THE WIDER IMAGE

No energy worries for Italy's 'harmonious walnut tribe'

THE WIDER IMAGE

No energy worries for Italy's 'harmonious walnut tribe'

No energy worries for Italy's 'harmonious walnut tribe'

Filed

Filed: December 14, 2022, 08 a.m. GMT

Fabrizio Cardinali, 72, does not crave the bright city lights. Indeed he has no use for electricity and for more than half a century has lived entirely off the grid.

That makes him one of the few people in Europe unconcerned about rising energy costs this winter.

Cardinali, whose long white beard makes him look like Karl Marx, the poet Walt Whitman or a slimmed-down Santa Claus, lives in a stone farmhouse in the hills of the Verdicchio wine country near Ancona, on Italy’s eastern Adriatic coast.

Cardinali lights the wooden cooker in the kitchen at home in the woods in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi
Cardinali, sits on the stairs at his home in the woods in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.  REUTERS/Yara Nardi

By choice, he has no electricity, no gas, and no indoor plumbing.

“I was not interested in being part of the world as it was going. So I left everything - family, university, friends, the sports team, and set off in a completely different direction,” he said, sitting in the kitchen and wearing patched corduroy trousers.

“Giving something up is not masochistic. You give something up to obtain something else that is more important,” he said.

Cardinali harvests olives from the trees outside his house in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

In the past he has lived entirely alone.

Right now, he has two house mates, a rooster, three chickens and a cat in a community he calls “The Tribe of the Harmonious Walnuts”.

Visitors seeking Cardinali and his friends are told by locals in the nearest town to take the narrow dirt path that starts next to an oak tree flying a multi-coloured peace flag.

Cardinali and his house mates, who gave their names only as Agnese and Andrea, rely on a wood-burning stove for cooking and warmth, and read by lamps fuelled with used cooking oil donated by neighbours.

Agnese, 35, Andrea,46, and Cardinali have lunch together at home in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.  REUTERS/Yara Nardi
Agnese prepares lunch in the wooden kitchen in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

“I feel privileged to have the freedom to choose my freedom,” said Agnese, 35, who moved in two years ago. Andrea, 46, spends the week there but goes home to Macerata, about 50 km (31 miles) away, each weekend to look after his mother.

The “harmonious walnuts” grow fruit and vegetables, olives to produce olive oil, and keep bees for honey. A local cooperative sells them sacks of legumes, cereals and wheat, which they grind to make their own bread.

When possible, they trade any surplus production for anything they need.

Although some people have dubbed him “the Hermit of Cupramontana,” Cardinali says he is not a hermit.

Cardinali is seen in an old picture from when he was a Carabiniere (paramilitary police), in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022. REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Instead, he believes life is best lived in small communities.

His first piece of advice for anyone tempted to follow his example is: “Throw away your so-called smart phone.”

Cardinali occasionally travels short distances to visit friends, take olives to a stone press to make oil, and walks or hitch-hikes to the nearest town to have a coffee with locals or visit the doctor.

“I’ve been living this way for about 51 years and I have never regretted it. For sure, there have been difficulties, but they never made me think that I made the wrong choice or thrown it all away,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

















REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali carries a basket for the olive harvest in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali climbs a tree to harvest olives in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali works in the vegetable garden outside his house in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali picks pumpkin flowers in his vegetable garden in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali washes pumpkin flowers from his vegetable garden in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali saves the water he previously used to wash vegetables in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Bottle gourds are seen hanging from Cardinali’s chicken pen outside his house in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali checks the chicken pen outside his house in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali’s home is seen between the trees in the forest in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali checks his mailbox at home in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali talks to Agnese and Andrea at home in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Andrea picks the olives fallen from the trees at Cardinali's house, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali combs his beard in the mirror, in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali, Agnese and Andrea talk to a worker at the oil mill in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali places wood in a box, in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali sets the table before having lunch, in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali brings a pot to prepare lunch on the wooden cooker in his kitchen, in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Agnese grinds the grain using a hand millstone, in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Agnese sifts the grain at Cardinali’s house in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali lights an oil lamp at home in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali points at himself in an old photo from when he played volleyball, in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali reads a book on the floor of his home in Cupramontana, Italy, December 12, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Figs which have been left to dry are seen on a table at Cardinali’s house in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali undresses to bathe with water he heated up on the wooden cooker in the kitchen, in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali prepares the tent to sleep outside his house in the woods in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Agnese makes sourdough bread at Cardinali’s home in Cupramontana, Italy, November 15, 2022.

REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Cardinali walks with a candle outside his house in Cupramontana, Italy, December 11, 2022.

The Wider Image

Photography: Yara Nardi

Reporting: Matteo Berlenga

Writing: Philip Pullella

Photo editing: Kezia Levitas and Marta Montana Gomez

Text editing: Barbara Lewis

Design: Marta Montana Gomez



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