risposte non ne ho. Non voglio fare il ‘Capitan Ovvio’ della situazione ma sicuramente sono state fatte una serie di scelte scellerate nel corso degli anni da diverse persone dell’élite politica politica e del mondo finanziario. Il tutto sembra quasi indicare un intento volere a far fallire questa azienda. Io non voglio credere a queste teorie complottistiche ma ugualmente non mi sento in posizione di dare dell’incapace a onorevoli membri della politica Italiana e imprenditori di successo che hanno fatto carriera meravigliosa grazie al loro ingegno e alle loro capacità gestionali.



Massimo rispetto e solidarietà per il personale Alitalia, vittime di incertezze continue sul loro futuro lavorativo per via del crudele volere degli dei, che indubbiamente sono i soli responsabili della situazione attuale. Un’azienda Italiana con ottime potenzialità globali punita da anni dal volere degli dei.


Fonti date e dati  > Ansa:

Reuters (video – English):

25 Aprile: Lettera a gli Studenti Italiani di Uppsala

[English below]
Carissimi soci,
Oggi l’Italia festeggia la ‘Festa di Liberazione’. Un giorno importante per la storia di un giovane Paese con antiche origini, che per via di alcuni scellerati e una forte propaganda, ha deviato il corso centenario di evoluzione di pensieri e filosofie che hanno portato alla fondazione deil nostro Stato nel 1861. L’Italia, oggi, di costituzione è antifascista. L’apologia al fascismo è reato sansionabile per legge e noi come organizzazione studentesca Italiana siamo in linea con questi principi di uguaglianza, anti discriminazione e inclusione.
Se non ti ritrovi in questi principi generali alla base della nostra Costituzione Repubblicana, forse questa associazione non fa per te.
Di sotto ho pubblicato un link a ‘Bella Ciao’, canto antifascista, non comunista come alcuni erroneamente credono. Un canto dei Partigiani, famoso in tutto il mondo, dedicato a coloro che hanno lottato col sangue per creare l’Italia che conosciamo oggi: libera, democratica e antifascista.
Buon festeggiamento a tutti e spero di vedere molti di voi studenti Uppsaliensi stasera al nostro ‘Pub Crawl di Liberazionel’ in cui festeggieremo questo giorno importante nel modo migliore che conosciamo.
Calorosi Saluti,
Alexander Maxia
Studenti Italiani Università di Uppsala
Dear Members,
Today Italy celebrates ‘Festa di Liberazione’ (liberation party). It is a really important day for the history of a young country with ancient origins, which due to the actions of few idiots and a strong propaganda, stopped the century long history of progression of philosophical thoughts and ideologies which were at the basis of the foundation of our State in 1861. Italy today, is antifascist by constitutional law. Supporting fascism is a crime punishable by law and we as an Italian student organisation, are in line with these principles of equality, anti-discrimination and inclusion.
If you feel that these principles do not belong to you, maybe this organisation is not for you.
I have published below a link to ‘Bella Ciao’, an antifascist song, not communist as some may mistakenly believe. It is a song of the Partisans, famous around the world, dedicated to those who sacrificed their lives to create Italy as we know it today: free, democratic and antifascist.
Wish you all to enjoy the celebrations and hope to see many of you Uppsala students at our ‘Liberation Pub crawl’ event tonight in which we will mark this important day celebrating the way we know best.
Best regards,
Alexander Maxia
Italian Students of Uppsala University
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Lettera ai Brotzini – 12 Aprile ’17

