Responsible tourism: Organic farmhouse in Southern Tuscany, Italy
We personally and as a business recycle everything possible, and encourage guests to do so, taking away segregated rubbish for them if they really can’t manage it (most of them do and are glad to do so). The farmhouse is registered organic, producing spelt, mainly. In addition it is solar-powered, and heated with wood sourced from pruning the many trees on the property, allowing the branches to regrow for future fuel. Water for the pool is collected in a pond and filtered and treated accordingly. It is analysed regularly. The pool has to be treated with a little chlorine but two solar-powered ionizers do most of the work. Working with another organic "didactic" farm nearby, whose owners are also responsible for one of the local WWF reserves, we are pleased to offer lessons in bread-making, cheese-making, and information on the plants, trees and animals of the area, etc. They are a delightful family we much enjoy working with.
Other parks and protected areas enable us to make use of their respective local guides. The Upper Albegna is an Important Bird Area and there are numerous protected areas all around which testify to its ecological importance.
Farming around here has focused mainly on sheep (for Pecorino cheese), with some wine growing and olive oil production as well. This has protected it from the worst excesses of 20th century farming (with heavy use of chemicals and eliminating everything that hasn’t been deliberately sown) leaving a “clean” environment around the protected areas where organic cultivation and wildlife can thrive.
Where possible we shop in the village, not in supermarkets. We support the local economy and environmental concerns. I am also president of a local environmental group. As much as possible we source everything locally. Supporting local restaurants is a responsibility we take seriously ?
This area is quite isolated and “off the beaten track” and any initiative that brings people to it is important and desperately needed. Although truly beautiful, it suffers from being virtually unknown. The existing tourism provides much needed income for this area, and the locals are urging us on enthusiastically, though (fortunately) the infrastructure cannot support big tourist developments. The twin economic motors here are agriculture and tourism, and I believe that bringing people to discover the area in a “sustainable” way is the biggest contribution we can make.
In addition there are many excellent producers of wine, cheese and olive oil – our favourites being the smaller, usually organic family run businesses. We make a point of bringing as much custom to these as we can.
This whole area is sustained by many “microbusinesses”, so even small initiatives can have a big, positive impact.