On the 10th of October, the network of Slow Food in Albania and those of the NGO VIS met in Fishta to offer their farewell to PierPaolo Ambrosi, together with his friends and family. Pier was an extraordinary leader with an unforgettable human touch, who left us too early last June. Whoever met him has not forgotten his ability to speak to the heart and mind of people. And it is not surprising that the meeting room where we gathered couldn’t host all the people who passed by to say good-bye.
It was a day to remember all that he had achieved. It is thanks to him that Slow Food has made roots in Albania.
In 2010, he came into our office, proposing us to start our movement in Albania and open our first convivium in the country. Six years later he had established a whole movement, able to host delegations from all over the Balkans for what remains one of the most beautiful events Slow Food has ever organized: the 2016 edition of Terra Madre Balkans.
He could see far. When he first came to us, ten years ago, it seemed crazy to focus on rural identity in a country where the memory of the peasantry had been decimated first by communism and then by emigration. Nonetheless, he encouraged us to set up in Albania one of the first Slow Food Cooks’ Alliances in the world. It is also thanks to him if today Albanian gastronomy is renowned worldwide as one of the most vibrant culinary movements in Europe.
The whole of Albania owes him a lot. He arrived in Albania in 1991, with one of the first relief missions set up by Caritas – the charitable arm of the Italian Bishops Conference. Communism had just collapsed, imploded in the inability to offer its citizens even the basic services and food. “Albanians got to freedom and democracy, because of hunger” he once told us. He was meant to stay few months. He remained for 30 years, taking part in an endless project for reconstruction first, and then development. He soon dedicated his effort to rural development, where mass migration was emptying entire communities. Until he got to some of the remotest communities in Europe, in the impenetrable Albanian alps in northern Albania: the Kelmend region. There, he established innovative rural tourism projects, ensured access to micro-credit scheme for hundreds of families, and worked with shepherds to establish the Slow Food Presidium of Mishavin cheese.
Because of his experience and commitment, he had been selected to participate as a delegate at our International Congress in Chengdu, China in 2017. He, who had never wanted to be a convivium leader, was de facto the leader of all Slow Food in Albania, and a teacher for all of us.