Abandoned terraces adopted to support mountains

The project “Adotta un terrazzamento” [“Adopt a terrace” in English] aims at regulating and expanding mountain farming activities by giving any interested person the opportunity to adopt a terrace and provide direct or long-term support to the mountains of the Brenta Valley, in the Alps region in Italy.

Context and origin of the project

Terraces are created to transform a sloping mountain into a series of shelves to obtain surfaces suitable for cultivation. The walls of the terraced floors are known locally as ‘masiére’ (from Latin ‘maceries’) and are made of dry stone (i.e. without the use of lime or cement as a binder).

After the Second World War, the terraced system collapsed, with the collapse of crops that required too much manpower to manage compared to those using mechanization. As a result, the terraces were abandoned for more than 30 years, being covered by pieces of wood and subject to physical degeneration, threatening their stability. Of the 230 km of dry stone walls across the valley, more than 60% were in ruins, which endangered the safety of the slopes.

Within this context, the initiative “Adotta un terrazzamento” was born.

The project ‘Adopt a Terrace’

The ‘Adopt a terrace’ initiative is a strategic project of the Valstagna Municipality, the Terre Alte Group of the Alpino Italiano Club and of the Department of Geography of the University of Padua. The initiative was conceived following a local, ‘spontaneous adoption’, of terraces. The goal now is to regulate and expand the activity, allowing anyone to adopt a terrace, directly or indirectly restoring these features of the mountain of the Brenta Canal.

How does it work?

The adoption of the terrace is done by registering and choosing the operation to be supported on the terraces, the choice being based on the critical conditions of conservation, the aptitude for productive recovery and landscape valorisation.

It is either possible to adopt a terrace directly and cultivate it, or adopt it indirectly by paying a minimum contribution of 15€. The subscription contributes to supporting the work of a volunteer team which is in charge of recovering abandoned terraces. Contributions are used to cover the reimbursement of expenses for equipment and materials needed for the work. Groups such as schools, businesses, or other civic associations can also adopt a terrace. After 5 years of adoption, a Diploma of “Terracotta Benefactor” will be recognized by the Committee, the Municipality of Valstagna and the Italian Alpine Club. Every year, the adopters are able to visit their terrace and view the restoration efforts.

Positive social and environmental impacts

The innovation has revitalised a historical municipality abandoned by residents. The project has achieved positive impacts, both social and environmental.

  • The initiative is original;
  • The institutional partnership is between academia, local governments and civic associations;
  • The project uses wasteland and shows how to overcome limitations of private ownership (partners had to find the owners of the abandoned land, and convince them to loan the land for the project);
  • The adoption is a means of enhancing a non-profit and multifunctional approach to land use.

The project also demonstrates positive results as, to date, it has allowed the recovery of more than 100 terraces, covering more than 4ha in different parts of the valley, with the involvement of more than 100 people, most of them non-valley residents.

This project is an example of social innovation in marginalised rural areas. You can find it in SIMRA database of examples of social innovation.

For more information on the project, please visit the website: http://www.adottaunterrazzamento.org/


Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)
Florence Tornincasa (Euromontana)

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