A tiny alpine town in northern Italy has welcomed its first baby in 28 years.
Born a week ago, little Pablo is the youngest resident of Ostana in the Piedmont region; when his parents brought him home from the hospital in Turin where he was born, their fellow residents celebrated the arrival of only the town’s 85th inhabitant.
“At first I couldn’t believe it was true,” Giacomo Lombardo, the town’s mayor, said. “The news almost shocked me. It’s a dream come true.”
Since only about half of the population lives there year round, Pablo and his family, father Josè Berdugo Vallelago, mother Silvia Rovere and sisters Clara and Alice, make up about 10% of Ostana’s “permanent” residents.
Home to more 1,000 people a century ago, Ostana has seen its population slump in recent decades; in the 1980s only five people lived there permanently.
“The decline accelerated during the 1970s, and the last baby was born in 1987,” said Lombardo, who has been mayor for 20 of the past 30 years.
For two decades, the community has tried to reverse the trend, investing in cultural activities and tourism to create new jobs and attract young people.
Ostana is not alone in its fight against depopulation. It is estimated that the number of Italian ghost towns already tops 6,000.
Small towns throughout the country have seen their population dwindling, as young people leave to study and chase better job opportunities elsewhere.
A variety of solutions have been tried: The Sicilian city of Gangi has offered abandoned houses for free, demanding only that their new owners renovate them; in other cases, entire villages have been put up for sale.