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Journey through AIA Italy: Villa Selva, Forlì and the indomitable spirit of Romagna

10 May 2024 | News

Today our journey through AIA Italy makes a special stop: Villa Selva, near Forli. An area of 20,000 m2 within which reside about 150 companies, mostly specializing in manufacturing and metalworking.

To explain why it is special, we need to go back a bit.

Our story begins exactly one year ago, on May 10, 2023, when we at FibreConnect, on a day of incessant rain, arrived at the station in Bologna. Waiting for us at the platform was a young man with glasses and a large umbrella who would drive us to our destination, Forli.

A busy day awaited us in the Romagna city: after months of planning, analysis and designing the joint campaign, christened #selvaconnected, we would finally inaugurate the network in one of the first industrial areas connected by our fiber, Villa Selva, along with our host and organizer of the upcoming events, our partner in that area, ZAL Telecommunications.

ZAL, which means “yellow” in Romagnolo dialect, is a company that provides tailor-made connectivity services for businesses: from voice to Internet bandwidth, from Security to Unified Communications, from Cloud to SD-WAN.

Nata a Forlì ormai undici anni fa, ZAL afferma le proprie radici nel territorio anche attraverso progetti legati allo sviluppo dell’area: dal sostegno alle attività sportive fino all’organizzazione di eventi di formazione e informazione.

But let’s go back to the morning of that May 10: the first scheduled appointment is a press conference chaired by the mayor of Forli, Gian Luca Zattini, at one of ZAL’s client company locations, which would be the first to activate the new connectivity services, Caste, a leading manufacturer of professional and ethnic kitchens.

Press conference at Casta headquarters. From right: Renzo Ravaglia, Ceo of FibreConnect; Paolo Casadei, Ceo of ZAL; Loretta Carbonetti, Ceo of Casta; and Gian Luca Zattini, Mayor of Forlì.

The event was very important in bringing to the attention, including the local media, the need of entrepreneurs in the area for network infrastructure to match their business goals.

Heres what Loretta Carbonetti, Casta’s Ceo and host of the press conference, had to say at the time.

At the end of the event, we had lunch with the ZAL team, a valuable opportunity to solidify the partnership and engage in direct discussion about shared goals.

After a brief tour of what would later become ZAL’s new headquarters (it will be inaugurated just this month, at the end of a week of events, the ZAL Week), we arrived at the Confindustria Romagna to introduce the new network infrastructure and connectivity services to member companies in the area.

Given the weather on that day, we certainly did not expect the hall to fill up. Instead… Again, as in the press conference, the interest of those present in the project was high.

The presentation of the selvaconnessa project in Confindustria Romagna.

This was also evidenced by the many questions posed to both FibreConnect and ZAL, which continued, along with insights and chats, during the aperitif at the end of the presentation.

Villa Selva Confindustria Romagna
The presentation of the project to businesses at the headquarters of Confindustria Romagna.

It was a day full of events, meetings and, above all, concreteness, with a clear message from everyone: “a new infrastructure is coming that we really need: explain it to us.

We returned to Rome that day with a feeling of satisfaction that we will not forget: we had been able to touch upon the why of what we were accomplishing, and it was a why made up of people with visions and plans to accomplish.

A few days after our day in Forli, that territory experienced one of the most difficult periods in its history.

Beginning at dawn on May 16, several areas of Emilia-Romagna were hit by torrential rains, accompanied by heavy showers and thunderstorms, which caused landslides, flooding, and flooding, including inundation of coastal areas. This was the second extreme weather event to hit the region in just two weeks.

Between May 1 and 3, in fact, the area had already been battered by heavy rainfall, with the phenomenon surprising in its intensity and persistence. The second weather phenomenon was even more devastating: although the amount of rain was almost identical, it fell in a shorter time interval and over a larger geographical area. Between 100 and 200 millimeters of rain were recorded in a few hours, depending on the location.

The considerable amount of rain, combined with the inability of the soil to absorb it following the rainfall that occurred in early May, resulted in a buildup of water that could not flow naturally to the sea. The consequence has been river overflows, flooding and landslides, especially in the most vulnerable areas where much of the population and economic activities are concentrated.

These images can somewhat give an idea of the extreme condition in which the people of that region found themselves in those days.

When, around May 21, 2023, the roads were finally passable to the flood-affected centers, we witnessed scenes of collective solidarity. From every corner emerged an army of volunteers, mostly young people, determined to clean houses and streets of mud and coordinated by association networks that proved they were still solid and vital.

Recovering from a disaster of this magnitude is no picnic. A study by Swiss Re reports that it was the costliest disaster in Italy: “10 billion in damages, of which only 6 percent were insured.”

Yet, the Romagnoli proved up to the task again. Not without sacrifice, but always with an eye to the future.

On the last occasion when we got in touch to talk about how things are going at Villa Selva, with Paolo Casadei, Ceo of Zal, we also went over this very special year.

FibreConnect: “Paul and I were together, exactly one year ago, to inaugurate the #selvaconnecteda project that made high-performance FTTH fiber available to all businesses in the Villa Selva industrial area, with no less than two events. How did this year go for ZAL in general and for the #selvaconnecteda project in particular?”

Paolo Casadei: “These were very busy months in which, despite the economic circumstances, ZAL achieved many important goals. We have developed our Telco network and cloud services in Stack MIL01A (formerly Supernap), brought in new people, and forged partnerships with absolutely excellent professionals that guarantee us truly significant evolutionary steps.

We have also invested in a new headquarters and we are really proud of it, so much so that it is already becoming the hub of several initiatives for clients, partners and prospects: by coming here you can see for yourself the work that has been developed over the past 3 years.

selvaconnessa was one of the activities successfully discharged to the ground. In a few months we have reached a 30 percent penetration rate of companies in the industrial area, and of course we are constantly working to reach many more. What is more than positive is the feedback we have: quality of service, ability to scale to cloud projects, clear references. All of this is greatly appreciated“.

FibreConnect: “What were the biggest challenges you faced during the flood days?

Paolo Casadei: “We have supported our clients in need, but most importantly, we have committed ourselves, hands and hearts, together with many volunteer friends, to helping our hard-hit employees. ZAL is a community, we do not conceive of ourselves alone in our work and life: individualism is defeated by history, but unfortunately it is a very present conception in our society and one that I personally fight. We have experienced a beauty and goodness within this drama that is impossible without a community dimension“.

FibreConnect: “What’s simmering in the ZAL household? Tell us about the projects you are working on….“.

zalweekPaolo Casadei: “The pot explodes! Right now we are very busy organizing ZAL week, 3 days of events where we will concretely address topics such as AI for Business or Cyber Security, as well as test drive the best SASE solution on the market. And we will celebrate our 10 years!

Then we are integrating various processes through a new service platform and engineering new services delivered from our Datacenter, we are adapting the portal (developed in-house) for activation and management of our services with the goal of making it usable for our partners the coming months… and we are developing new areas with FibreConnect!“.

In the next stage of our “Journey through the Italy of AIAs” we will return to tell you about what to see and what to eat in the locations that host our industrial areas, but today we wanted to do something different, telling you about the spirit of Romagna.

The spirit of those who do not shut themselves up in their own little garden and by collaborating manage, not only to create new things, but also to emerge stronger than before from the most difficult situations.