Calabria a land with a great value

Mario Oliv­e­rio, Pres­i­dent of the south­ern Ital­ian Re­gion of Calabria, tells us about the re­launch­ing of this re­gion in or­der to give it a new in­ter­na­tional ap­peal. An ex­cep­tional tes­ti­mo­nial talks to the United States about his Calabria.

All About Italy (USA) - - All About Italy | The Calabria Of The Future - Paolo Del Panta

Calabria is of­ten seen as the start­ing place for one-way jour­neys to go else­where, with one’s hopes and dreams stuffed into a suit­case. It is best known as a place that was aban­doned by men and women who moved away but who for­ever kept their sense of in­ti­mate be­long­ing to this land. For many years this was the gen­er­ally ac­cepted but rather su­per­fi­cial story of Calabria and Cal­abrian iden­tity, es­pe­cially out­side its bor­ders. But now the in­sti­tu­tions and cit­i­zens of Calabria have de­cided to up­date this old nar­ra­tive and they are fi­nally talk­ing to the world about a coura­geous pop­u­la­tion that is not afraid to face the chal­lenges and changes of the fu­ture, and that is re­dis­cov­er­ing its his­tory and its pe­cu­liar char­ac­ter­is­tics. This re­gion has a new-found pride in its ex­cel­lent nat­u­ral, cul­tural, artis­tic and culi­nary her­itage, and it has de­cided to com­mu­ni­cate and pro­mote th­ese fine qual­i­ties as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble in Italy and abroad. The gov­er­nor of the Calabria Re­gion, Mario Oliv­e­rio, has be­come a spokesper­son for this fa­vor­able wind of change and re­newal, and he de­scribes an all-round pro­mo­tion strat­egy fea­tur­ing sev­eral care­fully tar­geted ini­tia­tives and ac­tions in­volv­ing in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, with par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to­wards the US.

The New York Times lists Calabria among the 52 top places to visit in 2017. So what ini­tia­tives have been planned to en­sure the ef­fec­tive pro­mo­tion of the

Re­gion of Calabria abroad?

Our ac­tiv­i­ties of in­ter­na­tional pro­mo­tion for Calabria started in 2015, and in Jan­uary 2016 the Rough Guide men­tioned some of our lo­ca­tions as top des­ti­na­tions. This guide, in­tended for a niche tar­get, made it pos­si­ble to reach “trav­el­ers” who love to dis­cover places that are out­side the or­di­nary cir­cuits. Calabria has of course been pro­moted for many years and it is well known for its coasts and the beauty of its coast­line, but it is much more than this, with many rich re­sources such as na­tional and re­gional parks, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, cas­tles, abbeys and con­vents, vil­lages and his­toric town cen­ters, which are also ideal lo­ca­tions for tele­vi­sion and movie pro­duc­tions. It is no co­in­ci­dence that the Calabria Film Com­mis­sion is hav­ing good re­sults with sev­eral of its pro­duc­tions be­ing shown at the Film Fes­ti­vals of Cannes and Venice. In the USA in par­tic­u­lar there is an in­creas­ing level of in­ter­est in Calabria as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. This is why The New York Times has listed Calabria among the 52 lo­ca­tions to visit in 2017.

We have adopted a sin­gle strat­egy in all our in­ter­na­tional tourism events and agree­ments, from Prague to Ber­lin, Moscow and Shang­hai. An im­por­tant agree­ment with China has also been ini­ti­ated, with the project “Wel­come Chi­nese” that aims to at­tract a part of the flow of tourists from

that great coun­try, also thanks to the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the in­ter­na­tional air­port of Lamezia Terme. Last June we hosted a large group of Chi­nese jour­nal­ists, blog­gers and me­dia in­flu­encers who vis­ited Calabria to dis­cover and ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty of our ter­ri­tory, and our cul­tural and gas­tro­nomic tra­di­tions. Over the last two years we have wit­nessed a rise in tourist num­bers af­ter a long pe­riod of neg­a­tive trends, and th­ese re­sults of our work show that our ac­tions have been ef­fec­tive in turn­ing the spot­light onto Calabria and bring­ing it to the at­ten­tion of the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets as a tourist des­ti­na­tion. In the first half of this year there was an in­crease of about 60% in the num­bers of pas­sen­gers us­ing Lamezia air­port as com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, with many of those pas­sen­gers com­ing from abroad.

