At the opening of an exhibition about the Castle Piombinara near Colleferro, I found myself thinking about how to thank Angelo Luttazzi for the work he has done over the past years and I decided to do it publically in an article. Not only to praise his work, but his role in the growth of a community.

When we were young, many of us had dreams of absolute glory, leaving the country of origin and to dock on other shores, to make a fortune, to get to the moon, to win the Nobel Prize. Angelo has always had the idea of creating an archaeological museum in his home town and to find and preserve the historical memory of a whole community. He succeeded.

And now that the community has lost its previous identity and asks about the future, the role of Angelo becomes very important because everyone knows that Angelo represents a point from which we can recommence. His role is not to search for solutions or to guide citizens to a future of glory, but he represents a firm points of anchor. Angelo is what in sociology is called a “value”, something that should not be questioned and that is a vital element in the life of a group. If a group exists, it is also because there is someone who takes care of the historical memory, reminding us who we were and the results to be proud of.

Colleferro has always been an industrial town. Born 80 years ago around the factories, the story of its community cannot be separated from the stories of the factories. Military, chemical, textile, aerospace, cement factories and the corollary of small highly specialized and sophisticated factories, created by many experts from the large factories who chose to create their own business.

The history of Colleferro follows closely to that of Italy. A town urbanistically advanced which grew quickly around a bomb industry, high-tech, and very useful in times of war. A model town created by the will of entrepreneurs who make a complete cycle: factory, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, vocational schools for the workers, common barracks and church, firefighters for factories, villages for workers, managers and directors and finally a sports centre and a cutting-edge hospital. All under the supervision of great engineers such as Riccardo Morandi.

Colleferro had an industrial and technological edge. Great international physicists and mathematicians have stayed in Colleferro, but also Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and many others not to be mentioned.

The town has ridden the economic boom with the cement and construction. The excesses began: chemical insecticides manufacture on one side and space technology with the participation in the Arianne project on the other. In short, everybody was more or less unaware of what they were doing but happy to supply bombs to Iraq and Iran, cement as needed and to use plastic and chemicals as much as possible.

Then the rude awakening: pollution. The boom was based on pollution of groundwater, land and air. Large companies did not invest anymore but preferred to speculate and leave an area when it starts to “burn”, where pollution can no longer be hidden and whose new skyline is delineated by a huge landfill and two imposing incinerators in plain sight above a hill into the town.

De-industrialization is evident and the process is the same as the rest of Italy: factories were sold to foreign multinationals whose interest was in ownership of patents and know-how and, of course, who then abandoned the factories and the site. He who was an important and revered engineer in the 50s and 60s today no longer knows who he is. He who thought of being part of a glorious enterprise found himself to be an accomplice of polluters who failed to protect the environment for their children.

Meanwhile, young people believe in the myth of sports players and showgirls and look down on those people who, with their ethics and their work, have stored the knowledge with an ambition to make it available to all in due time.

It ‘s time to reverse the course. Today Colleferro is a territory in transition to something that has not yet identified, but an inevitable change that is emerging in a positive way. Young people are returning to the values and to appreciate the little things. Someone called them the “YouTube generation” because they are coming back to learn “future and old” crafts from web hopping codified traditional training. The traditional schools cannot follow the rapid changes that are happening. And these young people learn everything quickly!

Let us go back to the story and the exhibition about Piombinara, to the packed hall and the interested audience which were asking questions. And also to ask why we should fund archaeological research in a time of crisis. The historian Luca Calenne answers with this analogy:

“If I sell an anonymous picture for 5,000 Euros at an auction, its value may be 30,000 Euros. But if I sell the same picture at auction with a name and a story of who painted it or where and how it was found, the same picture can be worth 300,000 euros”.

It’s a problem of identity. Your value will increase if people know who you are. A lesson that comes from far away, from Socrates who urged us to know ourselves or from Jesus who preached of “love others as we love ourselves”. It is a problem we have to face in all periods of change, when you knew who you were you can know what you have lost.

Often, we identify ourselves with a job: an engineer, a lawyer, a decorator, a fireman (almost all are acronyms for ourselves). When you lose your job you also lose that artificial identity, the conventional one that we use to communicate with others. Yet we do not change and are still engineers, lawyers, painters and firefighters. Just we do not earn regularly by these acronyms.

The metaphor of the value of archeology heartened me about the job that we started about four years ago but we do not know quite how to define it with an acronym. We travel Italy looking for artisans, famous and not so famous, people who have returned to produce objects and artifacts with wisdom. These people need to be known, to have an identity and a value that is recognized by the community in which they live.

Thanks Angelo for reminding us of our values and our history. To be reminded that, with tenacity, you can reach your dreams and that ethics should always be part of our dreams. Thanks for putting culture at the base of your dreams.

Personally, I add beauty. Culture and beauty, I think, are the points from which to start. It is harmony. The road is long, but building is more exciting than destroying. Being part of the team that “rebuilds” gives a priceless inner happiness. And I say this following my old career as an “engineer”, the acronym who remembers myself the joy of designing something beautiful and getting into a construction site to participate in its realization.