In the framework of the 9th EUSAIR Forum that took place in Šibenik on the 15th and 16th of May 2024, the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce, in collaboration with the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Cities, organized the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative round table titled Preservation and Promotion of the Mediterranean Diet in the Adriatic and Ionian Region – Well-being, Sustainability and Culture, in on-site modality with live streaming on YouTube. The event was followed by 40 participants on-site.

In 2010 UNESCO declared the Mediterranean Diet an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its concept is not restricted to just a set of products and eating habits but has a much broader meaning: The Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle that is profoundly oriented towards health, and environmental sustainability and emphasises its cultural and social roots. There is a strong need to promote and safeguard the Mediterranean Diet in the Adriatic-Ionian Region by involving new generations, citizens and market players to ensure that traditional food production and consumption patterns are not eroded by globalisation. This AII Round Table, organised by the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce (Forum AIC) and Cities (FAIC), lays the groundwork for an integrated and collaborative approach to promote a sustainable food model that respects the environment and health, as stated in the Joint Declaration of 3 civil society Fora (Split Declaration).

Moderating the Institutional Greetings was Mr Francesco Buoncompagni from the City of Ancona and the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Cities.

The Ambassador Fabio Pigliapoco, Head of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative Permanent Secretariat highlighted the honour of having Joze Tomaš, Forum AIC’s vice president, at the opening event of the EUSAIR Forum, symbolising the active engagement of the Forum AIC. Amb. Pigliapoco emphasised the importance of the Split Declaration, now an annexe to the EUSAIR Ministerial declaration (Šibenik Declaration), marking a pivotal achievement for the three FORA within the macroregional framework. 

The President of the Forum of the Adriatic and Ionian Chambers of Commerce Mr Gino Sabatini expressed his pleasure at being in Sibenik and highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Association with the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative under the Croatian presidency at the 9th EUSAIR Forum.

President Sabatini expressed his commendation of the event focused on the Mediterranean Diet, a lifestyle-oriented towards health, sustainability, and cultural appreciation, as well as the signing of the Split Declaration on the Mediterranean Diet, emphasising wellness, sustainability, and culture. This document, now part of the Sibenik Declaration, reflects the commitment to promoting a sustainable and respectful dietary model.

Mr Davide Frulla, Representative of the city of Fano (on behalf of Mr Massimo Seri, mayor of the city of Fano and President of the Forum of Adriatic and Ionian Cities), began by noting that the City of Fano joined the Forum of Adriatic and Ionian Cities (FAIC) in 2016, highlighting the benefits of being part of the forum. He extended greetings on behalf of Mayor Massimo Seri and thanked the EUSAIR Forum organisers, the Split Chamber of Commerce for organising the event on the Split Declaration on the Mediterranean Diet, UniAdrion, and the Forum AIC.

Moderating the discussion was Ms Alma Harašić Bremec, Head of the Association Of Chefs From Mediterranean And European Regions (ŠKMER), “Pearl of the Sea” Festival. She introduced the round table emphasising the Mediterranean Diet as a globally renowned “super brand.” She highlighted the opportunity, right, and need for everyone to utilise this brand. She shared the collective dream to preserve and promote the Mediterranean Diet, particularly within the Adriatic and Ionian region.

Ms Sanela Grujo Vrkljan, Croatian Institute For Tourism (IZTZG) affiliated member of UNWTO, EUSAIR gastro tourism handbook 

How could food represent leverage for sustainable tourism in rural areas?

Food can serve as leverage for sustainable tourism in rural areas through gastro-tourism, with about 5% of European tourists specifically motivated by food experiences. Over 80% of tourists report that their satisfaction with food and beverages significantly impacts their overall satisfaction with a destination and their likelihood of returning. In Croatia, gastronomy ranks as the fourth main reason for visiting, similar to trends in other countries.

