Welcome to Italy. To your left, you’ll see white-sand beaches, breath-taking mountain ranges, and charming, historical streets. To your right, a tsunami wave of sunburnt tourists, cameras at the ready. According to EU research, the impacts of overtourism across borders can be severe, to the point of destinations losing their primary functions and appeal. Iconic heritage buildings and cultural centres to incredible natural landscapes create a sense of paradise, but heavy footfall concentrates tourist numbers into short periods of time. The result? Worn-down historical structures, depleted natural habitats, and unpredictable socio-economical effects.
Sacrificing your much-anticipated holiday, however, might not be necessary. Recent trends suggest that travellers are searching for an in-depth, immersive experience of their chosen destinations more and more often. The value of venturing off the superficial tourist map is growing, and regions like Italy’s Le Marche – recently dubbed Lonely Planet’s second most anticipated place to visit in 2020 – are shining bright with authenticity.
‘It is so important to maintain the integrity of Le Marche, and we are consciously working with our partners in a way that enables tourism to benefit the local people, as well as ensuring it’s a great place to visit,’ says Amanda Jennings, owner of the family-run Oliveto Estate, a luxurious destination situated in the rolling hills of Le Marche. Away from the roar of airplanes, the car fumes, and crowds talking over each other, it’s the perfect getaway that doesn’t sacrifice quality over authenticity – immerse with the locals and experience true Italy.
‘We know that one thing that really helps the local population and eases over-tourism is creating sustainable jobs throughout the seasons,’ Jennings says. She explains that Le Marche’s natural diversity allows Oliveto Estate’s bespoke itineraries to complement each season and positively influence the local economy. From skiing and mountain biking in the Sibillini mountains in the winter to taking part in water sports in the summer, a hilltop estate overlooking the olive grove and vineyards acts as the perfect retreat for up to 22 guests.
Combating overtourism often translates to taking care of the environment, and Oliveto Estate has pledged to reduce their strain on the ecosystem. ‘Keeping as local as possible is super important to us. We grow as much as our own fruit and vegetables onsite as possible, and make our own olive oil, and what we lack we only purchase from local suppliers. We collect rainwater in purpose-built wells to water any plants and crops, and use a filtered water source for drinking, so no plastic bottles necessary!’ Jennings says.
Italian cuisine has influenced food culture around the globe and is seen as an art form by many. Marchigianas value the simple things, the slow way of life, Jennings explains, and Oliveto Estate’s Slow Food Scheme allows guests to directly engage with this. Traditional recipes are passed down generations, often getting lost over time and losing their authenticity. ‘We believe part of our role in the region is telling the stories of where these recipes came from, demonstrating the quality of craftsmanship and how you can still create quality food using traditional methods today,’ Jennings says. ‘So whether this is demonstrating to our guests how to make three different cheeses in a cooking class, having them hand-pick olives and see them being pressed into olive oil right in front of them, or showing them how to cook eight types of pasta like our Nonnas did, it is these stories, their history, and legacy that they will take home with them and feel like they have got to know the region on a truly different level,’ she adds, hoping that its rich food exports will put Le Marche on the map, giving local producers a voice and opportunity to share their stories with the world.
Working towards sustainability, for Oliveto Estate, also means creating bespoke itineraries and experiences for each of their guests. There is no one-size-fits-all mould in an area as culture-rich as Le Marche, and so no two stays have ever been the same. ‘We see ourselves as travel-designers, so our itineraries are designed to fit around guests, not around us,’ Jennings says. General housekeeping and an in-house chef are complemented by cooking lessons (secret family recipes included), day trips into the hidden depths of Le Mache’s beauty in the company of an expert local guide, and off-track cycling into the wilderness or to the local beach. For those seeking a retreat rather than an adventure (although who says you can’t have both?), guests can chill out by the infinity pool, enjoy a massage and al-fresco yoga on the terrace, or take part in the seven-night, all-inclusive Yoga and Wellness Retreat.
‘Be Well, Eat Well, Sleep Well, and Live Well are the areas we really focus on at the Estate. Wellbeing comes from balance; the calmness and surroundings of Oliveto Estate will enable you to connect with nature on a deeper level,’ Jennings says. In addition, Sleep Retreats for those suffering from especially high levels of stress will be joining the Oliveto Estate events guide in the near future.
The search for authenticity isn’t always easy when the travel industry feels superficial and overcrowded. And yet, with 2019’s top tourism trends being solo- and eco-travel, we are learning to appreciate the depth and diversity of less popular regions. The world is full of gems – why opt for the same ones as everyone else?