The southern region of Italy is a ripe for prime time tourism. The historical sites, the hillside towns, the mountains, farms, vineyards, gastronomy and wine options are so plentiful that my marketing heart breaks when I realize that the area comes under the destination development radar. Enterprising hoteliers, venture capitalists, marketing gurus, international educators, transportation experts, and entrepreneurs should be on the next flight to Bari, rent a car, travel throughout the region and scoop up the ancient fortresses, abandoned castles, decaying farm houses, and garbage strewn beach front property, and develop incentives for global tourists to visit.
To help international business executives get started on their way to having a southern Italian corporate enterprise it is necessary to arrange an appointment with the local Chamber of Commerce for they play a very important and unique role in the development and expansion of commerce (in general) and the hospitality, travel and tourism industry specifically. Chambers provide market intelligence, incentives to select one locale over another and staff training. In addition, Italian Chambers have authority similar to official government agencies enabling them to independently assist in new business development and, in some cases the Chamber will even become a stakeholder in a new project and/or guide the entrepreneur toward finance/joint venture/strategic alliance opportunities and local marketing activities.
To initiate a relationship with a Chamber, the business owner must register as a legal entity, defining the terms and conditions of the business. The Chamber, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, provides a registration number that corresponds with the Company Tax Code. The business developer then acquires certificates and licenses, and submits a Business Start-up Statement. Certificates include a declaration as to the non-involvement of the enterprise in organized crime, a statement as to the qualifications of the organizations owners/operators, and descriptions of the services/products available through the organization.
One very active southern Italy Chamber of Commerce is directed by Angelo Tortorelli, the Presidente of Unioncamere Basilicata, Matera, Italy. From historical and tourist perspectives, the area is noted for its Sassi (the stones) or “cave city.” Founded by the Romans in the third century BC and colonized by the Benedictine and Greek Orthodox monastic institutions in the 7th and 8th centuries this hillside town has been through centuries of wars, pestilence and earthquakes.
What is Old is New Again
As recently as the 1950s the area was considered a slum and malaria ran unchecked through the community. Finally the Prime Minister declared the town as “Italy’s shame” and solved the problem by transferring all residents to newly built apartment buildings, leaving the Sassi cave dwellings completely empty.
Thanks to the creative thinking of Matera leadership, and the architect Pietro Laurenano, the Sassi are being recycled, and hotels, high tech enterprises, and residences have been developed in the modernized Sassi’s. To preserve the caves and the way of life, they Sassi’s have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a rare and unforgettable experience to sleep and dine in the same spaces used by people of the Stone Age.
In a recent interview with Angelo Tortorelli, the President of the Matera Basilicata Chamber of Commerce, he expressed optimism for the future of the locale. On the drawing board is a two-year culinary program for students to learn Mediterranean cuisine, determined as one of the healthiest approaches to dining. He is also anxious to preserve the “cooking culture” of the village women and looks forward to completing a history of their recipes and food preparation techniques.
It is Tortorelli’s belief that “the cuisine project will lead to increased tourism” and motivate visitors to visit the town. He is also developing weekend cooking classes that will teach visitors how to shop and prepare local culinary delicacies.
Tortorelli’s Matera does not have an airport or highway connections and visitors don’t stay more than one or two days. Cruise ship visitors from Bari stay only a few hours and they are likely to bring their own picnic baskets. Tortorelli is not dismayed by the current situation; in fact, it appears to energize his resolve. He is convinced that Matera has enough attributes to entice visitors to spend 2-3 days in his town; sleeping in the hotels, dining in the restaurants, shopping for wines and salami, visiting the caves and museums, walking the hills and talking with the local residents. He is certain that visitors from other countries will enjoy Matera as much as the Japanese and Chinese tourists who visit the locale in July and August with their tour guides.
Where Small is Better
To preserve the history and maintain the integrity of the region, Tortorelli is not looking for branded hotels or chain fast food restaurants. He ardently believes in the importance of entrepreneurship and anticipates that new business developers will appreciate his viewpoint and open new small hotels, restaurants, shops and other tourist attractions that will understand and respect the culture and customs of the community.
Leading To Tourism
Tortorelli started on his career path at the University of Bologna where he majored in Business Administration. Quickly bored with the academic environment, he quit and took to the streets where he got involved in union efforts to protect the rights of shop owners. Now that he is president of the Chamber of Commerce for his Matera he is anxious to present a top quality tourism product that will improve the quality of life for the people who live and work in his community.
Smart and savvy hospitality, travel and tourism developers will grab their Italian speaking colleagues and instantly make an appointment to meet with Tortorelli. Let us hope that discerning international travelers soon be putting pictures of the area on Facebook as the location has the potential to combine history, excellent cuisine, and good wines in a setting that is usually reserved for movie stars and Hollywood productions.