Valentina Carbone, 32, opted for the rhythm of Val Trebbia where she opened a shop, called La Bottega delle Marmotte, four years ago. She sells shoes, books and gift items in the center of Ottone. We asked her to tell us about the reasons behind her choice and what she thinks of the future of Val Trebbia.
Valentina, how did you end up in Val Trebbia or, if you are native of these places, could you explain where you grew up and if your family was also originally from the same area?
I am a native of Val Trebbia, I was born in Bobbio and grew up in Ottone. My father came from Tartago, a village belonging to Ottone, and my mother was from Parma.
Did you ever live in a city?
I lived in Genoa while I attended university and in Milan for about six months, to be with my boyfriend.
When did you decide you wanted to live in val Trebbia and what were the reasons behind your choice?
I made this decision while I was living in Milan. Back then I was enrolled in a labour policy course: the more I was faced with managers who tried their best to look self assured,the more I realised that I wanted to go back to my mountains. Later on, I tried to look at my future and I saw I would be happier here, in the nature, with no traffic stressing me out and surrounded by people I know, whom I can greet when I meet in the streets. I also tried to think about which kind of environment would be the best for my children, shall I have any in the future, to grow up: I chose the contact with nature, the freedom of playing outdoor and a certain type of mentality rooted in that of our ancestors, I preferred all of this over the comfort of being able to choose among a big variety of schools and the many stimuli big cities can offer.
My children will have all the time in the world to find out for themselves what opportunities a city can offer.Furthermore, my husband often had to spend one and a half hour stuck in traffic on the ring road to reach his workplace. it did not make sense at all for me, used to just cross the road to go to work, to waste so many hours of my life that way.
Let’s talk about your shop in Ottone: why did you decide to open this particular kind of shop?
I thought I would like to have this kind of shop because I wanted to offer something new. I started with shoes and books first because nobody else was selling them in Ottone, and then I added the gift section in order to create an environment that could stimulate curiosity.
What was the reaction of the local population to your initiative like?
I think it was good and I want to thank everyone for all the support. Unfortunately, I am aware of the fact that I do not advertise myself enough, many people still don’t know that I sell shoes for example!
It is natural to think that life in the valley is very different in summer if compared to the winter season. Do you consider it difficult to live in Val Trebbia in winter from a personal and professional perspective?
Those who want to live here must be prepared to cope with a lot of snow and ice and a minimal human presence. I personally believe that the winter landscape in the valley is wonderful and I love snow, of course the work in the shop is not very intense in winter but I like knowing that the few people who live here, apart from being able to buy a pair of Moon Boots, can see one more light shining through the window of my shop in the center. If you want to come and live here you must love the buzz of summer days caused by people who spend their holidays in the villages, but also the deep silence of the winter. Seasons compensate each other….
Do you think shop owners could play an important role in the promotion of the valley?
I would love if we could rediscover the handicraft professions of the past. I would like it if more young people who have enough of life in the city could start a small business here. I said “small” because the smaller it is, the more original and spontaneous it would be. I would like to see more cattle in the valley and be able to buy fresh milk and food directly produced in the area, without being obliged to buy products whose origin I have no clue about. I would like to see the valley taking this path and I think it could become a further reason to attract tourists who are looking for good and healthy things. It would only take a piece of land, a big motivation to create something and a lot of patience towards bureaucracy.
Think of a young person who is considering starting a business in Val Trebbia: what would be a strong and a weak point about this choice?
Everyone knows how much they belong to the valley, so what I consider a quality would probably be seen by others as a fault. There are no schemes here, no times, everyone must understand their own priorities.
How do you see the future of the valley? Through rose colored glasses or in dark shade?
I am here because I believed in my choice. I cannot say what the future will be like but we will definitely do everything to make it bright. Everyone says that there was more people here 50 years ago but we can already notice an inversion to this trend with the arrival of many people from Eastern Europe. Our schools are open thanks to their presence and cultural integration and intermingling of people in a village this small is a sign that Ottone can offer a lot. The Internet too is helping us to erase the distance with the many stimuli which we would otherwise be forced to look for in big cities.
Facebook page: La bottega delle marmotte
Interview and translation: Claudia Costa