Building Community Resilience through Communication & Technology
Questo progetto è stato finanziato con il supporto della Commissione Europea. Questa pubblicazione riflette le opinioni esclusivamente degli autori, e la Commissione non può essere ritenuta responsable di alcun tipo di uso che possa esser fatto delle informazioni qui contenute.
In 1863 the first Sicilian railway line connecting Palermo to Bagheria (13 km) was launched. Three lines were completed along the coastline between 1874 and 1884. Then came the many lines connecting the mineral- and agricultural-rich outback with the harbours, whence raw materials and goods were exported.
One of the narrow-gauge inner lines was the one cutting across some epic stretches between in a southernly direction from Palermo to the small hamlet of San Carlo, layered with citrus groves by the sea, all types orchards inland as well as the ancient oak wood at Ficuzza, the seat of King Ferdinand IV’s namesake beloved hunting mansion, a reduced replica of the much grander palace in Caserta.
The line was engineerd by British engineering virtuoso Robert Trewhella, director of The Sicilian Railways Company Limited of London, between 1884 and 1886, the same designer of Circle linearound Mount Etna and of the Trans-Appennine connecting Emilia to Toscana.
Though only 112 km long, at the start journey time end to end was up to 6 hours as a result of the single track, the many stops and the average speed of the coal-powered service (30 km/h), reaching 50 km/h only in the early 1950s when the first diesel locomotives where introduced. Indeed, so slow were the train in the stretch cutting across Ficuzza wood that those who had the privilege to take it, recall being able to hop off and on it, while gathering wild berries in between!
With the advent of post-war mass motorisation, the line became unsustainable at once and discontinued in 1959. That was when Ficuzza Wood Station premises started to decay.
By the mid-1990s, nature had reconquered the premises, the roof had collapsed, the windows were all broken. The station was a ghost of its former self, and the small satellite activities in the neighbouring hamlet were suffering from the deprivation and the consequent decline. In response to the risk of it being deserted completely, a group of local railway archaeology enthusiasts pledged Italy’s Railway Holding to receive a 99-year lease on the old station complex, which Trenitalia accorded. Over the course of four years, Ficuzza Wood station and the surrounding grounds was completely restored to the highest conservative standard and was then converted in a small mountain hotel and restaurant serving exclusively the filtered and purified water flushing down from the 1,633 metre (5,357 ft) tall Rocca Busambra facing the station, locally made wines, beers, spirits and home-made cuisine based on the farm-to-table approach.
The management takes care of the undergrowth and maintains decor within the limits of the lease, and even beyond it, thanks to a partnership with Regional Forestry Commission.
TRADITION AND INNOVATION
Both the the first family-owned company (Camelot) that ran the business until 1998-9-2016 and the employees’ co-operative that has since taken over the management are fully aware that the very appeal underlying their business location is its history and tradition. Customers come with the idea of travelling back in time, thus, though the track was dismantled across the line, sections of it survive here as do the old signals, plates, the vintage train master’s and station master’s outfits as well as the panels on the fascinating history of narrow gauge railways on the Island, by way of a beautiful open-air and indoor exhibition.
Being it a protected monument in a nature riserve, the management is currently looking forward to become energy efficient via innovative means other than solar panels, which are forbidden.
VALUES AND DISCIPLINARIES
The Station is a member of SlowFood since its opening and has later become a member of the Italian Touring Club, the idea being to attract predominantly sustainability-aware customers. In-house operating specifications are agreed by all co-op members.
SCALABILITY AND RESILIENCE
Scaling up the business is a currently one of the management’s thought, but details are still confidential. As for crises: “they can be resisted by avoiding to distribute all dividends, in the case of profit-making companies, and by reinvesting in goods and services, in the case of non-profit-making ones. Furthermore, anyone approaching business must consider drawing from their personal capital to keep the project alive”.
Indeed, a no-nonsense recipe for start-uppers!