The blogger Alice Cheron, creator of the magazine Ali di Firenze which has been talking about the Italian lifestyle since 2013, interviewed our Andrea. An intense chat about Molise as a land to be discovered and as a philosophy to choose for a slow and respectful journey of time and people. The original version is at this link: https://www.alidifirenze.fr/le-voyage-italien-de-demain-decouvrir-le-molise/
After our article on sustainable transport, we continue our “Italian journey of tomorrow”. When Alice asked me to write about a little-unknown part of Italy, which for her would have been a total discovery, I immediately thought of Molise. You know that microscopic region between Abruzzo and Puglia? Don’t you know it? Well, all the better!
Let yourself be guided by Andrea Rossi, a young man from Molise who has made his passion for his region his profession. We talked about his vision of tourism, traveling slowly, meeting the elderly and of course the beauties of Molise
Hi Andrea! Can you introduce yourself?
I was born in Molise, a small region in southern Italy. I grew up there and when I went to university I left the region, like many young people.
I graduated in Economics and Marketing, I obtained a master’s degree in Management of International Cooperation and after my studies I worked for 4 years in Rome for an ONG.
Why did you choose to return to Molise and promote it?
Working for ONG, I have travelled the world and have had strong experiences, especially in Congo, which have made me want to put the human being even more at the center of my work. I realized that I wanted to work in my land.
Also, I enjoyed life in Rome but I missed nature, having grown up in the mountains.
Can you present Feelitaly?
Feelitaly is a Tour Operator based in Molise and specialized in incoming. We are a team of 4 people, all born in the region and with the same desire to promote it because it is our home.
Our story comes from a territorial marketing course in which we participated. The point in common is the same, having a similar background: we left Molise to study, work and live different experiences and then we returned for the strong connection we feel with our territory.
Feelitaly’s mission is to share our region with people who love responsible travel, based on experiences that allow you to get in touch with the authenticity of our territory and respect it. The idea is to experience a vacation, a journey in the simplest, most humane, respectful and natural way possible.
Why did you choose the tourism industry?
I chose tourism because, for me, it is a way to discover oneself through another land, another people, another culture. The journey as I imagine it transforms us, makes us grow.
What kind of Italy can you live in Molise? How is tourism different from other regions of Italy?
Molise is a very small region, not very open to the outside world and still confined to itself. It does not meet the needs of traditional tourism, so tourism in Molise is inevitably different. No big cities, few beaches, no big tourist sites.
How does Feelitaly position itself compared to this tourist reality?
We like the specificity of our region. Molise has a different lifestyle, of a minor Italy. We have a strong desire to share and promote this difference, but without forcing our hand. Above all, we don’t want to turn Molise into a super tourist destination and distort what makes it special. Here is what is at stake. Rather than responding to the demand of classic tourism and of a clientele who would turn to us to find what they are used to, we have decided to be proactive and to look for an audience that appreciates the spirit of the region, our reality.
What do you propose to do?
We are focusing on experiential tourism, which is essentially rural. For example of one of our experiences, truffle hunting, which I think is very representative of what we want to share. This type of experience gives us great satisfaction because it is linked to the land, to nature, to a strong product of Molise cuisine and can only be practiced seasonally, slowly and in small groups. In one day, it allows us to observe the relationship between man, animal (the dog) and nature, and to create a bond with travellers. The main goal, through these experiences, is to create a bond between the traveller and the farmer, the shepherd, the craftsman. It is not easy, because the region is not very structured from a tourist point of view, but when you get there you discover its magic.
I guess most of the population doesn’t speak a foreign language. How can you make such an important connection if the traveller doesn’t speak Italian?
This is where Feelitaly comes in!
We speak English, French and Spanish and help lay the foundation for mutual understanding. But one thing is for sure, we don’t need to speak the same language to communicate with each other. There is so much more. The gestures, the context, the feelings…one of my most valuable tips for really experiencing Molise is to talk to an “old man” in a small town, even if you don’t know Italian! This takes more time, trying to communicate in a different way. Language is important to structure a conversation but not to create a relationship. The real journey is there, in the connection you make with others.
You talk about “taking your time”. Is Molise a region that lends itself well to slow tourism?
In reality, there is no real alternative to slow tourism in Molise!