Ob­vi­ously, the kind of tourism you are aim­ing for is also based on the sec­tor of food and wine. How does this in­volve your col­lab­o­ra­tion with the fa­mous US chef and en­tre­pre­neur Lidia Bas­tianich?

Our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lidia Bas­tianich, who vis­ited Calabria from the north to the south in May, has the goal of en­cour­ag­ing and guid­ing Cal­abrian agri-food pro­duc­ers in strength­en­ing the process of internationalization, con­tribut­ing to­wards the pro­mo­tion of a pos­i­tive im­age of Calabria. The prac­tices of so-called “slow tourism” al­low peo­ple to dis­cover lo­cally sourced or­ganic foods, with the dis­cov­ery of en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly des­ti­na­tions that are con­cerned with en­ergy-sav­ing and that of­fer healthy and eco-friendly forms of tourism. This phi­los­o­phy is em­braced by Lidia Bas­tianich her­self, who is ba­si­cally a tes­ti­mo­nial to the ef­fects that Calabria has all over the world. In fact, dur­ing the last edi­tion of the “Sum­mer Fancy Food” held in New York (in June 2017), she stated that “the trend-set­ting foods of 2018 will be Cal­abrian”.

Re­gard­ing the Cal­abrian wine-mak­ing her­itage you have re­peat­edly men­tioned the frag­mented way in which wine pro­duc­ers present them­selves on the mar­ket, and have you un­der­lined the need for them to team up. How is the re­gion com­ing to­gether to be­come a sys­tem?

The qual­ity of lo­cal wines has grown enor­mously thanks to the pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm of the farm­ers and wine pro­duc­ers, who have made some bold de­ci­sions. With the help of re­search they are con­tin­u­ing to im­prove ge­netic va­ri­ety by en­hanc­ing na­tive grape cul­ti­vars. For many years now, Cal­abrian wines have been re­ceiv­ing

This is not one of Italy’s top tourist des­ti­na­tions. Calabria is of­ten con­sid­ered to be the Caribbean of Europen thanks to its amaz­ing beaches, col­or­ful coast­line, pic­turesque vil­lages and amaz­ing food and wine Master­card #Tophid­den­trea­sures

nu­mer­ous na­tional and in­ter­na­tional awards. Also or­ganic wine pro­duc­tion in Calabria in­creased last year, with a rise of 2.5% over the pre­vi­ous year. This year, at the in­ter­na­tional wine com­pe­ti­tion and ex­po­si­tion Vini­taly, the Calabria re­gion was rep­re­sented by 58 sep­a­rate wine com­pa­nies which, to­gether with the as­so­ci­a­tions of pro­duc­ers Vini DOC Cirò and Melissa and Vini DOP Terre di Cosenza, ex­hib­ited about 500 dif­fer­ent Cal­abrian la­bels. Un­for­tu­nately, not ev­ery­one knows that Calabria has a rich her­itage of about 350 na­tive grape va­ri­eties that have been pre­served over time thanks to the rel­a­tive iso­la­tion of the in­land ar­eas, with 12,000 hectares of vine­yards pro­duc­ing about 10 mil­lion bot­tles of wine. Thanks to in­ter­ven­tions sup­ported by the Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram PSR 2014/2020, the Re­gion of Calabria now aims to strengthen the in­no­va­tion and com­pet­i­tive­ness of this sec­tor, through pro­mo­tion in third mar­kets, re­struc­tur­ing and im­prove­ment of vine­yards, in­vest­ments and green har­vest­ing, also so as to ob­tain pos­i­tive ef­fects on oc­cu­pa­tion. In ad­di­tion to the wine sec­tor, I would like to men­tion olive pro­duc­tion, which is a fun­da­men­tal in­dus­try in Calabria. Its im­pact on the agri­cul­tural sec­tor in our re­gion is sig­nif­i­cant, as it amounts to over a third of to­tal pro­duc­tion. We are the sec­ond-rank­ing Ital­ian re­gion for olive cul­ti­va­tion, and the first in terms of or­gan­i­cally farmed ex­tra vir­gin olive oil.

