Alberto Bertone, one of the winners of the MATILDE photography competition, prepared a photo essay inspired by the online workshop on visual storytelling given by photographer Opher Thomson as the competition award. Bertone photographed a day with Matteo and Francesca, who run the Presa delle Rose hamlet in Valgioie, Turin; while his daughter Katia Bertone wrote their stories.

Translation from Italian to English: Lucia Bergero

Matteo and Francesca went against the widespread trend to leave mountain areas and return to live these territories.

He is 28, she is 23 and studies business economics. They have been together for four years and since 2018 they have been managing part of the Presa delle Rose hamlet, above Valgioie.

The story that led Matteo to have the house on a loan for use is a story of bonds built on the deep trust typical of another era.

Mr. Mario previously owned the house. He met Matteo when he was about 11 years old; in the years following their first encounter, they kept spending time together, thus allowing them to shape a relationship full of affection, to the point that Matteo did not hesitate, while talking to me, to call him “grandpa”.

In 2018, however, Mr. Mario was hospitalized, as the dementia has evolved into Alzheimer. From that moment on, the keys of the house in Presa delle Rose were given to Matteo; Mr. Mario himself encouraged him to settle there, urging him to do not let “his fireplace got cold”.

There is a lot of work to be carried out here, as no one has taken care of the hamlet for a long time” tells Francesca; “Besides, from the 10th of October, 2020, cows have returned to this area, after a cleaning which took us one and a half months!”

 “We are the only stall in Valgioie” (the town of Presa delle Rose hamlet) adds Matteo. “Moreover, especially in winter and spring, I work as a woodcutter; while in summer we make hay by hand”.

You are far from everyone, of course, so you can hold space for yourself” tells Francesca; “But on the other hand you also lack most of the means of communication, you may have a hard time dealing with any problems that come up. Plus, since I’m about to graduate, I currently don’t feel like giving up completely what I’m studying for.”

 “I feel alive here, definitely” continues Francesca, and Matteo fully agrees. “When you wake up in the morning and see everything red, the dawn lighting up the valley, you know that it’s worth it”.

To Matteo, it’s a matter of existential choice: «Even if you never stop working, lose some friends and sometimes life is heavy, the satisfaction at seeing that what you have been working hard for is accomplished is priceless.”