A traditional recipe, a vegetable, or a livestock breed may carry a long history, and behind this history there is always a community. In 2000, we established the Slow Food Presidia to safeguard and recover artisanal food products and traditions at risk of becoming extinct, based on the understanding that losing them would entail the loss of values and knowledge accumulated over generations. At the beginning, the Presidia project highlighted the need for us all to be vigilant in the face of market mechanisms that push standardized, energy-rich, low-quality foods. After almost 20 years we can say that, all around the world, the Presidia projects have helped create communities, not just of producers but also cooks who work with their products, experts and academics who support research and endeavor to improve production practices, and consumers who decide to search for high-quality products. These diverse groups have enabled the Presidia projects to an important force in the fight for biodiversity, as well as driver of discourse about territories and people.
Slow Food Travel is a great example of how this discourse can develop and bring together all the potentials of the Slow Food Network. In this new approach to travel, encounters with farmers, herders, and producers of cheese, cured meat, bread, and wine are alternated with visits to the chefs who, by using the products of their landscapes, become the ideal guides to the territory, its history and traditions, and local gastronomic knowledge.
Today, our network offers three itineraries (in The Upper Tanaro Valley and the Biella Mountains in Piedmont, Italy; and Alpe Adria in Carinthia, Austria) and we invite you to take a look at them on our website, www.slowfood.com. These are not simply routes to stick to, but a way to connect with the people who have shaped the territory in which you will travel.
The same travel model has been promoted by two young people from Messina, Sicily: Madly in love with their territory, they’ve been developing an itinerary that gives participants first-hand contact with rural Sicily. Tommaso Ragonese (the writer) and Marco Crupi (the photographer) are the creators of this project, Slow Sicily, which goes well beyond the normal tourist guide—indeed, it is a way to explore “that Sicily that you can’t see, the one that no one is talking about, that even Sicilians themselves often choose to ignore.”
To experience this “hidden Sicily,” they chose to move by bike, and undertook a journey of 80 days with neither a strict schedule nor any intention to hurry: “Somebody asked us if we had some cardinal sins to atone. In fact, we chose to go by bike to be able to grasp every detail of our trip. From two wheels we see a different world, a world not fixed on the point of arrival but focused on the journey it takes to get therem” says Marco. “What’s more, we wanted to travel with as few greenhouse gas emissions as possible: We can brag to ourselves for having cut a tonne-and-a-half of CO2 equivalent,” adds Tommaso.
And what about Slow Food Presidia? “If there is one thing that has remained an indisputably positive element to the collective image of this island, it has to be the food. The gastronomic culture itself is a tourist magnet. Few know, however, that our biodiversity and culinary heritage run the risk of disappearing or being profoundly changed due to trading laws and industrial food production. For this reason, we wanted to start from the Presidia producers spread around the island. Since we understand the value behind these kinds of efforts, we have an opportunity to communicate the work of these producers, and spread it.”
In their 80 days on the road, they visited dozens of farmers, honey producers, cheesemakers, and fishers who work with various Presidia. “For each of them we conducted an interview (with English subtitles), a photo reportage with a story.” Read their stories on slow-sicily.com and give yourself the Sicilian trip you’ve always longed for!