The second Strength2Food hybrid forum took place in Italy on 28 September 2018 as part of the European Researchers’ Night, and it aimed to come up with viable solutions for tackling the challenge of depopulation in the area of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine National Park. The goal was to look at local tourism and agri-food production specifically, as a source of inspiration.
A number of experts and panellists opened the even by discussing how the attractiveness of the mountain territory can be enhanced by focusing on two successful examples that match tourism with traditional gastronomy and cycling holidays. The floor was subsequently opened for the audience to share their perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of the touristic offer in the area. If on the one hand local community tends to be wary of tourists, seeing them as harmful, and most of the population doesn’t speak English, or anything but their local dialect, on the other hand the youth in the region acknowledge the potential of tourism and believe in the traditional high-quality food & wine production as a major driver of improvement. While the region admittedly has some accessibility issues, the MaB-UNESCO (Man and Biosphere) Reserve and its trained staff continue to attract and welcome tourists.
The hybrid forum drew to a close with the submission of a few proposals aiming to remove some of the aforementioned barriers: investing in promotion and training for a better communication, launching a network for community, producers, tourist guide and National Park operators to collaborate and strengthening the road network. Taking good practices in other Italian mountain regions as an example, the Central Apennines area might want to tap into its unique food offer and promote it with prospective tourists including, but not exclusively, through social networking.