Italy’s international bird airport goes slow
Massive EU investment puts sustainable tourism on the Po Delta menu
Recently a local nature and tourist guide told me that she described the Po Delta to visitors as Frankfurt airport? Why? "Because it is strategically placed between other Northern and Southern wetlands, because of the silt there is plenty of good fish in the sea and it is safe. So you can believe that it is even more busy than Frankfurt airport, but with birds rather than planes. It is a Mecca for birdwatchers, and many other people who want to enjoy its beauty." She said.
Everybody sees the Po Delta through different eyes – for birds, it’s a massive, strategically-placed version of Frankfurt airport with thousands of movements of many colourful species each microsecond. Environmentalists see it as an amazing biodiversity hub, to farmers and merchants it’s the most fertile and productive soil there is, and for warring states it’s a gloriously productive prize.
Over at least the last 1500 years, the Po Delta’s fertile soil and strategic position have produced the massive wealth and power necessary to create dozens of sublime art cities and thousands of transcendental works of art.
Moreover a direct result of the Po Delta’s fertile sea and soil is an astonishing array of fabulous food -luscious fruits and vegetables, magnificent and diverse seafood, superb wines, olive oils and much more.
With its wonderful food and wine, glorious beaches, exceptional cultural and natural heritage and unbeatable hospitality this is a land made for tourism – a fact now recognised by the European Union who are supporting a massive drive towards sustainable Slow tourism in the area. The idea is to use tourism to preserve, support and steward this cultural, economic, social and environmental resource – and deliver sustainable, authentic, fulfilling experiences to visitors.
Substantial funds – probably in excess of €300million (including the €137m EU Cross-border Development Fund (2007-2013) … are being poured in to create a Slow Tourism paradise with a number of different facets.
With its 300 bird species (including the astonishing sight of 10,000 Greater flamingos) the Po Delta is ideal for bird watching and a special new Slow tourism guide has been produced with dozens of itineraries not only for the world’s 80 million birdwatchers but also for families, individuals, in fact anybody who is interested in exploring the magical UNESCO World Heritage 53.000 hectare Po Delta Park.
The delta is beautiful and flat – Ideal for leisurely cycling holidays. As a result of the project a new free Slow tourism guide has been produced with itineraries that help to explore the area’s wealth of sights and experiences. Just one example takes in one of the world’s most beautiful basilicas (6c St Apollinare in Classe) ancient pine woods and seaside Cervia’s extraordinary salt pan.
Massive wealth and power has been accrued in the area over the last 1500 years in which Ravenna has been twice capital of Italy. This has resulted in a history of lavish festivals and extraordinary architecture – there are literally dozens of treasure-chest cities of art in the area – all worth a slow and thoughtful visit, so they have all been incorporated in special Slow tourism guides including Ravenna Faenza Bologna and Chiogga
Above all, tourists return again and again to the area because of its remarkable and well-earned reputation for hospitality, food and wine. It is not by chance that the ‘Father of Italian Cookery’ Pellegrino Artusi was born in the area – his legend lives on in the form of a library and cookery school Casa Artusi rated as the best in Italy,
So Slow, sustainable tourism and slow food is coming to the fore in the Po Delta and, apart from birdwatching, cycling, seeing sights and eating slowly, what else is on the menu?
Tourists can try boating the delta, for example, enjoy seaside breaks on the lovely beaches of historic Rimini, Ravenna, or Cervia combined with a little culture and some walking or cycling. Specific wellness holidays are also available and a massive range of sports including pretty much everything.
The European Union funding, together with participation from hundreds of local initiatives in Veneto and Emilia Romagna is certainly a great start to helping this exceptional area derive real benefits from tourism and tourists to have fabulous natural holidays.
The time to visit may be now!
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