Va’ Sentiero is a very young non profit company which has an outstanding project: to revive the longest trekking path in the world, called Sentiero Italia, initiated three decades ago by some alpinists. It is running the entire dorsal of the most wonderful touristic destination in the world, Italy.
The actual Italy is, unluckily, not the best place to live with/in because there are not so many occupational opportunities (with the highest youth unemployment rate ever) and the tourism – the real black gold of the country, able to generate income and to solve all the occupational problems for three generations! – is not at all managed by the deputed governmental institutions.
Last but not least, right-wing, autarchic and the lowest racist winds are storming all over the country and don’t contribute to represent it as it has always been: the most open destination of the world by nature – a long peninsula stretched between continental Europe and Africa.
We love walking minds wanting to change what is not working, we also love slow tourism and hiking in particular, in fact we’d already interviewed a French manager who walked the entire Italy only using his feet. No surprise that we went to know the three young Va’ Sentiero founders better, even if they’re just debuting in their mission!
What about you? As people and as initiators of Va Sentiero?
We are a group of young people, cemented by the passion for travel and for the mountains in particular.
Yuri, 31, specializes in International Relations and works as a tour guide for an American travel agency dealing with active/outdoor travels.
Sara (25) is a freelance photographer and is following a master’s degree in anthropology in Venice.
Giacomo (the one who is in charge to condense the answers in this interview, I’m 27!) has a master’s degree in communication at the University of Amsterdam and has been working for a Milanese start-up for two years.
The Va’ Sentiero project starts about two years ago almost as a game. From the initial idea of embarking on an incredible adventure of 6880 km on foot, we became aware of what we had in our hands: a unique opportunity. We love our country and we want to deserve the wonders that surround us, engaging us directly to act from the bottom. From this common conviction the Va’ Sentiero Association was born and all that we have done (and we are doing) is to ensure that this experience turns into something great and beautiful, not just for us.
Even if you started not long ago, you’ve already cemented some partnerships and some agreements with important actors of ‘traditional’ tourism. Can you tell us more and also to foresee what will be next?
The Va’ Sentiero project aims to be the spark of a new way of seeing and experiencing our mountains, it is therefore a very ambitious goal.
It is for this reason that, from the beginning, we have tried to create a solid network of influential collaborators around us.
We started by contacting the main national realities related to the mountain world, first of all the Italian Alpine Club (CAI). Within a year we have obtained the patronage, as well as the CAI and the Italian Touring Club, also by the MATTM (Ministry for the Environment and the Protection of Land and Sea), by University of the Mountain, by Tuscany, Valle d’Aosta, Puglia, Liguria, Campania, Trentino Alto-Adige Regions but also by numerous relevant associations such as AMODO (Alliance for Sweet Mobility), AITR (Italian Association of Responsible Tourism), BAI (Autonomous Villages of Italy), Federtrek, Federparchi, Uncem.
The project is also supported by some of the most important private companies operating in the outdoor sector – Montura, Ziel, Ferrino.
At the moment we are working to conclude other agreements, and we are dealing mainly with important foundations and institutions of the country. Among these we would like to underline the interest of Fondazione Garrone, Cariplo Foundation, Futura Italia (national project for high school students promoted by MIUR).
In general, we are open to collaborations and sponsorships that enhance attention to the ecological theme and to the Italian produces and that are compatible with the strategic objectives of the initiative (environmental and economic sustainability, protection and enhancement of local specialties).
Can you portray for us the ideal volunteer or the ideal collaborator for Va’ Sentiero?
After the press talked a little bit of us, we received lots of emails of encouragement and support from people of all ages and backgrounds. In addition to giving us immense pleasure, this meant for us further proof that we were moving in the right direction.
Among these mails some have impressed us particularly … some boys and girls who, like us, fell in love at first sight of the project and asked us to get on board.
To date, the Va’ Sentiero team has about ten people and we intend to expand gradually over the next few months to better manage all the tasks.
To answer your question, the identikit is very simple: the ideal collaborator of Va’ Sentiero loves her/his country and wants to do something concrete to enhance it, h/s* is not afraid but is stimulated by big challenges, h/s* wants to roll up his sleeves.
Joys and hurdles of this activity? And which has been the model (if you had one) at whom/which you regarded to found Va’ Sentiero?
Unfortunately, in this phase of the project, we are easier to answer this question thinking about the many obstacles that we had to face from the first day 🙂
We are a small and very young reality and as such we often find it very difficult to get what we want. Furthermore, we are ordinary people with our thoughts and fears; there are moments of tension within the group that, fortunately, we can always solve. Luckily, we have also lived many moments of pure joy in these two years!
Looking back and especially looking back at all the small goals we have achieved, we can not but be satisfied with the work done so far.
We certainly have an inspiration that “guides” us from the very beginning: our idol Walter Bonatti (a great alpinist and the most intelligent Italian explorer and writer), to whom our project is dedicated.
Have you been ever thinking that in a normal country your business would be surely patronized (if not initiated!) by the government, indeed I guess you had no contact with the official Tourism Board managers yet….
Yes, we have thought it on several occasions, unfortunately … But at the same time we are now aware of the enormous strengths and weaknesses of our country and we decided not to waste time complaining but rather to exploit the great unexpressed potential that we have in our hands.
Contrary to what one might think, we immediately started contacts and collaborations with the institutions of the Italian tourism world that were made – more or less – available to do theirs. We have made the idea that, paradoxically, in order to start projects of this size, a push from the bottom is crucial because Italian institutions are often characterized by a slowness deriving from “outdated” internal processes.
With a view to realizing the project from the bottom, we are also structuring a crowdfunding campaign that will be active between January and February 2019 and thanks to it we’ll hope to collect a large part of the necessary funds.
What do you feel to give to your country and what do you receive back from it?
When, two years ago, we knew the Sentiero Italia, the first idea was simply to hike it. To do this, much less effort would have been needed and we would probably have lived the experience with more serenity …
However, after years spent always discussing the same issues, in this project we immediately saw the answer to many of our questions. The Va‘ Sentiero project represents the means to contribute in first person to a process of change in which we place all our convictions.
We want to go and discover our mountains to understand how they are and what we can concretely do to enhance them. In return, we expect to find the same enthusiasm and passion in the people of the various places we will cross; but above all, we strongly hope that all this “rumor” that we want to create around the initiative, serves to activate local institutions and authorities – indispensable partners of this process.
Where do you see yourselves in ten years from now?
We do not know where we will be, but we hope with all my heart that this initiative has in the meantime evolved and brought something good. We are not looking for personal glory, but we are convinced that by activating a virtuous circle around the mountain world we can create huge and interesting opportunities (including occupation) for many young people like us.
To get in contact with Va’ Sentiero, click here