A city to get lost in: the Slow Food Central Europe project offers new opportunities for Venice 

Inscribed onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, Venice is undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. This international recognition, however, requires paying particularly close attention to safeguarding and passing on the artistic and cultural heritage of the city to future generations.

Nowadays, tourism is a key industry in Venice, but it needs to be properly managed and regulated. Holidaymakers often find it difficult to discover the “right places” where to dip into local production and experience the area’s heritage. Responding to market demands can be challenging without access to appropriate information. 

The initiatives of the Slow Food Central Europe project are part of the framework aimed at transforming Venetian tourism into a strategic asset and educating tourists and citizens. Linking producers and restaurateurs can help promote and preserve the cultural heritage of local products. 

“In Venice, we should focus on creating enriching and evocative memories,” explains Paola Mar, the City’s Councillor for Tourism, “which is essentially the form of tourism pursued by the new generation. Renowned for its food and wine, Venice and its surrounding area, have a lot to offer to holidaymakers. Surely we should change the perspective and approach communication rather differently. We must try to dig into the culture of other countries and understand what might be of particular interest to those who come to visit our city. Venice is an eloquent example of multi-ethnicity in Italian history, so it’s easy for us to design itineraries, changing the way tourists approach the city”. 

It is, primarily, a cultural challenge, the same kind of challenge that Slow Food seeks to deal with. Building a network is a winning strategy, one of the key features of the Central Europe project is the possibility to see how other cities operate and to be able to share problems and solutions, as well as resources.

The Department of Tourism of the Municipality of Venice has set up the OGD (Organization for the Management of Tourist Destination) in order to create partnerships and forms of cooperation between public and private entities for the development of high-quality tourism and launch concrete projects that connect rural and urban areas and enhance the heritage of knowledge and local traditions. The OGD “Venezia”, run by the Municipality of Venice, is responsible for the functioning of “Destination Management”, the process of strategic management of the territory aimed at generating balanced, sustainable, incoming tourist flows, appropriate to the economic needs of the participants involved in the project. “Destination Management Plan” of Venice mentions all forms of tourism that respect the environment and are closely linked with a wide range of experiences. The focus will not be merely on food, wine and the industry that lies behind the sector, but certainly this theme will remain high profile. Among the specific activities already implemented, worthy of mention is a resolution by the municipality that authorizes the opening of additional businesses in the city provided they use local products and they create itineraries dedicated to the different needs of visitors. 

“Times are changing and the globalization trend may be in a phase of decline, – concludes Paola Mar, – Diversity will become a cornerstone of tourism and will be pursued as such. Venice is a historic multi-ethnic laboratory where wine and food heritage can become a fundamental resource for the experience-based tourism of the future, and to teach citizens, producers and tourists to respect local traditions. We would like to re-establish the network that already existed in the past between the city of Venice and the surrounding areas, between consumers, producers and authorities. We would like Venice to finally become a city in which to get lost and discover its true nature. It is a great chance for present-day tourism, but above all, it is an opportunity to increase citizens’ awareness of the value of their territory, its traditions and production. This is the only way can we preserve the authenticity of Venice”.