FAI cares as much about the landscape and environment as the built heritage. The 23rd National Convention of the Delegations and Volunteers of FAI, held on 16 February 2019, launched Progetto Alpe. This is a campaign to make present and future generations aware of the need to protect and promote the physical and cultural environment of Italy’s upland areas, which is in decline. The announcement was followed by an encouraging message from Sergio Mattarella, President of the Italian Republic, and supportive speeches by members of government, including Gian Marco Centinaio, the Minister of Tourism, Agriculture and Forestry.
There are mountainous landscapes at 1,000 metres or more above sea level in all 20 regions of Italy. Despite obvious variations—an area is not defined simply by its altitude—they united by similar cultural, geographical, anthropological, environmental and economic factors. FAI has chosen the ‘Alpe’ (a term deriving ‘alpeggio’, meaning mountain pasture) to be our new campaign because this environment is suffering from depopulation and marginalisation.
Mountainous areas struggle to cope with invasive tourism that damages the environment, but also with unstable infrastructure, the isolation of villages and small settlements, and the abandonment of pasture and grazing land. The departure of the farmers, who used to keep the land in balance through cultivating and maintaining it, has led to hydro-geological instability, with a worrying increase in the number of landslides, floods and fires in recent years. Because of this, people emigrate, further exacerbating the situation. FAI intends to get these areas out of this spiral of decline and help them thrive again.
FAI’s campaign for Italy above 1,000 metres will be a 10-year project of development and enhancement. We intend to dispel the negative image of these upland areas and celebrate them as centres of Italian heritage by upholding traditional local lifestyles and ways of working, and protecting, maintaining and enhancing both the natural environment and mountain buildings.
A starting point for this long-term project is the acquisition of three new properties: the Rifugio Torino Vecchio (the old Turin refuge) at Punta Hellbronner, the Daverio Walser refuges in Val d’Otro and the Sylvenoire mountain pasture at Cogne. Once they have undergone major structural restoration to ensure their stability, they will join the four existing mountain properties in FAI’s portfolio that are currently open to the public. Guided visits will celebrate the rich local history and traditions through a culturally and environmentally sensitive form of tourism.