For a start, there is no airport in the region. To get there, you have to arrive by train, by car or, better yet, on foot. Also, within the region, there is no highway. The only motorway section found in Molise is the coastal one, which is the only tiny part of the region that has developed in terms of tourism. The characteristics of our territory (hills, mountains) also intrinsically invite us to move more slowly. The only way to discover the region is to do it slowly; fortunately!
To understand a place, its land, its people, you really have to stop there, take some time, otherwise you can’t understand the reality. Communicating with the inhabitants, observing… this is the kind of tourism we want for our region and which we offer with Feelitaly.
Describe an ideal stay for slow tourism in Molise.
For me, the best way to discover a region is on foot and “slow walking” applies particularly well to Molise. You choose an accommodation in the heart of a village, you walk during the day from one village to another. We do not exclude abandoned villages from our routes, because they tell a lot about our history. Of course, we immerse ourselves gently in nature, in the mountains, in the hills and in the rivers .
Traveling on foot also facilitates contact with the locals and the discovery of traditions. I suggest you have a chat with an elderly person, in order to understand Molise through their eyes.
How do you explain that Molise is so little known?
I start by saying that Molise is a very young region, once part of Abruzzo from which it separated in 1963.
There are no big cities and the coastal strip is very small.
So, when mass tourism developed, Molise was not very considered. In addition, I believe that there is another reason, related to our character: we Molisans have a very strong relationship with the land and pay great attention to the products that derive from it (wine, olive oil, truffles, for example …), but unlike the more touristic regions such as Tuscany, where the Tuscan is proud because he knows his history, the Molise is more humble as he thinks he is less interesting to the outside world.
What would you say to our readers to make them want to visit it?
Not to wait too long to come and visit us because, even if our intention is to maintain our specificity and authenticity, this type of “time bubble” that still exists today in Molise could disappear.
Molise, at the moment, certainly offers one of the most authentic tourist experiences.
For Feelitaly, what does the term authenticity mean? Because it is a term that is used incorrectly today and is losing its essence.
The term authenticity in Molise, we can say that it still conserved its meaning and is not used only for marketing purposes. Molise is still intact, true because it has not been explored and denatured. The traditions have remained strong, the nature wild, as well as the people who live there. One of the best proofs is to see that the Molisans are not used to tourism, they are custodians of our territory and not “sellers”. This can sometimes make our work more difficult , but it is also what is wonderful in what we do every day with Feelitaly.
What are your 3 favorite towns / villages in Molise?
Roccamandolfi, a beautiful village located in the mountains of the Matese Regional Park, from which some very beautiful and picturesque hiking trails start.
Agnone, for its historic center with a thousand stories of artisans to tell, in particular that of the Pontificia Marinelli foundry, which has long been producing bells for the Holy See.
Civitacampomarano, a village at risk of depopulation and which is partly in a state of abandonment, has undergone a rebirth given by street art. The village has been reborn among sprays and brushes that have given a new light to many views of the country.
A natural site to discover?
The Mainarde mountain range, in the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, and one place in particular: Pianoro Le Forme. The nature here is exceptional and the landscapes are breathtaking.
A beach to recommend?
Even if I imagine that you are expecting a beach by the sea, the beach that I recommend is undoubtedly the lake of Castel San Vincenzo, a fantastic place!
Nice places to sleep?
A place where I would like to recommend sleeping is the “Palazzo de Farrocco” in Cerro al Volturno, a historic residence intimately linked to the family tradition of the owners who have carefully renovated this building once inhabited by their ancestors. For a solution more immersed in nature, I would say “Essentia Dimora Rurale”, surrounded by orchards, vegetable gardens and fields. Finally, “La Piana dei Mulini”, an ancient mill beautifully restored and transformed into an albergo diffuso.
A favorite restaurant?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult questions a Molisian must answer, because here the gastronomic tradition is of fundamental importance. I would say “La Ginestra” in Cercemaggiore, an agritourismthat is very tied to the culinary tradition of our region. But it’s really difficult to choose just one, Molise is already worth a detour just to eat!
Finally, can you share a typical Molise recipe with us?
Here is the heart that speaks, I share with you a traditional dish that I have seen very often prepared by my grandmother: the scapolesi ravioli (from Scapoli, the town where the recipe was born). The scapolese ravioli is made with fresh pasta and stuffed with chard, potatoes, finely chopped aged sausage, goat cheese, eggs and minced meat. Once cooked, the ravioli are served with a simple tomato sauce and possibly parmesan. It makes my mouth water just talking about it.
Us too! Thanks a lot Andrea!