30th August – As the tours cyclists congregated outside a bar by Asti train station, a couple of our hosts for the evening arrived to take us to a large squatted building where we would eat and sleep. The building once belonged to the department of health but, left empty, it now houses twelve previously homeless families of Moroccan immigrants. We ate our evening meal with members of the association which initiated the occupation and were told we’d be eating breakfast at another squat in the morning where we’d also learn more about the project. In the meantime we had a presentation about a related project where volunteers taught Italian to migrants.
We woke early, packed our bikes and set off in convoy across the city to an apartment block which has been occupied for two years. We were treated to breakfast of sweet tea and pancakes with members of one of the six families squatting there. Breakfast over, we gathered round to hear about the project and the association behind it.
There are currently three of these squats in Asti, housing thirty families. They were opened by an association which was formed in the city fifteen years ago. Originally it focused on problems being experienced by unemployed people but evolved to taking action on housing and the rights of migrants. As the problem of homelessness grew, they turned to squatting as a solution. The association works on the basis of self-help and mutual aid rather some kind of activist version of social services.
After the presentation and a long question and answers session, we thanked our hosts, said our goodbyes and mounted up. Outside the city we cycled past a dozen black hookers strung out along the road at intervals for several kilometers. In the distance we could see the mountains where we’d be stopping in the evening. Our stop for lunch 40km later was marked by the police turning up to demand to see our ID’s and by a lunatic dog who really didn’t want to leave us.
Check out the Coordinamento Asti Est website