Tolfa is a beautiful town in Italy, in the Tolfa Mountains, with 95 percent of its surrounding land owned as a commons by the people. Here’s a brand new video giving an overview of the place:

Tolfa is hosting the italian-norwegian study center, Centro studi italo-norvegese di Tolfa. The town also hosts the Norwegian writer and political activist Pål Steigan, who is running one of the best blogs about current Norwegian society and international affairs. He calls himself a communist, but I see him now as a commoner as he is supporting a kind of bottom up democratic model.

The Commons is a regime for managing common-pool resources that eschews individual property rights and State control. It is a system of governance that relies on common property arrangements that tend to be Commonsself-organized and enforced in complex and sometimes idiosyncratic ways (which distinguish it from communism, a top-down, State-directed mode of governance whose historical record has been unimpressive). – David Bollier

Drawing: Nikos A. Salingaros

Model of a self-organized bottom-up society, where small cooperative groups are the foundation for the state as a whole. Every resilient system is organized this way.

What makes Tolfa unique is that 95 percent of the surrounding land is owned as a commons, the town is mostly consisting of a resilient traditional architecture of integration (there are a few anxiety-inducing corbusian apartment blocks at its outskirts), and it has a perfect population size for participating local democracy.

Individuals have no effective voice in any community of more than 5000-10,000 persons.
Decentralize city governments in a way that gives local control to communities of 5,000 to 10,000 persons. As nearly as possible, use natural geographic and historical boundaries to mark these communities. Give each community the power to initiate, decide, and execute the affairs that concern it closely: land use, housing, maintenance, streets, parks, police, schooling, welfare, neighborhood services. – Christopher Alexander

From what I’ve understood the ongoing slow collapse of industrial society has hit Tolfa hard, making them open for new solutions. With the towns unique position this situation should be taken for an opportunity to turn something bad into something good, making Tolfa an example for the commons and cooperative solutions for Italy, Europe and the world.

I therefore encourage commoners and permaculturists all over Europe to turn their eyes to Tolfa. Seeing the vast meadows and greenery surrounding Tolfa in the above video, just imagining what possibilities there might be for food forests and permaculture. And imagining all the possibilities for cooperation as a result of the towns traditional street network.

Pål Steigan has told he has some ongoing initiatives for strengthening the local economy of Tolfa, from what I understand these are in a commons spirit. He might be a key person for transforming Tolfa into an inspiration and a hub for the commons movement in Europe.

Unfortunately the Wikipedia article covering Tolfa is miserable. The article covering my town was just as bad, but over the last months I made 40 photos for upgrading it. I hope someone can do the same for Tolfa?

This was a small introduction to Tolfa and the huge possibilities I think lay latent there for realizing the commons paradigm in Italy and Europe.

3 Comments Tolfa in Italy: A Future Hub for the Commons in Europe?

  1. AvatarPoor Richard

    Beautiful and promising. But I disagree with David Bollier that “The Commons is a regime for managing common-pool resources that eschews individual property rights.” IMO that is a highly biased opinion. It is inaccurate concerning those intentional communities, land trusts, etc. in which individual property rights are embraced in combination with collective rights. Someone else might just as arbitrarily say that a commons must have no hierarchy or no heavy machinery or no fat people. Do we all have to bring so much personal utopian bias to the commons dialog? What about mixed and hybrid property regimes? Is there to be an orthodoxy and a dogma of the commons? That would be a tragedy, IMO.

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