Caserta, Italy in the Slow Food Fastlane
The COP26 summit in Glasgow ended on November 10 and foreign dignitaries returned to their jets. Meanwhile, on November 12 in Caserta, Campania Italy, the European Union organized forums on the role of sustainable tourism as a driver for achieving global climate neutrality.
The Caserta conference featured panelists from the EU in Brussels and local officials from Caserta, and the word ‘sustainable’ passed from speaker to speaker. This nimble timing of a downstream event was a response to a clock that can’t exactly tell us what, when or where our planet is facing an environmental disaster.
In fashion now
One floor above, at the Plaza Castera Hotel, there was a side event for the private sector putting the legs behind the credo of responsible tourism. Local Italian tour operators met buyers from a dozen countries, while directly opposite were Italian wine growers, olive oil producers and other culinary suppliers. It was the harmonious link for a region hoping to pivot towards a post-COVID low-impact circular tourism economy.
The message in the Italian region of Campania was clear: it’s back to the farm, and we are all invited. And why shouldn’t Italy show the way? The Slow Food movement started in 1989 in Italy and is now global, operating in over 160 countries. Slow Food has become an integral part (to varying degrees) in the places we visit around the world. It ensures that everyone has access to “good, clean and fair food” and slows down “the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions”.
In the post-COVID world, it’s a tourism model whose time is (again). And what better place to see its fruit than the southern region of Italy, Campania. Far beyond how Napoli gave pizza to the world, the food choices we make while traveling affect the world around us. All spheres of life are impacted by our food. Culture, politics, agriculture and the environment are all in one basket when it comes to growing, distributing and enjoying food.
Does the union of gastronomy / wine and international tourism generate a responsible tourism model? One thing seems certain; Southern Italy has adopted the Slow Food movement mantra in the small-group tour market. It’s a bit like putting slow food in the Fastlane and could well become a post-COVID sales opportunity for agents and their clients who want a micro-experience in the Italian countryside.
It is an alliance made in the paradise of sustainable tourism; connecting the trip to the very places where iconic foods (buffalo mozzarella) and regional fruits like Melannurca Campana IGP, Maddalona (an extraordinary apple) are produced and processed.
Caserta is located approximately 25 miles north of the famous Port of Naples. The town (80,000 inhabitants) offers the experience of a small rural Italian town (farmers’ markets, regional cuisine and an ancient medieval hilltop village) as well as the largest palace in Europe, its finest factory of silk, a 30-mile aqueduct, architectural works and easy access to Mount Pompeii. In fact, Campania has 10 of Italy’s 58 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
But it is in the fields, hills, orchards and traditional micro-transformations of the Campania region that the Slow Food magic is expressed. Caserta sits at the base of the Campanian Apennine mountain range (the second longest in Italy) which stretches north and runs along the Mediterranean coast. Caserta is less than an hour from the famous Amalfi Coast.
If you travel the narrow roads that lead you from old Caserta to the valley where Caserta came to life in the 16th century, it is an invitation to explore rural areas where exceptional products are found in situ, linked to typical places. which exist above all to exalt craftsmanship and proven preparation of specific foods.
Take for example Mozzarella and Ricotta from Buffalo, PDO Caserta. Production would have started in the 12th century and is today subject to a strict production regime (PDO is a type of geographical indication of the European Union and the United Kingdom aimed at preserving the appellations of origin of products linked to food). Or the Conciato Romano cheese, made in Castel di Sasso (a short drive north of Caserta), created here to preserve a source of protein during the summer months when the sheep are not producing milk. Further north is the town of Alife, renowned for its onions – sweet, intense and aromatic.
Slow food, a movement initiated in 1989, will certainly become a critical niche for sustainable travel that the world will need more and more. The Campania region is a great place, where product, politics and a sustainable tourism experience take you from field to fork in the Italian countryside. Ask your favorite US tour operator about these and other Italian Slow Food experiences.