Castel di Tora is a small commune in central Italy; a village of preserved beauty that has avoided the tendrils of globalised homogeneity. A short distance from the Italian capital of Rome, the village of 270 inhabitants was once difficult to access; with little in the form of ‘sights’, Castel di Tora retains its idyllic and traditional charm.
Built into and upon the hills of the Lazio region of central Italy, Castel di Tora sits above the man-made Lake Turano, whose conception consumed the arable farmland of many of the village’s families. Due to the threat of flooding in the nearby Rieti Valley, as well as the scarcity of coal in Italy during the 1930s, hydroelectric power was seen as a viable alternative, a means to preserve Italy’s access to electricity.
It was this construction, supported by anecdotal evidence, that led to the migration of many local people. With their farmland and income lost, many were left with no choice but to move to find alternative forms of income. The migration of Gianluca Misso’s own family established a rift within his own consciousness. Growing up in Britain, but spending summers in his ancestral home, he wrestles with a dual identity; yearning for connection to his spiritual home but separated from it due to lived experience.
In his series, Gianluca captures the landscape and community that resides within the boundary of Castel di Tora today. His feeling and attachment to the village are evident, with a powerful series of photographs that empowers a forgotten, yet beautiful Roman village.
Below are his own words:
I remember as a child my Grandad would tell me stories about the village and how life used to be, he always reinforced the importance of the land.
He comes from the small medieval village of Castel di Tora, located in the mountains of the Lazio region in Italy, 536 metres above sea level. Castel di Tora, originally Castel Vecchio (Old Castle), was named after the ancient Sabine or Roman city of Thora after the unification of Italy. The ancient city is believed to have been located within the valley nearby.
In the 1930s, Italy’s lack of coal resulted in the construction of a dam to generate hydroelectric power. As a consequence of this, much of the inhabitant's fertile and valuable land was lost. The 75-metre high dam which produces 75 GWh of electricity per year was also created to put an end once and for all to the flooding of the plains of Rieti, the nearby city, a project which the Romans initiated. This caused a great number of people to migrate to nearby cities, and different countries altogether. Those who remain maintained what they could of their previous lives. The scale of farming was significantly reduced and the changing climate influenced how some plants grew. The people struggled and slowly saw their main economy change from that of farming to tourism.
Having not grown up in the village, but spending every summer there since I was born, a deep-rooted fantasy and attraction to the place has been nurtured, whereby I feel a part of the community, or at home. Was the affection the result of my Grandad influencing me with his own loss of connection and the need to reconnect? Or is the land calling me?
This series of photographs, the power of photography, bridges the gap between myself and the village with the possibility of engaging with the present population. Through community engagement and reflecting on stories from the past, ‘Mamma I miss the day’ documents the story of the community of Castel di Tora using different formats and media to simulate a disjointed reality of the village constructed by my own fantasy of idealism, romanticism, belonging and conflict of identity.