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Did you know...? There's a town in Italy where it's illegal to die

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Did you know...? There's a town in Italy where it's illegal to die
The small village of Sellia in southern Italy's Calabria region. Photo by TIZIANA FABI/ STF/ AFP.

With Italy's population on the decline and cemeteries filling up, some mayors are turning to extreme measures to keep their towns alive.

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Since 2012, it's been illegal to die in the town of Falciano del Massico in Campania, about 30 miles north of Naples.

Mayor Giulio Cesare Fava banned the village's residents from going "beyond the boundaries of earthly life, and... into the afterlife" after the town's cemetery reached full capacity.

"It all started in 1964, when the town of Falciano gained autonomy from the town of Carinola," Fava told Associated Press reporters.

"The problem arose when they subdivided the land, because when they divided the territory, the administrators did not think about the fact that the town of Falciano would not have its own cemetery," the mayor added.

Residents were ordered not to die at least until Falciano's administrators had time to construct a new cemetery that could house their earthly remains.

While it might sound like an extreme measure, Falciano del Massico isn't the only town where death has been banned - or even the only town in Italy.

Cugnaux and Sarpourenx in France, Lanjarón in Spain, and Biritiba Mirim in Brazil have all done the same in the past - also because their local cemeteries had become full.

In 2015, the village of Sellia in Calabria, on the arch of Italy's boot, passed an ordinance prohibiting residents from both getting ill and dying - this time because it was facing a demographic crisis, its population having dropped to just over 500 residents.

This last order was at least a little more practical in its implementation; locals who visit the town's medical centre for check ups are exempt from paying the local health tax.

While such ordinances may not actually do anything to slow a town's death rate, they do serve another function: putting it on the map.

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Italian hill towns are suffering the effects of depopulation, with thousands on the brink of becoming ghost towns.

By outlawing death and making the headlines, a mayor may not be able to halt population decline - but they can keep their town from sliding into obscurity, and perhaps push politicians in Rome to take action to prevent it disappearing altogether.

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