Dante's descendants face a new inferno

Poet's family and wine producers are fighting plans for huge incinerator in the heart of the Valpolicella region.

Outraged wine producers led by the poet Dante Alighieri's direct descendant are desperately trying to stop plans to build a huge waste recycling plant with a 310ft-high chimney in the heart of the idyllic Valpolicella vineyards near Verona, northern Italy,where the grapes for hallowed Amarone wine are nurtured.

Dante's son, Pietro, bought the Casal dei Ronchi in Gargano estate at Sant' Ambrogio in Valpolicella in 1353 after his father was exiled to Verona from Florence. The family has cultivated the surrounding vines for 20 generations. Speaking in the courtyard of his sprawling villa above cellars packed with oak and cherry wood barrels of maturing Amarone, Count Pieralvise Serego Alighieri, the current patriarch of Italy's most illustrious genealogical line, said he has no intention of allowing the recycling project planned by owners of a local cement works to upset the delicate ecological balance of the Valpolicella valleys.

"These are activities that have nothing to do with this area," he said. "This is the only area in Italy where local grapes alone are used to produce five different kinds of wine. We are very lucky to be able to create prosperity from an area of great natural beauty. This is a unique zone that deserves to be protected."

The Rossi cement plant in Valpolicella's nearby Fumane valley is something of a historical anomaly, built in the 1960s when governments in Rome were encouraging unbridled industrialisation. The cement is made with marlstone, a lime-rich material dug out of nearby quarries, and stored in grim 90ft-high silos. Pierandrea Fiorentini, Rossi's environmental engineer, insists the company's plans to build a chimney atop a new furnace that will "cook" industrial waste at temperatures of up to 2,000C to create cement will have no adverse ecological impact on the special Valpolicella microclimate. Hundreds of lorries trundle through the countryside each week to deliver waste to the plant.

Mr Fiorentini insists the planned changes will use no more waste than before but will simply be "more efficient" and environmentally even "an improvement". The company has permission from Verona authorities to recycle 122,000 tons of waste a year, though so far it has used no more than 58,000 tons, he says.

Valpolicella's leading wine producers, however, are deeply concerned the new plant could threaten the image of Amarone and other wines in the wake of waste-related scandals in Italy – such as the discovery of dioxin in mozzarella produced near Naples due to dumping of waste by Mafia-linked companies on land used for grazing by buffalos. The related Naples rubbish crisis of a year ago, when the streets of the city were littered with trash for months, has underlined Italy's ecological vulnerability, and there are fears that Rossicimenti may be positioning itself to import more lucrative waste from Naples or Rome, where waste disposal plants have been severely strained recently – something that Mr Fiorentini strongly denies.

Joining Count Alighieri in the fray are many of the biggest and most respected of Valpolicella's wine-makers, including Luca Sartori, the head of the area's wine-growing consortium that groups some 200 Valpolicella Classico producers.

Mr Sartori believes the 100 or so employees at the cement plant, and up to 150 others in related industries such as lorry driving, could easily be absorbed in the wine sector if Rossi's owners in Emilia Romagna and Switzerland could be persuaded to move its activities elsewhere.

Franco Allegrini, a top wine producer credited with making Amarone one of Italy's top exports to the United States and Canada, blames local government in the valleys for failing to stand up to the cement plant. "There is a fundamental hypocrisy here," he said. "These local councils were the first to develop differentiated rubbish collection. Cars in some parts of Valpolicella have to carry certificates that their engines are catalytic. But we don't know what will happen to 120,000 tons of waste being imported and how much damage it could do to any future development of wine tourism in Valpolicella, which has so much potential."

Citizen action groups such as Fumanefuturo, founded in January this year, also are opposing the cement firm's scheme for expansion. Mimi Conti, a Fumanefuturo founder who lives on land in sight of the factory, understandably resents the constant sound of machinery drowning out the natural sounds of the valley. Mr Conti says he received death threats from workers at the plant after he organised a public meeting addressed by a cancer specialist on possible health threats from industrial emissions.

As if the new plant were not enough, Rossicimenti has also applied to the regional government of Veneto to open a fresh marlstone excavation quarry in a new as yet untouched hill that opponents say is part of a protected natural park. Rossi says it holds existing excavation rights to it. The cement company has replanted vines on large swaths of land it no longer needs after exhausting underlying marlstone deposits. But local growers complain that cherry trees, once providing one of the main crops of local farms, no longer bear fruit as before because of omnipresent cement dust.

"We are at a historic turning point," says Daniele Todesco, the head of another citizens' pressure group, Valpolicella 2000, in the adjoining, pristinely beautiful valley of Marano. "Either the cement plant is closed gradually and we relaunch Valpolicella or we relaunch this kind of heavy industrial business."

The centre-left mayor of Marano for his part has accused the action groups of spreading alarm. Many environmentalists accuse local mayors of relying too heavily on tax income from the cement plant. Fumane's centre-right mayor declined a request to discuss the issue with a foreign reporter, saying it would be "inappropriate while studies of the project are ongoing."

Franco Allegrini, however, believes many local people have become too used to living with the cement works, engendering complacency. "What attracts tourists here is the Amarone. I want to leave my children this land as I found it – or better. I don't want it to be a land of conquest, for speculation of different kinds."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum