Europe Italy

Three Great Ecotourism Destinations in Italy

20 April, 2012

Gorizia, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Photo credit: T137.

Ecotourism is defined by the International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”

Italy—the birthplace of modern civilization, the centre of the ancient Roman Empire, the land that gave us pasta and pizza and Chianti and the Ferrari (not to be consumed all at the same time!), and clothed us in Prada and Gucci and Versace. This land—did you know—has a bustling ecotourism industry and offers many attractions for ecotourists, including historical landmarks, mountains, national parks, seascapes, restored property, and several historic villages that must adhere to strict conservation policies. In fact, this little southern European country has a whopping 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, never mind the other 40 that have been submitted to the Tentative List!

With so many ecotourism destinations to choose from, here are just 3 picks to get you started:

1. The “most beautiful villages in Italy” network. Live and discover the many little historic villages scattered throughout the country that are at risk of depopulation and infrastructural decline and have thus banded together to promote environmental conservation through ecotourism initiatives.

2. Cinque Terre. This rugged coastal region in the Liguria region of Italy hugs the coast of the Italian Riviera and features rolling hills that meander through various little towns, making for a wonderfully scenic hiking vacation in the summertime, with breathtaking views and ample opportunities for picnicking and photography. Literally meaning “Five Villages,” the area comprises Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the Cinque Terre National Park.

Eco-hotels. While not really a tourist destination, an eco-hotel is a fairly new and very appropriate concept for an ecotourist. They are gaining ground in Italy, and usually feature water and energy-saving operations, tour guide services targeting historic sites and heritage villages, and an even newer “Hotel Diffuso” concept, wherein room accommodations are organized by a traditional hotel but scattered throughout different buildings in small villages. The company iStayGreen provides an eco-hotel–finding resource. The Albergo Diffuso eco-hotels are another, more direct, example of ecological lodgings available to you as an ecotourist. These eco-hotels provide an exciting and innovative way to experience local culture, mingle with the natives, and contribute to the economic welfare of the places you visit.

Buon viaggi/Happy travels!

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