In 2017 an ar­ti­cle by Eric Asi­mov in The New York Times brought Cal­abrian wine into the spot­light. What’s your po­si­tion­ing in this sec­tor on the US mar­ket today?

By means of an in­ten­sive pro­gram of events and tast­ings in­volv­ing jour­nal­ists, blog­gers, and US in­flu­encers, we have worked to strengthen the im­age of those wine pro­duc­ers that are al­ready present on the US mar­ket, in or­der to in­crease their mar­ket­ing po­ten­tial and stim­u­late in­ter­est in the many Cal­abrian winer­ies that are of­fer­ing ever in­creas­ing num­bers of high qual­ity la­bels. Also for this rea­son, on March 24th, Eric Asi­mov, writ­ing for the pres­ti­gious New York journal, hon­ored our Gaglioppo grape by in­clud­ing it in his list of “12 Wine Grapes Worth Dis­cov­er­ing”, say­ing that it “can make gor­geously rus­tic reds, with aro­mas of roses and smoke and grippy tan­nins”. This is another great step for­ward for the Cal­abrian wine in­dus­try.

Calabria’s re­cov­ery is one as­pect of a gas­tro­nomic rev­o­lu­tion now be­ing car­ried for­ward by Miche­lin star restau­ra­teurs both young and old, who are united by their mis­sion of giv­ing back recog­ni­tion to an in­valu­able land. Are they be­ing suc­cess­ful in this mis­sion?

I like to bear in mind the fact that Calabria is the true home of the Mediter­ranean Diet. It was in 1957 in Calabria, at Ni­cotera, that Pro­fes­sor An­cel Keys, the founder of a new style of food and psy­chophys­i­cal well-be­ing, iden­ti­fied a diet that he would de­fine as “La Di­eta Mediter­ranea”, which UNESCO re­cently des­ig­nated as an In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage of Hu­man­ity.

Today, the Ital­ian sci­en­tist Val­ter Longo of the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (USC) and the In­sti­tute of Molec­u­lar

On­col­ogy (IFOM) in Mi­lan, orig­i­nally from Molo­chio in Calabria, never fails to cite the virtues of the sim­ple and gen­uine food of his Cal­abrian child­hood as in his book “The Longevity Diet”. On the ba­sis of the in­gre­di­ents that na­ture has made avail­able in Calabria, sev­eral young chefs have come to promi­nence in re­cent years, com­bin­ing age-old tra­di­tions with in­no­va­tive cui­sine that is now es­tab­lish­ing a trend all around the world.

I think that th­ese young chefs are the true am­bas­sadors of Calabria to the world, as they are con­tribut­ing to­wards giv­ing this land that is so rich in op­por­tu­nity and po­ten­tial the credit that it de­serves.

Af­ter 10 years in which the num­bers of vis­i­tors have de­clined, since 2016 there has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in vis­i­tors to Calabria, a sub­stan­tial per­cent­age of which are in­ter­na­tional tourists. What are the most pop­u­lar lo­ca­tions for for­eign­ers?

The sea­side con­tin­ues to be in the lead, with Tro­pea, the Marine Pro­tected Area of Capo Riz­zuto, the Gulf of Squil­lace, and the coast­lines near the is­land of Dino, as well as around the towns of Locri and Sibari. But the dis­cov­ery of the vil­lages and his­toric town cen­ters and the nat­u­ral scenery in three Na­tional Parks as well as one Re­gional Park at­tract high lev­els of niche tourism. In fact we have planned the long­est cy­cling route in the Mediter­ranean, which will go across the whole re­gion of Calabria along the Magna Gre­cia itin­er­ary, as well as a sec­ond cy­cling route through the parks which, start­ing from the park of Pollino, will cross the parks of the Sila, the Serre and the Aspromonte to reach Reg­gio Calabria.

