Zonca is located on the boundaries of a national nature reserve. The village lies at an altitude of ±850 meters above sea-level and is virtually surrounded by dense forests. Hunting is restricted and as a consequence it is not unusual to encounter wildlife while walking along paths. In fact, deer, foxes, martens, wild boars, squirrels and numerous birds come right into the village when it is quiet.
Houses are constructed of natural materials; rock from the mountain as well as chestnut. Unfortunately many houses have stood derelict, abandoned by owners who are unable or have lost interest in fixing them. The woods are full of derelict ruins that recall better days when people still made a living from the forest. This despite the fact that life in the mountains must have been hard. One can only marvel at the enormous effort it must have cost to build houses with stones weighing up to a couple of hundred kilos.
Rumour has it that up to two-hundred and fifty people once lived in Zonca until the 1960s when many young people began leaving the mountain to work in heavy industry in the valley. As the population grew older many were forced to move to the lower lying villages in the valley and the homes they once owned were only used in weekends or holidays.
Stone roofs need continual repair to prevent water seeping in and damaging roof beams. Flat roofstones are placed at an angle to ensure water runs in the right direction, but with time, the stones themselves move requiring attention. When water does seep onto the beams, they begin to rot and if left unattended, this eventually leads to collapse.
Zonca is not yet officially an ecovillage. For it to acquire this status it would be necessary to have some formal organisation and agreement. For now, it seems evident that those who live in the village or own houses there are committed to an ecologically sustainable lifestyle, but this is a personal choice. For now, the village looks and feels like an ecovillage and we all hope it will retain its unique character, even if more people come to live there.
The majority of those who currently live in the village are from Germany and Switzerland. This feels a little strange, speaking German while in Italy. It also is not conducive to learning Italian. Luckilly the school age children in the village do speak Italian and there is plenty of opportunity to learn the language better with locals and visitors.