“Parco dei Paduli” is located in a centuries-old olive grove of 5500 hectares in the district of Lecce and it has been selected by the Italian “Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo” to represent the country at the IV edition of the “Landscape Award of the Council of Europe”. The reward is given in Strasbourg every two years to the more innovative and exemplar practices for the development of the territory.
Until few years ago, the area was completely abandoned then it gradually regained vitality through the help of the local community, the commitment of the association LUA and the project “GAP la città come galleria d’arte partecipata” (a collectively created and scattered gallery of public art), supported by Fondazione CON IL SUD.
“The idea was to found actions in human and geographical border lands that could generate new connections and cohesive dynamics through art” said Francesca Marconi, author and curator of GAP, in an interview to the Italian magazine of architecture “Domus”.
So many activities have been started up with the purpose to give back to the park its identity: workshops, realized in cooperation with artists and experts with the aim to develop the area from a touristic point of view also involving the villages surrounding the olive grove; meetings and exchange of views between different cultures; production of quality oil extracted thanks to the recovery of centuries-old olive trees once abandoned and today restored through environmentally friendly farming techniques; exchange and sharing moments; literary contests to “tell I Paduli”; the creation of a choir to make the ancient singing of the area live again.
At first, it was not easy to construct exchanges between people, because it requires everyone to take a step towards something new or different, but as Francesca said, people of GAP “work every day to build a dynamic equilibrium that can make use of the existing but also take new strengths and experiences on board”.