Coldigioco, whose name literally means “Hill of Play,” is a small village with a unique history. It is scenically positioned on a narrow ridge that extends eastward from the foot of Monte San Vicino, the dominant Apennine mountain in the region. The village consists of 10 separate buildings, most of which are now associated with the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco (OGC).
Alessandro Montanari, director of the OGC and native of Ancona, Italy, lives with his wife Paula Metallo and their children Fiorenza and Maxwell in the upstairs of the remodeled schoolhouse on the west end of the village. Currently, they are the only permanent residents of Coldigioco. However, other geoscientists, artists and chefs also own houses there and many have been involved with the Osservatorio from the beginning. The Regents of Coldigioco are listed here.
Coldigioco is an old village. Many of the buildings contain sections which were constructed 300-400 years ago. At its peak in the 1900’s, as many as 50 people, most of them farmers, may have called Coldigioco home. By the early 1990s, however, the population of Coldigioco had dwindled to the point thatItala and Giovanni Villani and their family members were the only remaining inhabitants.
In 1992, the tiny village experienced the OGC mini-renaissance. Sandro and Paula had been living in Berkeley, California, where Sandro was a post-doctoral fellow and Paula an artist. They returned to Italy with hopes of creating an independent geological observatory in a rural setting. Coldigioco was selected because of its proximity to the Apennine mountains and the presence of an abandoned schoolhouse for sale by the local government.
The Coldigioco schoolhouse has its own history that makes it an especially fitting location for OGC. During the 1960’s, the school was operated by the Tamagninis, a husband and wife who were interested in implementing new ways of teaching. Following the work of a famous French pedagogist, Freinet, the Tamagninis emphasized cooperative learning experiences. The Tamagninis specifically recognized the importance of active, experiential learning that developed a sense of community among the students and encouraged them to explore different ways of expressing themselves. They also made efforts to introduce their ideas and methods to other teachers around the region. One of their disciples was one of Sandro’s teachers in elementary school. In fact, Sandro’s class paid several visits to the school at Coldigioco and helped plant some of the trees that now form a wind break around the school.
Thanks to the hard work of Sandro and Paula and many others, OGC has become world-renowned (in small circles). Partially or totally ruined buildings have been restored or rebuilt over the years. OGC has extensive facilities to host visitors and educational programs and research.Geology facilities include computers, a rock lab, a map library, and variety of field vehicles.
Since 1992, OGC has hosted numerous science, art and culinary programs and conferences. Geoscientists from all parts of the globe use OGC as a base from which to do fieldwork. A Carleton geology program has taken place at OGC every other fall between 1993 and 2005.