we continue our journey through the history and places of Tuscany,
I thought we could make our stop this time in the year 1900.
Tuscany was part of the Kingdom of Italy. It was a kingdom which
had just been unified and was subject to social conflict. The
majority of the population was very poor and tied to its modest
harvests of the countryside. The ruling political class was
strictly interested in large industry which had recently been
brought to Italy from the north. The first industrial workers
probably worked under worse conditions than most farmers at
This is why strikes, demonstrations and take-overs of the factories
were the order of the day pretty much everywhere. In our region,
in the marble quarries of the Apuane Alps (where sculptors and
architects got their magnificent "white marble
of Carrara"), is where this massacring and underpaid work began
that caused the miners to diffuse hymns:
and mottoes of anarchy, equality and liberty.
Zeno Saltini was a young man from Modena in serving
his obligatory military service in a barrack in Florence. He
had a violent encounter with an anarchist friend in the presence
of other soldiers. Saltini was Catholic and anarchy sustained
that Christ and the Church were obstacles to human progress.
Saltini sustained just the opposite… Among the whistles and
booing of the other soldiers, Zeno went aside and decided :"I
will answer them with my life. I will change civilization by
starting with me. For the rest of my life I neither want to
be a servant nor a master." He decided to study law and theology
and finished his studies and became a priest in 1931. Until
World War II he devoted himself to the young cast outs of society
and then in 1948, he gave life to the Nomadelfia.
Just a few kilometres from Grosseto, in the hot and Etruscan
countryside of Tuscany, approximately 20,000 people a year visit
the small community of Nomadelfia. It was founded by Zeno Saltini
in an area that in those times needed to be reworked and that
today is inhabited by about 320 people (50 families). In Nomadelfia
all the goods are community property.
There is no such thing as private property. No money circulates.
It's an expression of a form of direct democracy. Over the years
its population has adopted a Constitution which requires every
new law and decision to be passed by a unanimous vote only.
One becomes a "Nomadelfian" by his own free-will after a three
year trial period. But at any time, one is free to withdraw.
In Nomadelfia everyone works hard. In the offices, labs, schools
and businesses the morning shifts are five hours. In the afternoon
the "specialized" work can be substituted by "mass work" in
which all of the population participates. On the 130 hectares
of land to harvest there are vineyards, olives, and vegetables.
No one is paid or is promoted. Everyone participates in the
workload to provide for himself and his family.
The families of Nomadelfia do not live isolated from each other,
but in groups of four or five dividing a dining room, kitchen,
and a workshop. Only the bedrooms are separate. It is a community
very similar to that of an early Christian one. "The congregation
of those that believed were of one heart, and of one soul; and
not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his
own; but all things were common property to them."
(Acts 4:32). It is a new population, as it loves to be defined,
and is formally recognized by the Italian government as well
as the Catholic Church.
The Church has encouraged this population that lives its own
Christian religion not just as a spiritual community but as
a way of society, economy, and politics. "Not servant or
master", according to the words of Zeno Saltini.
("swampy marsh land": that's how it appeared in the past) is
a vast area in southern Tuscany and is definitely one of its
most fascinating and suggestive areas. We will most likely have
another chance to return to it in the next newsletters. In the
meantime, write down this number: 0564-338-243: in order to
visit Nomadelfia, all you have to do is call its president.