Who Will Revive Dwindling Italian Villages And Traditions?

Global EAT - Who Will Revive Dwindling Italian Villages And Traditions?
Many Italian villages are built on hilltops for defense purposes in medieval times. (Photo: andreeastate14 / pixabay.com)

Italian villages and traditions are facing major challenges and what the government is doing to save these ancient gems from fading into history.

Italy is home to 58 UNESCO world heritage sites, the largest number of any country in the world. Travellers are captivated by its amazing art and architecture, food, wine and fashion.

But the true beauty of this ancient land lies in the countryside, where picturesque landscapes and borghi (small medieval villages) bear witness to centuries of culture and history.

Once the heartbeat of rural Italy, borghi now faced declining populations, economic challenges, and neglected heritage. Young people sought opportunities elsewhere, leaving behind an aging population, empty houses and fading memories.

Recognizing the importance to preserve cultural legacies and revive diminishing rural communities, the Italian government undertook various initiatives to rejuvenate these historic gems. The roots tourism project is one of them. The government anticipate the project will serve as a compelling force in breathing new life into these fading borghi, boost local jobs and the economy.

Global EAT - Who Will Revive Dwindling Italian Villages And Traditions?
A senior doing needlework outside her trulli home in Alberobello, Puglia. “For Italian immigrants and their descendants, needlework represents a marker of identity, a cultural touchstone as powerful as pasta and Neapolitan music.”– Joseph Sciorra (Photo: NikaoMedia.com)

What is Root Tourism?

Roots tourism has become a transformative journey for people seeking to reconnect with their ancestral roots. These travellers tend to stay longer in a destination.

For people of Italian lineage, they are drawn to ancient borghi, eager to explore the places their ancestors once lived, worked, and thrived.

With a yearning to uncover their family history and embrace their heritage, they embark on a pilgrimage of self-discovery and connection.

They not only visit the country for its beauty, but also reconnect with places where their ancestors left and revive memories and traditions. Said Giovanni Maria De Vita, Head of the Turismo delle Radici project at the Roots Tourism.

The project aims to support tourists who are interested to research their family history by connecting them with the local authorities and assisting them in accessing church archives. A free guide is available to help Italians rediscover their roots, added Dr. Attilio Ardito, Regional Project Coordinator for Puglia.

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The Puglia diaspora community in Canada is an important group, said Dr. Francesco Muciaccia – Head of Extra-EU (European Union) Foreign Markets of Puglia Promotion. He cited the annual La Notte della Taranta held in Salento every summer is the biggest festival in Italy and one of the most important folk events in Europe.

“An incredible initiative by Italy – a great opportunity for B.C. Italians and for my children as well to rediscover our roots,” said Mario Miceli, Executive Director of Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver – whose parents originated from Calabria in Southern Italy.

De Vita, Ardito and Muciaccia spoke via live conferencing from Italy at the roundtable talk hosted by the Federation of Pugliese Social Clubs in partnership with the Italian Cultural Centre, Vancouver and COMITES in Vancouver in March this year.

Global EAT - Who Will Revive Dwindling Italian Villages And Traditions?
Al fresco dining at an Italian restaurant in a village in Tuscany, Italy. Al fresco in Italian means “in the fresh air, in the cool air.” (Photo: NinasCreativeCorner / pixabay.com)

2024 Year of Italian Roots

The Directorate General for Italians Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has declared 2024 as the Year of Italian Roots.

Italy hopes to enhance its relationship with its global community of 80 million emigrants’ descendants through this initiative.  Strengthen their mutual exchange, boost travel and business.

In the process, revitalize dwindling Italian villages, revive and preserve traditions that made Italy an attractive destination to live and visit.