The Tank Park

In Ozzano, the Gamberini Barracks is now an oasis of peace.
Gen. Lanfranco Roccetti, Former Commander Special Unit AUC

There are some areas where the spirit of the place, what we might call the genius loci, a sort of guardian deity of the environment, is particularly vital. Over time, perhaps, it seems to have fallen asleep, but then here it is waking up to claim its space. This is the case of the green area located in the Municipality of Ozzano dell’Emilia, a few kilometres from Bologna. Here, in the ’60s, was located the Gamberini Barracks, where moved the legendary 11th Tank Battalion M. O. Calzecchi, a unit of the Italian Army, re-established after the losses sustained in 1942 during the battle of El Alamein. Here men and armoured vehicles trained for years, plowing through the land with their tracked vehicles, a vast 37-hectare area on Marconi Street. That military property, after decades of use for military training, has been slowly abandoned by man, but not by nature. As the human presence faded, the land began to thrive on its own. Elms, ash trees, oaks, maples grew up and took over their rightful land. Where there were large holes dug by the tanks, water was settled to form real ponds. Instead of soldiers, birds and wild animals have found here an ideal and uncontaminated habitat. 
The natural park at the ex Gamberini Barracks - Ozzano dell'Emilia

For over 100 years, the army at the Gamberini Barracks garrisoned that remote outpost in the Po Valley without knowing that, digging through that seemingly desolate land, a treasure would be discovered. Environmental groups, first and foremost the WWF, proposed to the Municipality of Ozzano, which acquired the area, to make it a natural oasis and the proposal was approved. No residential development or commercial purposes, but projects that respect a vision of environmental sustainability to safeguard what is an ecological heritage. Despite the fact that for many years there was a massive presence of soldiers in the buildings of the Barracks, and of heavy vehicles in the adjacent land used for exercises, the land has not suffered soil or groundwater pollution. This has allowed flora and fauna to grow luxuriantly, so much so that today there is talk of making it a destination for birdwatchers and a stop-off point for hiking trails. Nature has fought a peaceful and silent battle that has seen it as the absolute winner, so much so that it has earned the title of “Protected Area.” The many soldiers who have come and gone over the years now post images on social media of how the barracks used to be, memories of places, objects, and symbols of an era that, in a short time, when the last witness is gone, will be forgotten. Plants and animals, on the other hand, without the need for rhetoric, without the deafening noise of tanks, without any uniforms or medals, have shown man how good it is that certain places in the former Gamberini Barracks Nature Park in Ozzano dell’Emilia remain under the protection of nature. Root after root, flower after flower, flight after flight. After all, it’s everyone’s pleasure to see a place inhabited by plants and animals. After all, even the recent pandemic has shown how respecting biodiversity and stopping environmental degradation caused by human presence is the way to go to avoid further tragedies. Keeping the relationship between man, environment, and animals in peace, as it happened in Ozzano, is already a small step towards a better future.


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