Articolo integrale, con mia intervista, pubblicato dal THE TIMES domenica scorsa.

Asian cinema buffs breathe new life into Italy’s castle in the sky

Tom Kington, Rome
September 15 2018, 12:01am, The Times
Civita di Bagnoregio, near Rome, was founded by the Etruscans in the 8th century BCREX FEATURES
Standing in the hot autumn sun, the Chinese tourist counted off the places that her tour group was visiting on its whirlwind tour of Italy.
“Venice, Rome and, of course, here we are at Civita di Bagnoregio, which we couldn’t miss because we have all seen the film,” said Queenie Chung, 22, a student from Hong Kong.
Unknown to many European tourists, the tiny village is perched on a plug of rock near Rome, and is known locally as “the dying town” because of the landslides that threaten its existence.
It is enjoying a new lease on life, however, with hordes of tourists visiting each year — 250,000 of them from the Far East, drawn by a wildly popular 1986 animated film.Laputa: Castle in the Sky, by the Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, follows two children searching for a legendary floating castle said to be inspired by Civita di Bagnoregio. Linked to the outside world by a footbridge, it appears to float when surrounded by morning mists.
Now a fixture for tour groups from Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan, the village hosted 18,000 visitors on a single day in Easter, despite having only seven full-time residents.
“I first heard of the film connection ten years ago when the Japanese ambassador called me to say Civita was a magical destination and could he visit,” said Francesco Bigiotti, the mayor.
????The site is said to have inspired the 1986 animated film Laputa: Castle in the Sky
Tourism boomed after the town began charging a €1.50 entry fee in 2013. “We have gone from 40,000 visitors in 2010 and have now raised the ticket to €5 in high season,” Mr Bigiotti said. “Strangely, the more it goes up, the more people come.”
That is a cautionary tale for Venice, which is considering introducing an entrance fee to cut tourist numbers.
Civita, founded by the Etruscans in the 8th century BC, has become ever less accessible as the land around it erodes. “In an earthquake in 1695 the hospital and prison fell into the valley and in the 19th century a landslide took an entire neighbourhood with it,” said Luca Costantini, a local geologist.
When an access road crumbled in the past century, a bridge was built to connect the few remaining residents to the new town springing up beside it. Now, with a total of one million visitors expected this year, Mr Bigiotti will have a €2.5 million windfall to help to shore up the crumbling clay and tuff rock perch on which Civita sits.
The cash is also coming in handy to scrap local taxes, offer free school lunches and even pay utility bills for low earners among the 3,700 residents of the new town.
One of the seven remaining residents of the “dying town” told The Times that he was nonplussed by the tourism boom. “Tourists climb on walls to take pictures and pee in the street. I thought charging entry would stop people coming, but the opposite happened,” said Sandro Rocchi, 74.
He admitted that some good had come from the influx. “My son runs a restaurant here and got married last week — the first time we had a local wedding in decades.”