Uppsala, 12 Aprile 2017
Carissimi Brotzini,
Sono un fantasma che scrive dall’oltre maturità, un mondo strano senza assemblee d’istituto, ricreazioni e note nel registro. Un mondo diverso da quello che state vivendo ora, ma al quale, tra qualche mese o qualche anno, che vi piaccia o meno anche voi ci arriverete..
Parlerò dei miei giorni al Liceo, di un amico in particolare e di tanti altri amici e compagni che insieme a me hanno cercato di fare qualcosa per lui, anche se non ha avuto modo di poterci ringraziare.
Nell’anno scolastico 2010/2011 ero rappresentante degli studenti nella Consulta provinciale e rappresentante d’istituto nel nostro Liceo; un anno veramente bellissimo in cui si sono discusse molte idee: alcune sono andate in porto altre sono state bocciate.
Nel corso del mio anno da rappresentante d’istituto e alla consulta provinciale mi sono battuto tantissimo per un progetto a cui ho creduto molto e in cui tuttora credo pur non potendo fare molto a riguardo trovandomi a più di 1000 Km a nord di Pitz’e Serra in una città universitaria poco più a nord di Stoccolma.
Si parla del progetto di sicurezza stradale ‘Vivo Sicuro’.
Un’idea nata da noi ragazzi e destinata ad altri ragazzi della nostra scuola e di tutta la provincia. Il motivo? Come molti di voi sapranno o avranno notato, davanti alla scuola c’è un murales con tante scritte (sensate per una volta non le solite ‘More ti amo 6 il mio mondo 4ever’ etc.) e fotografie dedicate a Leo.
leo_iconLeonardo Secci era un ragazzino della mia stessa sezione allo scientifico, un anno più piccolo, che conoscevo personalmente e che conoscevano in molti per via della sua vivace personalità e del suo carattere molto socievole.
Verso le 9 e mezza del 12 Aprile 2010 rimase vittima di un incidente stradale, davanti ai cancelli della nostra scuola e nonostante l’arrivo immediato dei soccorsi non ci fu nulla da fare. Fu per noi un triste e cupo momento della nostra vita e molte persone della mia generazione di Brotzini sono rimasti scioccati dall’avvenuto.
Dopo tutto a 16-17 anni ci si crede invincibili, le malattie e la vecchiaia sono lontane, chi ci può toccare?!
Per questo motivo, insieme con gli altri rappresentanti e con l’aiuto di tante persone, da studenti a professori, al preside stesso e al resto del personale scolastico ci siamo uniti per creare un qualcosa per ricordare Leo e per fare si che tutti i nostri coetanei ragazzi pensino all’importanza della sicurezza stradale.
Quelle macchie di rosso scuro sull’asfalto sono rimaste per molte settimane e quelle immagini rimarranno per sempre nella mente della mia generazione di liceali Quartesi.
Mi rendo conto che per chi non era presente al liceo quel 12 Aprile del 2010 e non ha conosciuto Leo di persona possa essere difficile vedere l’importanza, a sette anni di distanza, di questo progetto da noi avviato con tanto impegno e fatica.
Leo purtroppo non è stata l’ultima vittima di un incidente stradale. Da allora hanno perso la vita sulla strada, tra le persone che conosco, due coetanei ed un amico di famiglia, padre di un carissimo amico.
Vi invito fortemente a riflettere su questo e se avete la possibilità di parlarne con amici e compagni perché solo voi potete rianimare questo progetto e portarlo avanti per le generazioni future.
Oltre all’aspetto sociale, connesso con il ‘fare un’opera di bene’, il coinvolgimento in un simile progetto vi permetterebbe di acquisire importanti competenze, utili in un futuro mondo del lavoro, sia come esperienze da inserire in un CV, che come acquisizione di competenze dovute proprio al lavoro che la progettazione e l’esecuzione di un progetto come ‘Vivo Sicuro’ comporta.
Quando ho fatto domanda per studiare all’università di Manchester e, successivamente, per fare la specialistica qua ad Uppsala, ho sempre citato la mia esperienza come parte del comitato organizzativo del progetto. Dopo tutto, se la scelta é tra prendere “8 e mezzo” senza avere esperienze extra oppure un “7 meno meno” col bagaglio di esperienze maturate in un anno di lavoro (marketing, pubbliche relazioni, capacità di parlare al microfono davanti a centinaia di persone, gestione della stampa etc.) l’Università o l’eventuale datore di lavoro favoriscono indubbiamente un curriculum più ricco, soprattutto se lavorando per una nobile causa. Detto questo, pur avendo dedicato tantissimo del mio tempo a questo progetto, unitamente ad altri impegni (rappresentante d’istituto, consulta provinciale, volontario al 118 etc.) sono comunque riuscito a maturarmi con 100.
Se siete interessati vi invito fortemente a contattare il Prof. Luigi Piras, una persona molto in gamba che dal primo consiglio d’istituto nell’Ottobre del 2010 ha sempre creduto e fortemente sostenuto questo progetto nel corso degli anni. Chiedete di lui a scuola o scrivetegli una mail: oppure potete mandarli un messaggio via WhatsApp al numero: 327 54 03 302.
Vi ringrazio per la vostra paziente attenzione.
Calorosi Saluti,


4 Years of Blogging 

On the 8th of February 2013, barely 1 month into my Erasmus exchange study program, I published my first article in ‘Lost in a Cup’. The title was ‘Sweden at Heathrow‘ and talked about my first contact with Sweden on the tarmac of the busiest airport in the UK.

Since then I wrote other 84 articles and published 40 odd pages through the years although most of my work was written in the first half of 2013 during my exchange.
If you want to read more about the choice of title for this website/blog and its chosen content check out the About page.
If instead you want to find out more about me, the writer, check out the Biography page.
Plans for the future are to keep analysing Swedish society and student life as I’m now once again in Uppsala to study although things have changed a lot since 2013. This time I believe I have more direct contact with Swedish people as opposed to last time in which I hanged out mainly with internationals. Also I am now an ‘ämbetsman’ (officer/elected worker) of 2 student nations here which are at polar opposites in the ideals they have and way they function (lots of interesting material, hurra!).
As always keep comments flying in either publicly or in a private message (check out ‘Get in touch’).
Last but not least give a Like to the Facebook page which if you enjoy this so that you will get the latest publications on your newsfeed:
Stay lost and drink espresso!
P.S. Are you in Uppsala this evening and want to celebrate with me 4 years of blogging? Plan is to have a few beverages at my place, some tea and a good cup of Italian espresso and then off to the student club ‘Valvet’ at Östgöta Nation. Fun times all around!