After the past year and a half, where we’ve all taken a break from traveling in Italy, and indeed the entire world, it’s time to get back out there and explore all that this incredible country has to offer. When the world came to a halt, it was easy to see the effects that tourism had played on the environment of Italy, as the waters and skies cleared.
As we all get back to exploring this beautiful land, sustainable tourism in Italy has never been more important. The local economy is welcoming visitors back, so lets make sure we do this sustainably.
Italy may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about a sustainable travel destination. I know that when I first started thinking about a niche travel business in sustainable travel, I was looking at various Caribbean Islands. But it only took a single family trip to Italy for me to completely change my mind.
Supporting the local economy is incredibly easy in Italy. Whether staying at a locally owned hotel or bed and breakfast, or at one of the fantastic agriturismo (family farm stays) throughout the country, you can be sure that your money is going directly into the hands of the people who live there.
For me, the best-loved part of a trip to any of the twenty regions in Italy is the chance to have distinctly local experiences. A family favorite was taking a cooking class at a little bed and breakfast in the Western Alps that included a trip to the local Mercato in Pinerolo.
Since we were in Piemonte, we learned to prepare dishes specific to the region, including the decadent Bonet, a rich chocolate treat that’s something between a pudding and a cake.
On the other end of the country, I was thrilled to experience the Festa di Santa Domenica, which takes place in the small town of Scorrano in the Salento part of Puglia. Every July, world-renowned lighting and sound experts compete in a glorious competition of illuminated structures.
What’s extra amazing is that this really is just a small, traditional festival. I’ll never forget the taste of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice over ice – truly a local delicacy!
These experiences for sustainable tourism in Italy are just the tip of the iceberg! Each region has myriad experiences to be had and locally owned places to support.
What about nature you ask? Well, Italy has it all, and its focus on sustainability is growing all the time. From Blue Flag beaches, noted for their cleanliness, to the amazing number of walking and biking paths, as well as the pristine mountains to climb in the Alps and the Apennines, you will be spoiled for choice in Italy.
Well-marked trails meant that when we wanted to explore the Dolomites, we were able to travel between rifugi, stopping in the afternoon for an incredible local meal – think homemade schnitzel and strudel with a glass of wine – and a characteristic room with a soft bed for resting until the next day’s hike.
And in Liguria, each beach we visited allowed us to walk to an enchanting little town to explore as the sun went down. A couple of special spots for us were Noli, on the Riviera di Ponente, and Bonassola, on the Riviera di Levante. There are plenty more eco tourism Italy activities around the country.
As for the final element of sustainable tourism in Italy, engaging in the cultural heritage of the place you’re visiting, a trip to Italy puts you in one of the top spots in the world.
In Perugia, I wandered the town, popping into various interesting churches, only to find myself viewing an amazing fresco by the Renaissance masters Raphael and Perugino in the tiny Chapel of San Severo.
And then there was the opera at the Arena of Verona, truly one of the most breathtaking experiences we’ve had in Italy! Just imagine sitting outdoors under the stars inside the 2,000-year-old arena and watching an intricately staged opera by Puccini or Verdi.
The beauty of the vast array of cultural opportunities in Italy means that you can be almost anyplace, from the grandest city to the smallest village, and still engage with the country’s rich culture.
Ultimately, sustainable tourism in Italy benefits travelers as well as Italians. It gives places such as Venice, that are struggling with overtourism, an opportunity to remain viable places to live and work, while it spreads travelers and their money to smaller places whose citizens can reap the benefits of tourism.
And, of course, it allows travelers to have more unique and meaningful experiences, enriching their lives and giving them a chance to know the amazing people and places that make Italy so special!