Barolo wrestles with tourism experiment

Barolo, which is equally dependent on and affected by tourism, is grappling with how best to manage peak tourism.

© Tom Hyland
| Tourism is rapidly changing the face of Barolo, and the town’s rapid growth has even seen the opening of its first pizzeria.

For most of the year, the town of Barolo is a quiet little village. But starting in late spring and continuing through summer and early fall, the local famous white truffle is in vogue, and Barolo has become a tourist destination for thousands of people around the world.

And for a town of less than 750 people, that’s becoming a problem; how big a problem it is, and whether the boom in tourism is a good thing depends on who you talk to.

Eleven years ago, Amanda Courtney left the Boston area to live in Barolo. Four years later, she started her own travel agency business, leading small group tours of the Langhe region, which includes the production areas of Barolo and Barbaresco. She noted that 2014 was the starting point for the influx of tourists now flocking to the region. That year, the vineyard landscape of the Piedmont region, including the Langhe Mountains, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing the world’s attention to the land. Courtney also believes that the huge success of the 2010 Barolo wines — which were released in 2014 — has brought Barolo even more attention. “Every journalist, even those not known for wine, raved about this amazing Barolo that sold out by July.”

The new wave of tourism is not for some local producers, including Maria Teresa Mascarello, whose wine cellar (Bartolo Mascarello) is located in the centre of Barolo. Mascarello recently built a new warehouse not far from her cellar, with a large courtyard for trucks to get in and out of. “In Via Roma 15, it’s getting harder here because of the tourism and traffic jams on trucks. Now we’re working in a safer way,” she commented.

“It’s a problem now because there are so many tourists and many of them don’t know anything about wine. Mass tourism is not the type of tourism we are interested in. Also, it creates problems for good tourists who love to travel Wine. So this is a big problem for our village, like Monforte d’Alba or La Morra. It is necessary to have a project to control tourism, to choose which tourism we want to accept. Our village is not suitable for mass tourism. Also Because we only serve wine and food – if you’re not interested in wine and food, why come to Barolo?

Federico Scarzello, whose wine cellar is also in the town of Barolo, near Mascarello, sees the issue differently. “Certainly, the number of tourists has increased over the past few years. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we are dealing with a large number of tourists now. Of course, the large number of tourists is not every day. We have a lot of tourists, especially on weekends, and certain seasons, Such as Mid-Autumn or Spring.”

Scazzello, who is a member of the town government responsible for tourism, acknowledged that the area has indeed had a problem with large numbers of tourists in recent years, but was hesitant to end it. “What can we do now? We stop some people and say: ‘Okay, you’re the hundredth, there’s no room for tourists after you’?”

Scazero noted that during the pandemic, domestic tourists, which he describes as “not very rich, don’t spend a lot of money, have saved tourism on weekends. We have to take into account that we can’t have local tourists come to our rescue when we need it.” .It.” He also believes that new tourists, even those who don’t know much about Barolo or even wine in general, shouldn’t be barred from visiting. “Some people arrive with sandwiches and a bottle of water. But I think it’s an investment in the future.”

Federico Scarzello is a staunch supporter of tourism in Barolo and nearby villages.

© Tom Hyland
| Federico Scarzello is a staunch supporter of tourism in Barolo and nearby villages.

damage control

There are a lot of ideas about finding the right solution, including a tax on entering the city center, but the most controversial so far is building a car park about a mile outside the city where tourists can park their cars and take the shuttle Bus into town. Scarzello predicts the space will have a capacity of around 200-250 cars; this should be operational in the fall, hopefully by mid-October.

Mascarello was furious with the project because a small wooded field had been altered in order to make progress. “It’s on the old road into town near Cannubi and it’s a very green place for us, the residents – the people who live in Barolo.”

Another plan she noticed was to park 100 cars in the village under the Giuseppe Rinaldi estate. “It was on its way to the Lafava forest near the village,” she explained. “The car problem in the forest is horrific; this government has no sense of greenness and trees. At a time when trees are being planted all over the world, we talk about European money invested in ecological transition. In Barolo we are destroying more and more Soil to build car parks. More and more people, but that’s not our vision; it’s not the right future for our village. And, incredibly, as a UNESCO site, two car parks are being built A lot of stuff – I don’t understand that.”

For Scazzello, the new parking facility was necessary.

“We have to organize the logistics for the tourists, like parking is a logistical project, not just in Barolo, because the parking project is not just for Barolo; of course, it is in the territory of Barolo, we have come manage it.

“But it’s a project between different villages in the Barolo region, because there’s even a project to build an electric bus line between different villages. But you know how you’re going to use the bus if you don’t have a car park?

“We don’t have a train station, we don’t have a harbour, so you have to drive to Langhe. Then we have to push the car up the hill, we have to find some place in the valley where you can leave your car, and then we have to organize a service, Take people to different villages.”

Faded charm

While producers, local residents and officials are discussing specific solutions, one individual who organizes customized small-group cultural and heritage tours in Barolo and elsewhere in Italy takes a broader view of the problem of over-tourism. Vail, Colorado resident Suzanne Hoffman has written two books about the area and led her first trip to Barolo in 2017, most recently organizing her tenth this June. A trip to Piedmont and her insight into how tourism has changed the landscape of Barolo.

“I started to see changes long before the Covid-19 outbreak, maybe as early as 2016,” Hoffman explained. “I decided in November 2021 to stop taking tourists to Barolo village and opt for a quieter alternative. Serralunga.”

Hoffman said her reasoning was not just because of an increase in tourists, but also because Barolo has lost authenticity in recent years. “I am saddened that the village has lost its character and charm and has been Napaized with a plethora of wine shops. Most importantly, I am sorry for those who can no longer drive into town just for coffee and Sad old man reading. Writing papers with friends. The culture of the village – as a Langhe village – has changed dramatically, not slowed down by Covid-19, but accelerated, even since It’s been the same since November.”

Hoffman believes that if a recession like the one in 2008 hits the region, “what if Barolo and La Morra have so many wine shops and restaurants? I want to see the region prosper, but in a sustainable way and true to their culture. and legacy.”

Sandro Minella, a local wine guide, shares his thoughts on the topic. “I can only witness tourism is really taking over the life of the village and it will be more and more because the process is irreversible. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing may depend on opinion, but I can see Barolo And Lange’s “premium” strategy versus mass tourism.

“And I can see that it’s getting harder to convey authenticity on the one hand, and changing the landscape with a large tourism infrastructure on the other.”

Courtney added one last thought. “Through thoughtful, good marketing and promotion, the right people can make Barolo the best it has ever been and lead the way in sustainable tourism across the region.”

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