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Caserta, Italy in the Slow Food Fastlane

05 Dec 2021 By travelpulse

Caserta, Italy in the Slow Food Fastlane

The Glasgow COP26 Summit wrapped up on November 10, and the foreign dignitaries boarded their jets home. Meanwhile, on Nov 12 in Caserta, Campania Italy the European Union executed forums around sustainable tourism’s role as a driver to achieve global climate neutrality.

The Caserta conference presented panelists from EU Brussels and Caserta local officials, and the word “sustainable” flowed from speaker to speaker. This nimble timing of a downstream event was in response to a ticking clock that can’t exactly tell us what, when or where our planet faces an environmental doomsday.

One floor above, at the Plaza Castera Hotel there was a parallel private sector event putting legs to the responsible tourism creed. Local Italian inbound tour operators met with buyers from a dozen countries, while just across the way were Italian winemakers, olive oil producers and other culinary purveyors. It was the harmonious nexus for a region hoping to pivot toward a circular, lower impact tourism economy post-COVID.

The message in Italy’s Campania region was clear: it’s back to the farm, and we’re all invited. And why shouldn’t Italy lead the way? The Slow Food movement started in 1989 in Italy and is now global, operating in over 160 countries. Slow Food has become integral (to varying levels) in places we visit around the world. It works to ensure everyone has access to “good, clean, and fair food” and slow “the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions.”

In the post-COVID world, it is a tourism model whose time has come (once again). And what better locale to see its fruition than the southern Italian region of Campania. Far beyond how Napoli gave the world pizza, food choices we make while traveling affect the world around us. All spheres of life are impacted by how we eat. Culture, politics, agriculture and the environment are all in one basket when it comes to how food is cultivated, distributed and enjoyed.

Does unifying food/wine and international tourism generate a responsible tourism model? One thing seems certain; southern Italy has taken the Slow Food movement’s mantra into the small-group package tour marketplace. It’s sort of like putting slow food into the Fastlane and could well become a post-COVID sales opportunity for agents and their customers wanting a micro experience in the Italian countryside.

It’s a match made in sustainable tourism heaven; connecting travel to the very places where iconic foodstuffs (buffalo mozzarella) and regional fruits like the Melannurca Campana PGI, Maddalona (an apple extraordinaire) are produced and processed.

Caserta lies some 25 miles north of the famed port of Naples. The city (population 80,000) offers a rural, small-town Italy experience (farmers markets, regional cuisine and an ancient hilltop medieval village) along with Europe’s largest palace, its finest silk factory, a 30-mile aqueduct, works of architectural wonder and easy access to Mount Pompei. In fact, Campania has 10 of Italy’s 58 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

But it’s in the fields, hills, orchards and traditional micro-processing of the Campania region that the Slow Food magic is on display. Caserta sits at the base of the Campanian Apennines Mountain range (Italy’s second longest) that stretches from the north and runs adjacent to the Mediterranean seacoast. Caserta is under an hour to the famed Amalfi Coast.

If you walk the narrow roads that lead you from Old Caserta into the valley where Caserta came to life in the 16th century, it’s an invitation to explore rural settings where exceptional products are in situ, linked to typical places that primarily exist to exalt craftsmanship and time-tested preparation of specific foods.

Take for example the Mozzarella and Buffalo Ricotta, PDO Caserta. Production is said to have begun in the 12th century and is today under a strict production regimen (PDO is a type of Geographical Indication of the European Union, and the UK aimed at preserving the designations of origin of food-related products). Or Conciato Romano cheese, made in Castel di Sasso (a short drive north of Caserta), created here to preserve a protein source during summer months when sheep do not produce milk. Further north is the town of Alife, renowned for onions – sweet, intense and aromatic in taste.

Slow food, a movement started in 1989, will certainly become a critical sustainable travel niche that the world will need more and more. The Campania region is a sweet spot, where product, policy 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.

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