The Comment

Destination Tropea, the Pearl of the Mediterranean

TORONTO – “It’s a destination spot for all manner of events: from business to academic conferences, to leisure tourism, to arts festivals, to weddings, to foodies looking for that culinary experience produced by master chefs (our grandmothers) working their magic with ingredients only the organic agriproducts unique to our terrain can provide…” that was the introduction to the Tropea experience provided by its enthusiastic First Citizen, Giovanni Macrì, to the Corriere’s editorial board. I had to interrupt; he seemed super-charged and ready to extoll the benefits and virtues of his native Calabrian town.

Mayor Macrì insists he is not engaging in vainglorious exercises. His town, city, is the Pearl of the Mediterranean for good reason(s). The location, its waters and beaches are stupendous; its history an intertwined mixture of peoples, myths, legends and clashes of civilizations and empires from Grecian, Roman and so on. Its reputed founder was the incomparable ancient hero, Hercules.

It was that kind of conversation. His two colleagues seemed equally ebullient. “We were recently voted number one on the list of the Borgo dei Borghi (the Village of the Villages), in a contest that asked Italians to choose the most beautiful amongst the Borghi più belli d’Italia”, enthused, Greta Trecate town councillor. “We would like to invite your readers to savour our culinary and cultural delights”, she added, “and to invest in what Tropea has to offer”.

“Any student of history will bear testimony to the role and contribution that our Town has made over the millennia, despite our relatively small size (population, c. 6,000). But, as a people, we have always looked forward to the next stage and that involves an appreciation of that came before, while we plan for the future of the next generations”, said Macrì. “Ours is still a family-oriented culture. Inevitably that means engineering, architecture, food preparation, textile, style, education and service industries whose potential for providing economic growth which has been for too long given secondary importance, but no longer”, he adds with a determination of one who speaks with the confidence that his “people”/ electorate are at one with his vision of the future.

I wondered whether these grand projects were part and parcel of the national government’s new public policy regarding tourism-based economic recovery entitled “Ritorno alle Radici”. An astute Macrì responded quickly that neither he nor his Council relish the role of a political apparatus with outstretched hands in an eleemosynary pose. Rather, his and their role is to prepare mid to long-term sustainable projects capable of attracting private and public investments with enviable returns. They must transcend politically motivated short-term objectives.

Mariantonietta Pugliese, President of the touristic group Pro Loco Tropea, entrusted with executing those plans and maximizing the immense tourism potential of Tropea, offered an example. “We have embarked on a plan to upgrade the infrastructure demanded by today’s consumer and resident. To meet those needs we have encouraged a contemporaneous, gradual shift in the town by-laws to permit various uses for real estate previously exclusively single use, as we encourage residential transitioning to the old town’s peripheral territory while protecting its agriproduction capacities”, she said with pride.

I wondered if that meant they were aiming to turn the historical centre into a series of Air B and B co-operatives with some self-regulating governing bodies to guarantee quality of service. Macrì, without skipping a beat, replied, “We don’t want to exclude anything that can be sustainable in the long run. We could have adapted the ‘destination playground’ approach, of which there are innumerable successful examples even in Italy and especially here in the South. Instead, we opted for a theme best expressed in the invitation: come, create and live the experience of Tropea.”

Whatever their goal, Tropea’s trio had me doing more reading about their town than I have done about any other in quite some time. Good for them… and for me/us.

Here below is the fotogallery from the meeting in the editorial office of Corriere Canadese

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