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Saracinesco, a Tiny Hemp Capital off Italy’s Beaten Path

Many parts of Europe have a cultural legacy of cannabis use and cultivation. A famous example is Hanfthal, the picturesque hemp valley seventy miles north of the Austrian capital of Vienna. But what about Saracinesco, a tiny Italian town on the hills of the Ruffi Mountains, in the area of Rome?

The name Saracinesco stems from the Saracen pirates, who devastated the region in the year 876. The Arabic group settled in the hills and became part of the local fabric. Even today some inhabitants of Saracinesco still have family names based in Arabic.

Almost a thousand years later, the Saracen Mountain has become a sort of Mecca for cannabis and hemp lovers from all over Italy. They consider the village as almost a promised land and a possible safe haven for cannabis therapies. A big reason the tradition continues is the strong passion of Mayor Marco Orsola. He leads one of the smallest municipalities of Italy—Saracinesco has just 187 inhabitants—and cherishes the local hemp-harvest festival held in his town every autumn.

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Saracinesco has turned into a place where activists, farmers, and freethinkers flock together in a pleasant and serene atmosphere. Local traditions mingle with the sounds and lifestyles of a modern metropolis. Some of the cannabis activists are also looking forward to developing new strains bred to suit the area’s soil and climate. The burgeoning industry has already had a positive impact on the local economy.

Leafy asked spoke to Mayor Orsola about his commitment to cannabis and about the fledgling idea to create a so-called Hemp Village in the town.

“The project came out of the will to revamp for agricultural and productive use the long-deserted parts of the land that, once recovered, could be used for the original historical cultivation, including hemp,” the mayor said. “This could yield occupational results in a community whose population is declining. The young locals’ agricultural cooperative will surely benefit from industrial hemp cultivation that has been receiving strong signs of interest from the market as to the multiple possible uses of this plant at the industrial, alimentary, and pharmacological level.”

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The rediscovery of the hemp plant could be a potent opportunity for the small, isolated area, but Orsola will have to navigate a landscape shaped by decades of misinformation and prejudice. “Our project wants to spread a message aimed to wipe out the inconsistent prejudices that have encircled this incredibly noble plant for so many years,” he told Leafly. “We have carried out a science-driven information campaign during the numerous public occasions where we have been invited to introduce our project that, it must be stressed, concentrates on the therapeutic use of cannabis.”

He added, “Our plan contemplates the construction of a health village that, under medical assistance and in cooperation with the universities, aims to offer the freedom of treatment with nutritional and herbal therapy principles of hemp derivatives. In addition the therapeutic bio-park will allow us to develop a production site where the production goals will go hand in hand with science and education, much like the way a botanical garden operates.”