Dear President Rossi,
It is with a sense of bitterness that we farmers of Montalcino read the picture of our territory that emerges from the “Scheda d’Ambito17” [Area 17 Datasheet] of the PIT [Piano di Indirizzo Territoriale - Plan of Territorial Direction] signed by you. The landscape that we work in is absolutely beautiful and has been modified to be the way it is in order to comply with a need that could not be avoided. Farming began to become mechanised after the Second World War and the closely interwoven layout of small fields, casual vineyards and pastures that had existed for centuries became obsolete, reducing our community to poverty. Seven thousand out of twelve thousand inhabitants had to leave in just over a decade, forced to go elsewhere in order to earn a living. That traditional, tiring and dated form of agriculture might have made the landscape breathtakingly beautiful, but it was no longer able to offer us sustenance. We managed to turn things around only thanks to a new type of farming, made up of a whole range of things, which is modern while being anything but based on a single-crop system. Of course the extensive new vineyards are important, but they cover just 15% of the Municipal district: 3,600 hectares out of a total of almost 25,000. There are vast woods, immense wheat fields, large olive groves and fruit plantations, holiday farms, honey, spa centres, pastures and all the structures that allow the production and sale of our products to the many visitors that come here, attracted by what we have succeeded in growing in our fields, but also by a landscape that is different from the way it used to be: extraordinary and absolutely Tuscan. This landscape is so typical and so beautiful that, in 2004, when it was already the way it is now, UNESCO declared it World Heritage.
Not only has this new agriculture changed the landscape, it has also changed our community. We have created a healthy social model, with widely distributed wellbeing, where there is no unemployment and young people have a future. Montalcino is open to workers and businessmen from all over the world; we have five thousand inhabitants and almost a thousand economic activities, with over two thirds of production in the hands of healthy and lively, small and very small enterprises. We have done everything with respect for the environment: the water that drains away from our vineyards is, when analysed, ten times purer than the (drinkable) water that flows in the rivers and the amount and variety of game are higher than ever before. The landscape has been respected too: non-agricultural production installations are grouped together in areas where they do not disturb the view, as are the expansions of the town centres.
But the PIT signed by you, the Tuscan Plan of Territorial Direction, states that the huge amount of work that has been done to allow our community to exist, is wrong and has to be wiped out. Are we supposed to go back to the closely interwoven layout of small fields, alternated with pastures, which brought us nothing but poverty and desperation? The PIT does not just block the vineyards, upholding reasons that are entirely subjective and impossible for us to agree with, it also declares critical situations that prevent the opening of new holiday farms, spa centres, farm production units, specialised fruit plantations and olive groves and even large wheat fields.
It makes no sense what so ever to turn an entire Municipal district into the unchangeable museum of a form of agriculture that died due to obsolescence, especially if, in order to do so, a complete block is imposed on one of the world’s most dynamic and innovative farming economies. Brunello is not a crop that devastates the environment and has to be removed; it is a wine that has brought prestige to Tuscany and has helped the development of the whole Tuscan farming sector. It is one of the symbols of Italy in the world, to be shown off with pride. Examples of environmental and town planning eyesores do exist and they must be strongly repressed, but we aren’t in the “Terra dei Fuochi” [Translator’s note: The idiomatic expression “terra dei fuochi” indicates a vast area in southern Italy between the provinces of Caserta and Naples. This area is characterized by the strong presence of toxic waste and especially by the burning of waste whence the idiom] here and the integrity of everything around us shows that the Municipal Authorities that have held power over the years have done a good job, which is why you should let them continue.
Governor Rossi, we farmers of Montalcino are not enemies of the environment; we are hardworking people who have brought prestige to Tuscany and Italy. Please abandon this conceptually incorrect PIT, written by intellectuals who know nothing about our culture and have no understanding of the spirit of our land. Draw up a new one together with the farmers to make Tuscany even greater and not to block it; it isn’t too late!