when responsible tourism allows you to discover the real Sardinia

She is cheerful and bubbly, Valentina Allegria. This naturalist guide also knows the medicinal properties of the wild plants that populate the rather dry hills of the Gennargentu massif, as well as the origin of the bluish limestone rocky mounds called tachi that appear there.

This morning, she is accompanying hikers on the west side of Ogliastra. With its rocky slopes, its forest massifs, its caves, its olive trees, its vineyards, its fig trees and its cliffside villages, this region of central Sardinia is a true “island within a island”. .October, despite the heat, Valentina quickly led the small group on trails between holm oaks and pines to the top of the Mammuttera.

→ READ. in Sardinia. Cagliari, the beautiful Italian

From above, the gaze goes far to the Gennargentu and, in the background, to the right, the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Emerald Coast which, in summer, attract tourists from all over the world. At the foot of the strange wooden house on top of the Mammuttera, walkers come face to face with Giovanni.

Typically, this 40-year-old man raises goats and sheep with his family and makes cheese near Jerzu. This summer, to supplement his income, he accepted a mission on behalf of the Forest Service: in turn with three other shepherds, he tirelessly scrutinizes the surrounding hills every day, ready to warn of the slightest outbreak of fire. Not a drop has fallen since April and Ogliastra is thirsty: at the slightest spark, thousands of hectares can catch fire.

“We want to share our culture, not change it”

After a long conversation with Giovanni about global warming, the hard life of shepherds, the names of goat cheese (old casu for costs, fission for the dry ones) and the ravioli stuffed with cheese – the culurgionis – which are on every table in Sardinia, vacationers turn to Jerzu, not without asking Valentina about the beautiful red fruits of strawberry trees or the small pink fruits of lentiscus pistachios found on the way.

Sometimes, walks accompanied by Valentina last several days: then they are done in the company of a shepherd, Manuel, and the donkeys of the Sardaigne ecotourism agency en
Liberté (1), created by Jean-Luc Madinier, a French civil servant who, in his fifties, changed his life to settle on his wife’s native island. But this morning’s tour is a little special. It is, moreover, organized within the scope of the thirteenth edition of the Festival
It-a-Ca (2), which aims to promote tourism that is different, more diffused, more integrated in the territory, more respectful of local culture and ways of life. His theme? “Right to Breathe”!

Neither mass tourism nor the “monoculture of the sea” find favor in the eyes of the inhabitants of Ogliastra. “It is not by chance that we organize the It-a-ca festival”insists Davide Burchi, mayor of Lanusei (population 5,300), the capital. “We are proud of our identity, our sense of hospitality, our gastronomy and our way of life, which also explains why we have more centenarians here than elsewhere. We want to share our culture, not change it.”, he decides. Anxious “environment” it’s from ” Social justice “he wants to see the “local community” play one “central role” at the tourist reception.

Sardinian tourism still predominantly by the sea

In Sardinia, 90% of tourism is by the sea. This explains why Ogliastra does not yet have a large tourist complex. And there is, moreover, desired. “We want to act with caution, gradually improve the offer of accommodation – hotels, inns, inns, inns –, buses and services, train guides and, if we notice mistakes, make corrections. We care about our culture and the integrity of our territory, fragile but preserved until now”guarantees Salvatore Zito, Lanusei Tourist Assistant.

→ ANALYSIS Tourism sees its sustainable future

For Carlo Lai, mayor of the neighboring city of Jerzu, “responsible tourism” is also a “Path of the Future”. Because if, with about 30 inhabitants per kmtwoOgliastra is less depopulated than central Corsica, but it is threatened by a “demographic shock”: the population is aging and young people are discouraged by low incomes.

Listening to the participants of the It-a-ca Festival, many here want to play the card of “responsible tourism”, considered more respectful of the environment, the populations, the habitat and the language of Sardinia, which is, according to Carlo Lugar, “a way of telling the world”. “This is not to say that we offset carbon emissions from air travel by planting trees without changing anything in our practices, as major tour operators do.”, adds Jean-Luc Madinier. Listening to him, planting trees is welcome, but, as is done in Ogliastra, to help young people without means like Salvatore and Stefania, to settle in the land creating an orchard according to the principles of agroforestry.

Admire Sardinia on foot

Jean-Luc Madinier thinks of a different kind of tourism, which allows you to really immerse yourself in the territory and which does not necessarily involve taking the plane. “From Europe, he guarantees, it’s easy to come by train to Toulon, Barcelona (Spain) or Livorno (Italy), then take the boat to Porto Torres in northern Sardinia. »

In the place, the displacement will be by car, but also by bus and also, why not, on foot? In fact, on the initiative of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI) and Fo. Re.STAS, the Sardinian Forestry Office, an old path that crosses Sardinia from north to south is gradually being rehabilitated and signposted. In the process, eight young people created the website Va’sentiero (3) in which they describe in detail the routes, stages, accommodation, places not to be missed on the way and the people – shepherds, artisans, etc. . – meet.

Discover the island through its inhabitants

They presented their initiative to festival-goers at It-a-Ca, who were also offered conferences, sometimes a bit erudite, and a sample of meetings and activities to familiarize themselves with the real Sardinia: hiking; meetings with shepherds, olive growers and winegrowers; cooking class with Lucia Muceli to learn how to make culurgionis, the traditional Sardinian ravioli; meal at Giovanni Serra, winemaker in Jerzu; tasting of quality olive oil at the Hermanu cooperative, in Lanusei; tasting an excellent vermentino white and powerful cannon rouge to the Jerzu wine cooperative, which, in its showroom, promotes artists such as Maria Lai, local glory of contemporary art. Or discover the remains of the Nuragic civilization – towers, tombs of semicircular giants, etc. – which flourished in Sardinia during the Bronze Age.

Italy: when responsible tourism allows you to discover the real Sardinia

In the same spirit, Vincenzo and his wife Valentina, who, in Arzana, make cheese with the milk of their sheep, invite tourists to accompany the transhumance of their flock in June and October. In partnership with the agency Sardaigne en liberté, they also offer “farm meals”. “We put on the table only what we produce”, they guarantee. In Ogliastra, additional income is welcome. To understand this, elected officials are now pushing the wheel.

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Sustainable, responsible, sustainable…

Responsible tourism – or sustainable, or sustainable, the terms used vary according to the interlocutors – is a form of travel that is opposed to mass tourism. The latter leads to an excessive consumption of natural resources, the creation of more and more waste.

Has a negative impact on the environment (COtwo airplanes, air and water pollution, etc.). In addition, local populations are often poorly paid and sometimes deprived of access to their natural sites (beaches, nature reserves, etc.) for the benefit of tourism operators.

On the other hand, responsible tourism promises local populations fairer remuneration and better working conditions. It also wants to reduce the impact on the environment and guarantee authentic encounters with the populations visited.

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