Tourism. The French lesson that can benefit Italy

In many areas, as we know, France has historically drawn inspiration from Italy, often seen over the centuries as a forge presaging the new, the good and the beautiful. Beyond the strictly artistic aspect, the “cousins” tried with little success in the 19th century to even copy Parmesan cheese, as this tasty little book reminds us today. Parmesan cheese making (Frew Menu). Thus, against the background of the latest diplomatic bickering between the two chancelleries, a reflection seems necessary. While obviously respecting intellectual property and the various brands, it would not be useless to rediscover this healthy spirit of positive bilateral emulation which has been so beneficial to the growth of the two nations.

With regard to Italy, in these times when it is urgent to find new ideas to relaunch the tourist offer – as underlined by the latest OECD report on the subject, fresh from the press – it would undoubtedly be useful to take a closer look at what the French are doing in this sector where they seem to have learned everything themselves, or almost. Indeed, with around 90 million international arrivals per year, France surpasses giants such as the United States and China, as well as neighbors such as the United Kingdom and Germany, which both have less than 40 million. of arrivals. As for Italy, it is around 65 million, although the Bel Paese is in the lead for the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. But how do the “cousins” do it?

First of all, as is known, they have an advanced transport infrastructure, including international airports and fast train networks. Moreover, it is true, they benefit from the geographical advantage of being right in the middle of the big rich countries of Western Europe. But there is much more, starting with their marked ability to make the most of their heritage, launching tourist sites even where other countries would not dare. Or by inventing additional tourist “seasons” with such creativity. In the eastern suburbs of Paris, the pole of tourist attraction by definition is of course Disneyland Paris, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary with 375 million visits already recorded. But the mega-park financed by Yankee capital did not wipe the slate clean, as it might have been the case in other countries less competent in the management of tourism. By the way, in the surroundings, this year 2022 also marks the 20th anniversary of the inscription on the Unesco list of the pretty medieval village of Provins, which has only 12,000 inhabitants.

In the Loire Valley, the “Christmas in the land of castles” project, developed around the capital Tours, has succeeded in bringing together 7 of the most evocative places, creating a Christmas circuit that has revolutionized end-of-year visits. In the region.

Well, at the end of June, some 110,000 visitors flocked to the Medieval festival in a single weekend, part of a year that will break all records for arrivals in Provins, well beyond the already high levels of 2019. , the last pre-pandemic year. In terms of pure net final accounts, the village posts figures capable of making even the neighboring leisure giant blush in the red, mired in cyclopean operating costs. And all you have to do is spend a day in Provins to understand how it has become a goose that lays golden eggs for tourists: impeccable enhancement of the ramparts, instructive and fun guided tours (also for families and schools) right down to the dungeons, two daily shows with a strong scenic impact around the captivating themes of falconry and knightly tournaments, a vast efficient tourist office rich in souvenirs suitable for young and old. In the end, we must say hats off!

As for the ability to sublimate the most famous sites even in low season, a lesson in ingenuity comes to us from the Loire Valley. The “Christmas in the land of castles” project, developed around the capital of Tours, has succeeded in bringing together seven of the most evocative sites, creating a Christmas circuit that has revolutionized end-of-year tourism in the region, bringing out hat an additional tourist season compared to spring-summer. At the end of the year, the main transalpine provincial attraction remains Alsace, with its famous Christmas markets in Strasbourg and neighboring towns. But the castles of the Loire came to supplement this offer, also attracting a growing number of international tourists.

Among the many clever suggestions, Amboise is an example of valorization of the universal genius of the Italian Renaissance: the park which surrounds it is called “Leonardo da Vinci”, without annoying Frenchities.

The 7 castles in the Turenna region members of Noël au Pays des châteaux could have competed fiercely, risking offering the same attractions. On the contrary, with the mediation of the provincial tourist offices, they play together and develop complementary “themes”, encouraging families and couples to immerse themselves in a veritable circuit of wonders. At Chenonceau, a famous river castle that connects opposite banks, somewhat reminiscent of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio, the theme was “Dream tables, festive tables”, with breathtaking interior decoration. In Azay-le Rideau, the accent was placed on the “Délices”, with reproductions of great finesse. In Loches, children’s stories dominate. In Chinon, the traditional legend of the “underwater castle” is highlighted in a surprising way.

In the three other splendid castles of Amboise, Villandry and Langeais, a much larger space is reserved for the Christmas party in the highest and fairest sense. In Amboise, in the imposing fortified complex which also houses the chapel where Leonardo da Vinci was buried, the “derived” Italian character of the site is also underlined by a splendid traditional Neapolitan monumental nativity scene made by the Neapolitan artisan workshop Ferrigno. In Villandry, after visiting the castle’s exceptional picture gallery filled with paintings of sacred art, you arrive in an enchanted room where the nativity scene is installed on the giant central fir tree. In Langeais, the arrival of a procession of angels in the presence of the Savior was evoked by a magical play of lights. A way of establishing an evocative dialogue with the splendid Nativity of Bernardino Luini, dating from 1522, which is the real treasure of the room: Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Elizabeth of Hungary surround the Child. From certain visits, you emerge enchanted, even when you have already visited the same castles several times in the past. Indeed, between symbolic evocations and artisanal creations, the Christmas “metamorphosis” of each site allows the places to be experienced in a new way. A virtuous symbiosis has been found between the magic of Christmas, dear even to non-believers, and the unique context of each castle.

By the way, in Amboise, not far from the royal fortress magnificently decorated for Christmas, you can also make a stop at the Château du Clos Lucé, which was Leonardo’s last residence. Among other clever suggestions, it is also a place where one can observe how the French brought out the universal genius of the Italian Renaissance. The park that surrounds it is called “Leonardo da Vinci”, without the French frills. And the wisdom of valuing the site, which is no coincidence, has also recently contributed to convincing the Vatican Museums to lend, on an exceptional basis, from June 10 to September 20, the famous Leonardesque Saint Jerome. Such gestures, fortunately, fly much higher than the cyclical and sad bilateral political skirmishes observed in recent months. Reminding us in turn, in the old fertile furrow of mutual Italo-French emulation in all fields, that one can always expect the best when two great nations at the center of European civilization look at each other one another.

Tourism. The French lesson that can benefit Italy – Aveyron Digital News