Italy villa near Majella National Park, Abruzzo

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Italy villa near Majella National Park, Abruzzo

Environment

1. Wildlife.
The river Aventino, at the bottom of our garden, is an unpolluted mountain river containing trout and some shrimps. It's environment also supports the protected otter. This stretch of the river is a "No Kill Zone" that is policed regularly by the Forestale (Forest Police). Much of our 5 acre land is left as a wildflower meadow to encourage all forms of wildlife from bees to ladybirds and butterflies, from mice to snakes, from starling to falcon and golden eagle, from fox to wild boar. We have seen all of these in our garden and even a doe and a stag watering in the river. In June 2011 some conservationists identified 26 species of butterfly in one morning of which two were rare.
2. Waste
We recycle as much as possible. Our local mayor was one of the first in this area to introduce recycling and now, with our encouragement to do more, has introduced recycling of TetraPak. We compost our own organic waste and use on our land. We burn paper, card and wood and use on our land. We use products made from recycled items. We have our own cesspit waste system, so we provide our guests with ECO friendly washing and cleaning products. We even have rugs made from recycled plastic bottle caps. All our sheets are vintage linen, as are many of our blankets - made locally in the wool mills before they shut down.
3. Water
We divert rainwater into a system of wells to water the plants on our allotments and the fruit trees in our orchards. The water delivered to our tap comes from deep within the Majella mountain and as such is soft and so reduces the amount of soap type products required; it is also sweet and clear to drink with a much better taste than bottled drinking water.
We use dual-flushing lavatory cisterns to conserve water.
4. Energy
We have solar panels on our roof that create electricity that is fed into the local grid. We burn wood coppiced from our own forest. The river Aventino is harnessed down-stream by a very large hydro-electric dam, that was built some 50 years ago to provide the local community area with electric power.
Unfortunately in order to do this this a valley was flooded to make a lake and engulfing a village - destroying a community. We disagree with the cementing of rivers for hydro-electric power, that destroys communities or wildlife or ecosystems.
5. Buildings
Our house and the adjacent 'Casa del Fiume' is over 200 years old, made of local Majella stone and locally mined gypson. It was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1933 by a wealthy family from Chieti who split the country residence into two units. After many years of neglect, we have restored it using locally sourced materials and locally sourced labour skills.
6. Transport
Whilst many people may choose to arrive here by air (to Pescara or Rome) and then hire a car, Italy does have a good transport system. It is possible to arrive here by public transport. We are on a main road that is served by buses to Lanciano, where it is possible to get a bus to Rome or a train to Pescara.
The local community also provide a bus service to Casoli on market-day (Friday).
7.Suppliers
Many local suppliers deliver to the door bread, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat etc.

Community

1. Friends and Neighbours
We provide recommendations of all local suppliers including:
restaurants; pizzerias; bakery; fruit and vegetable stores; supermarkets; organic mushroom farm; organic produce suppliers of honey, truffles, beer, vino cotto; salami; raw and cooked hams.
We have arranged guided tours of the region with a local (english-speaking) guide. We have arranged guided walks in the area with a local (english-speaking) mountain guide.
We provide details of the best activities and sights in the area.
We provide details of the best Festa's to go to and the best beaches too.
We even take our guests to an organic vineyard for wine-tasting.
2. Campaigning for change
In 2012 we campaigned with our neighbours and the mayor against the proposed building of yet another dam on the river Aventino. This project will destroy:
the livelihood of the few remaining people who still use the river;
the natural beauty of the Aventino valley;
the balance of ecosystem in the area;
the habitat for the wildlife (including the otter and shrimp).
We helped organise an "Aventino Day", to help spread information about the problem. This involved WWF, since the Majella national Park is the only WWF Protected Area Network (PAN) park in western europe. We were interviewed on TV and by the press at press conferences called by either the mayor or WWF. We got the campaign blogged about by both english and italian bloggers and we helped set up a FaceBook page (Amici d'Aventino).
We contacted the European Rivers Network (ERN) and the President (Roberto Epple) visited us and promised to help us in our campaign. This resulted in our participation in Big Jump Day 2012 in July. So every year we will continue to jump in the river Aventino en-masse at 3pm on the second Sunday in July, to celebrate a living river. And thousands of other will do the same across Europe.
3. Volunteering and Charity
We help in anything that benefits the local community and that we agree with (see point 2).
5. We buy almost everything locally and encourage our guests to do likewise. We take our guests to local markets and cultural fairs. We recommend local attractions to visit such as museums. theatres, folk music concerts, the famous "Grotto di Cavallone" and ruins of monastery San Martino at the "Gola" in the Majella National Park.
6. Travelling with respect
We provide our guests with maps of the local area, walking route maps, guide books and brochures of all the attractions and sights. We also provide our own information manual with local etiquette and our recommended attractions and things to do and visit, where to eat, where to shop, how to get things delivered to the door. And not leaving anything to chance because of language difficulties, we offer to book anything for them too.

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