The in­ter­est of tourists in the Cal­abrian moun­tain ar­eas is grow­ing, as the data from the last two years re­veals. In fact there is a good in­flux of out­door en­thu­si­asts from all over Europe, who are dis­cov­er­ing the Cal­abrian moun­tains as a place to prac­tice out­door sports or just to en­joy a close con­tact with na­ture. Just now in July, the Ital­ian Na­tional Ca­noe­ing Team chose the Sila as the train­ing lo­ca­tion for

“Gaglioppo. This grape from the Cirò ap­pel­la­tion in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot, can make gor­geously rus­tic reds, with aro­mas of roses and smoke and grippy tan­nins”. Eric Asi­mov - The New York Times

ju­nior ath­letes in the pe­riod pre­ced­ing the world cham­pi­onships, with a pro­gram of sport­ing events in­tended to re­vi­tal­ize the Cal­abrian moun­tains as an “open-air gym­na­sium”. Th­ese range from well or­ga­nized row­ing and raft­ing events on the Lao River, to ad­ven­ture parks, canyon­ing and moun­tain bik­ing. And at the end of the sum­mer we hosted the “NDUT - Nor­man Dou­glas Ul­tra Trail”, a moun­tain bike race along a 1,144 km trail that faith­fully mir­rors the jour­ney made by this Bri­tish travel writer in the early 1900s and that goes through all of the re­gional parks in the re­gion. The ath­letes who took part have spo­ken of the warm hu­man wel­come that was ex­tended to them along the route.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of tourism also con­sists of en­hanc­ing the trans­port net­work, es­pe­cially by air and there has been talk about this in Calabria. What will it con­sist of?

As I men­tioned ear­lier, the in­ter­na­tional air­port of Lamezia Terme has had an ex­po­nen­tial in­crease in the num­ber of trav­el­ers com­ing from abroad over the last six months, but we are work­ing on a more ex­ten­sive re­launch­ing of the Cal­abrian air­port sys­tem. We have is­sued an im­por­tant co-mar­ket­ing ten­der for air­lines which is worth 12 mil­lion Eu­ros, and another call for ten­ders con­cerns new routes be­tween the air­ports of Reg­gio Calabria, Cro­tone and Lamezia, and the rest of Italy and Europe. We are also plan­ning to es­tab­lish high speed rail con­nec­tions as far as Reg­gio Calabria. The mod­ern­iza­tion and speed­ing up of the Jon­ica rail­way, that con­nects Sibari, Cro­tone and Reg­gio Calabria, is now in progress, and we have al­lo­cated 530 mil­lion Eu­ros to this pro­gram.

We have de­cided to use our old­est rail­ways for pur­poses of tourism, such as the one that con­nects Cosenza with San Gio­vanni in Fiore, which is prov­ing to be ex­tremely suc­cess­ful in its cur­rently op­er­a­tional sec­tion in the Sila. Pre­cisely this an­cient rail­way line that crosses the Sila Moun­tains is be­ing used in present months in the shoot­ing of an An­glo-amer­i­can pro­duced tele­vi­sion se­ries for Fox. The di­rec­tor was fas­ci­nated by the evoca­tive sight of those tracks that pen­e­trated those re­mote and iso­lated ar­eas in the last cen­tury. The In­ter­min­is­te­rial Com­mit­tee for Eco­nomic Plan­ning (CIPE) has also given the go-ahead for main­te­nance works on the “Jon­ica” state high­way 106, which will make a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment to road trans­port along the Adri­ati­cio­nian-tyrrhe­nian route.

How would you de­scribe Calabria in just three or four words?

I would tell you that Calabria is na­ture, cul­tural and his­toric her­itage and fine food and wine.

Lidia Bas­tianich with the gov­er­nor of the Calabria Re­gion Mario Oliv­e­rio.

Santa Maria dell’isola, the monastery on the is­land in Tro­pea.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.