In the Adriatic-Ionian region one discovers pieces of paradise in small villages located in remarkable beautiful places between mountains, lakes or rivers. Those treasures are part of the social, cultural and environmental value of the region, especially due to their local micro-stories mirroring the richness in terms of traditions and history.
However, those villages remain often -metaphorically and literally- hidden in hills, rural peripheral or marginal areas, facing the risk of depopulation and abandonment. The Interreg ADRION project ADRIONET aims to overcome their current marginalization through joint activities and actions carried out with the aim of enhancing their cultural capital and support their promotion in the tourism sector.
To respond to the challenges of current marginalization, fragmentation and under-valorisation of these territories, ADRIONET has established:
- A Transnational Network of “Authentic Villages” with the role to promote social, environmental and economical sustainability of these areas with a specific emphasis on the preservation of landscapes and on the attraction of visitors
- Local pilot actions and visits to the villages to raise awareness about the value of the territories
- Authentic village platform where partners collect documents and information concerning topics such as integrated territorial enhancement, regeneration of rivers, lake basins, or marginal and peripheral areas. Find out more about the platform: https://authenticvillages.com/
ADRIONET partners organized meetings in the authentic villages of each territory in order to implement a set of actions defined jointly with local stakeholders. Addressed actions concerned both improvement to the physical conditions of these places (such as low consumption of public lighting, recovery of rainwater for domestic use and irrigation), and promotion to the local businesses, cultural and artistic handicraft. Activites involved all local actors working in the sector of hospitality, accommodation and tourism at large. Moreover, a special focus was given to youth enterpreneurship.
Aiming to learn more about “Authentic Villages”, we spoke with Konstantinos Michailidis, who is leading the Directorate of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Support at the Region of Central Macedonia, which is also ADRIONET project partner. The greek region focuses its activities on 13 villages, such as Ossa and Petrokerasa in Thessaloniki, Arkochori and Seli in Hmathias, Kitros and Paleos Pantelehmonas in Pierias, Vrytain Pellas, Skra and Goumenissa in Kilkis, Dafnh and Emmanouhl Pappas in Serron, Nikiti and Afytos in Chalkidikhs.
By supporting the preservation of physical environment and traditional heritage of “Authentic villages”, their environmental, social and economic sustainability is also being enhanced. This can encourage young people in their respective territories to stay and continue the local cultures and traditions, taking care of their landscape. Konstantinos Michailidis
ADRIONET involves territories which are filled with small villages situated in stunning locations. Your project addresses the so called “Authentic Villages”, what does the term “Authentic Village” mean? What makes these villages so especial?
The fact that makes these villages special and important is the combination of all their geographical position and qualitative features. Most villages are located on the mountains surrounded by nature often neighbor-hooding with lakes or rivers. At the same time, they can boast of old handcraft traditions, cultural assets and topical products, including gastronomy. These villages usually have very interesting storytelling about their territory and people. Unfortunately, most of the activities which make the villages lively and attractive to tourism are slowly disappearing because they do not fit with the economic and labour market anymore.
The Transnational Network of “Authentic Villages” which was created in the framework of the project contributes not to leave them behind. In your opinion, why would we need to promote these territories?
Firstly, we have to support the preservation of their physical environment. But the traditional heritage is also being reclaimed. Operating at both level, their environmental, as well as social and economic sustainability is being enhanced. This can encourage young people in their respective territories to stay and continue the local cultures and traditions, taking care of their landscape.
Tell us more about the concept of “hospitable community”. In which way ADRIONET encourages the use of this concept?
Ηospitality is a valuable spiritual asset for community building. It is a sacred ancient art that is aimed at opening oneself to other cultures and visions. Likewise, today, in all the Greek authentic villages of gathered in the ADRIONET Network, hospitality is being promoted and exhibited as a way of life. And that is the “keyhole” where ADRIONET arrives, and “unlocks” hospitality as an engine for local development. Having this type of authenticity model in mind – and if exhibited properly – you make the tourist/visitor a temporary citizen of this village, who gets to live in the village for a while. It is a perpetual cycle of metamorphosis if you’d like, that drives citizens closer to their community, while inviting visitors to experience their authentic way of living. In the end, if managed properly, all this returns to each village itself, as a development tool for further exploitation.
What are the biggest challenges that authentic villages meet and what are the solutions ADRIONET put in place?
Challenges and crises such as covid-19 pandemic can be turned into opportunities if managed properly. For instance, now that the travel restrictions have initiated to be more and more lenient globally, a new trend has been noticed for the past 6 months. The so called “revenge travel”, that is the fact that many travelers who have seen their freedom of travel forbidden and decreased for the last two years, have started travelling and searching for new destinations, almost twice as much as they used to. Another fact – and an additional challenge – is that in this global marketplace of potential destinations, travellers tend to select only the places which distinguish and differentiate themselves from other “rivals”. They feel the need to experience a holiday package made up of engaging activities on a sensory level, which will lead them to discover the territory in all its infinite possibilities. This so called “experiential tourist”. Experiencing an authentic way of living, surrounded by an untouched and unspoiled natural environment, exhibited by ADRIONET, is the most complete and timely response to the aforementioned needs of these travellers. To sum up, travelling means going home a little changed. The journey can also be a moment of personal growth, reflection, and education of lived moments that will remain etched in the memory to be kept and, at the same time, told and shared. That is exactly the ADRIONET added value and solution that is offered to every village that embraces and adopts its basic philosophy.
Promote the sustainable valorisation and preservation of natural and cultural heritage as growth assets in the Adriatic-Ionian area
Start – End Date
2020-02-01 – 2022-07-31
ADRIONET Final Conference
January 10th 2023, Bologna, Italy
A selection of moments taken from the study visit that took place after the Project Final Conference. The visit was hold in the Italian Municipalities involved in the project (Boretto, Luzzara in the Province of Reggio Emilia, Colorno, Zibello, Roccabianca and Polesine in the Province of Parma, Villanova Arda in the Province of Piacenza)