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Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future

Villages setting up as so-called 'cooperatives' are gaining pace across Italy. Here, a founder of one of the latest communities to run themselves tells us how she believes this will create the country's future.

Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future
Vetto. Photo credit: Il Pontaccio - Società Cooperativa di Comunità/Facebook

“We want to build a better future for Vetto, starting with us and for us,” Elisa Marchi, one of the founding members of the town’s community cooperative, told The Local.

Vetto is a mountainside town in Emilia Romagna with a population of around 1,800 inhabitants.

Alongside other passionate advocates of the area, she set up ‘Il Pontaccio‘, a cooperative that aims to boost local businesses and put the community on the map – to attract new residents and tourists alike.

“Vetto is such a beautiful place and a wonderful area to live. By setting up this cooperative, we want to build new possibilities for future generations,” stated Marchi.

READ ALSO: Could Italy’s abandoned villages be revived after the coronavirus outbreak?

“We have a big pot of ideas from the community, new enterprises and companies. A lot of young people are involved who want to build new companies, too,” she added.

The people of Vetto want to take the fortunes of the town into their own hands by launching this social scheme.

More and more small Italian communities are adopting the model, which sees citizens as producers and users of goods and services.

To fill the gap left by a decreasing young population and an increasing elderly one, this project aims to invest in human capital and thereby attract new life once again.

“The past year gave us time to reflect on what is important to us and how we want to live. It’s even more important to have a good quality of life,” said Marchi.

READ ALSO: The Italian properties ‘nobody’ wants to buy in 2021

An advantage of running the community this way is “union and solidarity”. Vetto is able to grow with the population by putting resources into local businesses and listening to what citizens want from their town.

“We share the dreams and ambitions of the residents. We want to create an environment that’s cooperative with other places and share our knowledge of the territory,” she added.

For Marchi and her colleagues, the cooperative is “a dream waiting to be realised”.

“We hope to see new people, children playing in the playground, people riding e-bikes through the hills and we want to invite people to come and eat our food. We will select food that’s grown from our farms and we have lots of delicious jam, honey and fruit here,” said Marchi.

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Vetto counts among one of Italy’s towns in need of new investment – there are long-abandoned properties which are in need of renovation. Something the government hopes to tackle with the Superbonus.

This is an opportunity to move to beautiful scenery, according to Marchi, as the town now has fibre internet, making remote working a possibility.

“There is space for Vetto to grow and the chance for more people to have a good life here. Now’s the time to make the most of all this potential,” she said.

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EXPLAINED: How to claim Italy’s €200 cost of living bonus

The Italian government is sending one-off €200 payments to cushion the rising cost of living, but they won't be automatic. Here's the latest on how the process works.

EXPLAINED: How to claim Italy's €200 cost of living bonus

The €200 cost of living bonus was announced in May 2022, alongside several government measures aimed at offsetting the increasing cost of living, as The Local reported.

Employees, as well as the self-employed, pensioners and the unemployed, will be eligible to receive the €200 payment if they have an annual income of under €35,000 gross, according to a decree law passed in May.

READ ALSO: Who can claim Italy’s €200 cost of living bonus?

However, the bonus is only automatically made to those who are state employees or pensioners. Those in these categories will be identified by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and INPS and receive €200 along with their salaries or pension payments.

What if I work in the private sector?

Employers working in the private sector should receive their payments in their July pay packet. First, however, they need to submit a self-declaration (autodichiarazione) form to their employer, who will pay the sum with the July pay check and then recover the funds from the state later.

The decree doesn’t specify a deadline for the submission, but as the payments should be made in July, the paperwork needs to be filed before that – so you’ll need to talk to your employer and arrange it.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules and deadlines for filing Italian taxes in 2022

The self-declaration serves to establish that the worker has all the requirements to be a beneficiary. That means the person does not go over the income ceiling for the benefit, for example.

You will also have to declare that you will not receive a €200 bonus from other sources, such as from being a recipient of the citizen income or through another employment relationship.

How can other workers apply?

Italy’s government expanded the bonus payment scheme to more people in early May, as The Local reported.

Seasonal workers, domestic and cleaning staff, the self-employed, the unemployed and those on Italy’s ‘citizens’ income’ were added to the categories of people in Italy eligible for a one-off €200 payment.

These other categories of workers will not receive automatic payment, though. Instead, they need to make a special request to INPS to receive the bonus.

There are different deadlines for different people, so ‘domestic workers’ (lavoratori domestici) need to apply by September 30th. Other workers, such as seasonal, for example, have until October 21st.

You can apply for the bonus on the INPS website, which indicates that the payments will be made at an unspecified later date.

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