As Restrictions Loosen in Italy, Farmhouses Anticipate Tourism Boom

With about one-third of olive oil sales in Italy going to the restaurant sector, the shift of tourists to the countryside is likely to impact consumption.

May. 14, 2021
By Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

Restaurants and farm­houses in Italy are reopen­ing their doors to tourists after the emer­gency lock­down in place due to the Covid-19 pan­demic was par­tially lifted by the gov­ern­ment.

More than 170,000 small and large busi­nesses in the Horeca (hotel, restau­rant and café) sec­tor have resumed busi­ness through­out the coun­try in the last few weeks.

However, an analy­sis pub­lished by the farm­ers asso­ci­a­tion, Coldiretti, said lift­ing these restric­tions would not allow the sec­tor to return to nor­mal com­pletely. Bars and restau­rants have only been allowed to restart out­door din­ing and a nation­wide cur­few, span­ning from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., is still in place.

While the pro­hi­bi­tion on indoor din­ing will have the most sig­nif­i­cant impact on urban busi­nesses, the loos­en­ing of restric­tions has cre­ated new oppor­tu­ni­ties for farm­houses in the coun­try­side.

See Also:Greek Producers Await Reopening of Restaurants, Tourism

According to the lat­est pro­jec­tions, more than half of Italians will spend their hol­i­days in domes­tic food and wine tourism hot spots in 2021, pri­mar­ily in the coun­try­side.

The yearly report on the sec­tor, authored by Roberta Garibaldi, a mem­ber of the board of advi­sors of the World Food Travel Association, pre­dicts that the aver­age hol­i­day bud­get for 2021 will be com­pa­ra­ble to 2019.


Outdoor activ­i­ties are expected to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the sum­mer hol­i­day sea­son, with 86 per­cent of tourists focus­ing on food and wine hol­i­days also show­ing inter­est in vis­it­ing farm­houses and 59 per­cent look­ing for hol­i­day stays in the coun­try­side.

The report also hints at the grow­ing inter­est in tra­di­tional food prod­ucts, which will also lead many tourists toward farm­ing hol­i­days,” focused on tast­ing local food and par­tic­i­pat­ing in pro­duc­tion activ­i­ties.

See Also:Agritourism is about to get real. There’s still time to pre­pare.

The shift of tourists from the cities to the coun­try­side and the con­tin­ued uncer­tainty of inter­na­tional travel may also pos­i­tively impact olive oil con­sump­tion in Italy.

The Italian Association of the Oil Industry (Assitol) esti­mates that about one-third of all olive oil sales in the coun­try were to restau­rants before the pan­demic.

The reopen­ing of many busi­nesses is likely to relaunch sales to the Horeca sec­tor, which suf­fered exten­sive eco­nomic dam­age dur­ing the repeated emer­gency lock­downs.

The fast pace of the vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign in Italy, com­bined with the government’s plans to re-open for national and inter­na­tional tourism and the poten­tial imple­men­ta­tion of a European-wide vac­ci­na­tion pass­port,” is stim­u­lat­ing a return to live events.

Last year, pan­demic con­tain­ment mea­sures led to the can­cel­la­tion of the tra­di­tion­ally rich spring cal­en­dar of wine and olive oil-related fes­ti­vals and events through­out the coun­try.

Many towns, where the local econ­omy depends upon olive pro­duc­tion, are pro­mot­ing a new ini­tia­tive called Merenda nell’Oliveta, which trans­lates to a snack among the olive trees.”

Their asso­ci­a­tion, Città dell’Olio, or City of Olive Oil, which rep­re­sents olive-pro­duc­ing munic­i­pal­i­ties nation­wide, announced that more than 40 towns are actively pro­mot­ing Merenda-related ini­tia­tives.

But we have room for more,” Michele Sonnessa, pres­i­dent of the asso­ci­a­tion, told Olive Oil Times. Subscriptions are still open, and, judg­ing from the grow­ing inter­est for this event, we believe that Merenda will be announced in more than 70 or even 80 cities through­out the coun­try.”

While the ini­tia­tive is thought of as a way to redis­cover social events and live com­mu­nity walks in the beau­ti­ful coun­try­side of our olive-pro­duc­ing dis­tricts, every local author­ity is in charge of its own ver­sion of the event,” he added.

Running from May 21 to June 27, Merenda will host tast­ing courses, edu­ca­tional work­shops, meet­ings with olive grow­ers, agron­o­mists, olive mills and his­to­ri­ans in at least 13 regions. Activities will involve read­ing olive oil-themed poems, dance per­for­mances, live music and the­ater events.

This is our first Merenda, but it comes on the heels of our estab­lished ini­tia­tives tra­di­tion­ally held in October when thou­sands of tourists walk through the Italian olive groves to see and par­tic­i­pate in the har­vest and keep in touch with a cen­turies-old cul­ture,” Sonnessa said.

Other out­door ini­tia­tives con­nected to local food and tra­di­tions are pop­ping up in sev­eral regions as well.

Near Lake Garda, spe­cial events have been announced for the upcom­ing weeks to meet the pro­duc­ers and taste extra vir­gin olive oil with the local Protected Designation of Origin cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and the many other local spe­cial­ties.

In Tuscany, Umbria and Puglia, asso­ci­a­tions and farm­houses are also relaunch­ing tra­di­tional events and announc­ing newly formed ones.

While a 2020 law that favors the devel­op­ment of olive oil-related tourism is fuel­ing opti­mism among local orga­ni­za­tions and agri-busi­nesses, the pan­demic con­tin­ues to hin­der re-open­ings.

Among the events still being side­lined by the pan­demic is Puglia’s Enoliexpo, which has already been delayed for sev­eral months. Organizers have now con­firmed that the 2021 edi­tion will not occur because of the uncer­tainty of whether national and inter­na­tional stake­hold­ers will be able to travel for the event.

Confirming the gov­ern­ment strat­egy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi told the par­lia­ment that his cab­i­net is aim­ing to re-open­ing the whole of Italy to tourism, both national and inter­na­tional… as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Draghi has also con­firmed that €114 mil­lion will be used to cre­ate a dig­i­tal hub” ded­i­cated to tourism and to assist in hol­i­day plan­ning from abroad.



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