Every village, every site we have visited so far, has – citing Gernot Bohme – its own Atmosphere. Sometimes it embraces us, sometimes it appears detached, other times instead it makes us feel uncomfortable as if we were intruders breaking a perfect balance, static though dynamic at the same time. This is the feeling perceived coming to Borgo Littorio.
The working-class villages were foremost conceived as headquarters for the occupational activities of those involved in “reclamation and land transformation work, but also in the large hydraulic installation projects, in the construction of a net of ordinary roads and railways that cross depopulated and depraved regions”, thereby resuming the theory by Oreste Bordiga dealing with the issue of internal colonisation.
The research conducted by the Palermo Board of Public Works allowed to date the villages’ foundation projects: so were built Sferro, Filaga, Littorio and Regalmici. While planned for 1927/28 there were the villages of Geraci (EN-CL), La Gabella (CT) and Mussolinia. Followed by Bardara di Lentini, built by will of Pietro Lanza di Trabia, who strongly contributed, among other things, to the establishment of the Consortium for the Reclamation of Lake Lentin, whose reclamation works projects date back as early as 1879.
First interests for the area around Borgo Littorio date back to 4th December 1924, when Ing. Saro Trefiletti on behalf of the company “Imprese Costruzioni Stradali in Sicilia (I.C.S.I.S)”, drafted a road construction project, divided into two sections: a first segment that from Prizzi leads “to the progressive road 13414,50; while the second one lies between the aforesaid progressive and the splice with the Provincial road of Campofelice – Mezzoiuso”. A little less than a year later, on 6th September 1925, Cavalier Leonardo Cipolla Signorino addressed a letter to the Superintendent of Public Works suggesting how he could have been of immense help
The construction of a road section in proximity to the old mule tracks would have favoured workers who “visit the aforementioned estates” so as to activate their exploitation. Moreover, the founding of the agricultural village on the Maiorca plateau, “the best site considering location, healthy climate, richness of spring waters”, would have brought a sure and rapid increase in rural population thanks to the parcelling and emphyteutic lease of latifundium Giardinello, which, until then, had been granted by the Forestry Administration for “a six-year period leasing to private speculators”. The project by Cipolla Signorino would have saved the Board a considerable share for the construction works, thanks to the alternative routes identified by the same landowner and to his willingness to transfer to the State for free “all the land needed for the roads”, “by simple vote, if the village rises, it is to be called with the fateful name of
B O R G O L I T T O R I O”
After an integration to Trefiletti’s project by 21th January 1926 and a further reminder by the same Cipolla Signorino on 6th February 1926, the Department of Public Works included in its plans the construction for the road bypass (today SP82) and the farming village, with vote No. 102 on 10th February. Along the way there were also foreseen two double houses by the railroad tracks, on the progressive road 8.630 and 15.853, that would host “4 road-workers in charge of the maintenance of stretches of about 4.00 km”. A decade later those built up workers’ areas, rising along the roads under construction, would represent the transition from what were the working-class villages into the future to be colonisation villages.
The approval of the construction project for the “Farming Village along the road connecting Prizzi to Campofelice di Fitalia” arrived on 28th December 1926 for an amount of 835.000 Lire, as drawn up by the Palermo Civil Engineering Office under the 1st Lot of Sicilian Road Concessions. The compliance deed between the Board and the Company was signed on 7th January 1927 by the CEO Ing. Mario Beer, imposing the latter “to perform the works committing to agreements, prices and conditions as included in the special terms of contract and to remit to the State Lire 25.000 for the use of the pavilions as workers’ shelter”. The Sicilian Board of Public Works was asked permission to start with the execution of what, with design adaptations by 22nd January 1927, led to “the construction of the farming village ‘Borgo Littorio’, in locality of Piano della Maiorca (Civil Engineering project, 28th December 1926), for a total amount of 5.000.000 Lire. The workers’ complex pavilions construction was assigned to the company I.C.S.I.S (Impresa Costruzione Stradali in Sicilia), that was then commissioned to erect also Borgo Regalmici.
The inauguration of Borgo Littorio dates back to April 1927, hence, prior and propaedeutic to the ‘Colonisation of Latifundia’ project of the 40s. “In essence”, there were already clear intentions of moving farming-life to the countryside. Therefore, on 19th November 1925, the by then Minister of Public Works Giovanni Giuriati mentioned in the Report’s preface on Working-class Villages, that “to renovate public works and ensure their economic success, it is necessary to improve the demographic distribution within the region and to serve the tendency, mostly out of farmers’ own instinct, to decide to live life on their farmland.” The Minister continued with stating that once the workers’ execution projects had ended, there could to be a “passing bridge” and thus create a “twofold social utility” for this type of rural areas.
The eight buildings, once the land improvement works were completed, hosted ten farmer’s families and were provided with public services such as Municipal Delegation, doctor’s office, School, housing for passing in-service Carabinieri and a Church. The eight pavilions at Borgo Littorio followed the instructions of Ministerial Note published on 19th November 1925, in detail resulting to be: four of Type B, two of type D and other two of type E, “subject to minor variations in structure […] due to the special conditions of locally available materials’ provision”.
The urban disposition, as proposed by the Ministry of Public Works and explained by Dagoberto Ortensi, mirrored other coeval villages: a quadrangular central square, embellished by a fountain, where administrative offices would overlook from. From here, dwellings are distributed throughout the main arteries. The buildings of which today is very little left were of single elevation, having sloping roofs and an entrance door at the proximal end. The expenditure, foreseen to convert the shacks into actual homes for the farmers, amounted to 970.000 Lire. In fact, according to Ministry’s intentions, the buildings could be further enlarged through a second floor, so to have two lodgings both equipped with kitchen, bedroom, services and storage room, but only upon completion of the road-construction works. Nevertheless, as Lilianne Dufour points out, the buildings’ regular and symmetric arrangements give the place a notably impersonal look and rather similar to a labour camp than to a “modern living facility”.
According to some documents’ mentioning, the Borgo’s lifetime didn’t last long considering that soon after its establishment several feudal families had requested the assignment of abandoned and precarious pavilions. Moreover, since 1932 the institution in charge of the working-class villages’ management – the Commissariato alle Migrazioni e Colonizzazioni – seemed defying any form of restoration works, stating that “any attempt of […] enhancement” proved useless. This surely was a major setback for the designer Giuriati and the entire Ministry, as attention was paid to the choice of locations that should be applying “the basic requirements for a standard sleeping accommodation, such as the proximity to railway stations, road junctions, roadman’s houses […] and to sites with easy drinking water provision”.
Today only two original constructions remain of Borgo Littorio, while others have been demolished and materials have been reused for the construction of dry stone walls and other restorations interventions. The failure of the operation, which initially reflected the urgent need for land reclamation works, was caused by a lack of consideration regarding the assigned beneficiaries of housing and agricultural land. The hic et nunc was therefore favoured, neglecting any possible future purposes.
From a sound related point of view, it’s the presence of – the Bosco Ficuzza forest absorbing happenings from behind the village, its dominant position overlooking the valleys between Prizzi and Campofelice di Fitalia and the thereupon aperture (marvellous also in terms of visual landscape) – that allows a listening experience that is not hindered by obstacles of any kind, resounding even at considerable distances and making the site characteristic for the role that each sound item has within its acoustic development. In fact, besides the definition of each single envelope, from silence to silence, it is still possible to perceive the sound’s full morphogenesis, as this is an essential element of bio-based listening. Events like birdcall rehearsals are very special and very interesting, turning soloists of a major orchestra and playing alongside the wind, the cars in the background and the sound of the fronds, though this time from a distance (unlike for many other villages where this element was steadily around in close proximity). Each of these events to be perceived as original sound and reflected sound, while enriched by the insight and by the distance to the source.