Gastronomy tourism plays a vital role in the economy by attracting tourists and offering authentic cultural experiences rooted in the Mediterranean Diet. This diet is not just about food consumption; it encompasses culture, education, and socialising, reflecting the rich cultural heritage and traditional practices of the Mediterranean region. This heritage supports local economies, creating tourism demand, providing authentic product experiences, and facilitating direct contact with local people.

Rural tourism, bolstered by gastronomy, supports local economies by generating income, creating jobs, and supporting farmers and small producers. This economic boost helps prevent rural depopulation and encourages people to return to and invest in rural areas, thereby increasing the standard of living. Additionally, it promotes the sustainability of biodiversity and environmental conservation.

For tourists, engaging in gastronomy tourism enhances their well-being by offering healthy food options and activities that help prevent diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular issues. Thus, food tourism not only enriches the visitor experience but also contributes to broader social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Would you like to explain us more about the EUSAIR gastro-tourism handbook you were involved in? How could this handbook address the challenge of attracting workers to the tourism and hospitality sector, while also promoting the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle?

The EUSAIR gastro-tourism handbook is a significant initiative developed within the framework of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR) to promote regional development. Crafted collaboratively by the Croatian Institute for Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism, this handbook is available in both Croatian and English to cater to a wider audience. Its primary objective is to highlight the untapped potential of gastro-tourism, emphasising its role as a lucrative product for off-peak tourism seasons. The handbook offers a comprehensive overview of gastro-tourism, delving into its intricacies within the region and outlining investment opportunities.

Serving as a practical guide for stakeholders, it provides insights into improving existing gastro-tourism offerings, enhancing distribution channels, assessing resource allocation, and developing market branding strategies. The handbook aims to empower national and regional tourism boards, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders to leverage gastro-tourism as a catalyst for economic growth and sustainable development. By addressing key aspects such as regulatory frameworks and funding mechanisms, the handbook equips policymakers with the necessary tools to support and accelerate gastro-tourism development in the region.

Additionally, the handbook addresses the challenge of attracting workers to the tourism and hospitality sector while promoting the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. It suggests developing rural tourism centred around food, such as creating small, family-run hotels that embrace tourists and adapt to new ways of presenting local cuisine. This approach fosters the creation of innovative products and promotional strategies focused on food. The handbook also emphasises the importance of storytelling in tourism, noting that while it can provide technical knowledge, it cannot teach the essential qualities of hospitality, such as politeness and warmth. Hence, individuals are employed not only for their skills but also for their personality.

Proficiency in languages, particularly English, is highlighted as crucial for effective communication and storytelling in the hospitality industry. Ultimately, the handbook underscores that hospitality in gastronomy and gastro-tourism extends beyond products to encompass exceptional service. This holistic approach addresses workforce shortages while showcasing the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, thereby enhancing the overall tourism experience in the region.

Ms Lindita Elezi, Marche Region Councillor – Law No. 23 of December 7, 2023, focused on “enhancing Marche as a land of Wellness and quality of life.”

The Marche region in December 2023 approved a law aimed at enhancing the Marche as a land of well-being and quality of life. Why did the region choose well-being, an intangible element, as a development factor?

The Marche region’s strategic choice to prioritise well-being as a development factor reflects a multifaceted approach aimed at capitalising on its rich intangible heritage and aligning with European initiatives. By leveraging initiatives such as “From Farm to Fork” and “One Health,” the region seeks to position itself as a beacon of holistic well-being and quality of life. This decision is substantiated by data from the BesT 2023 report, which underscores Marche’s exceptional relative well-being compared to the Italian average. With nearly 59% of indicators placing the region in the “high” and “medium-high” well-being classes, Marche stands out as a desirable destination where living well is ingrained in its cultural fabric.

The region’s branding strategy, encapsulated in the slogan “Marche, land of well-being and quality of life,” aims to showcase its unique blend of environmental, cultural, and productive assets. Notably, the Marche’s historical association with the Mediterranean diet, originating in Magliano di Tenna, serves as a testament to its commitment to promoting healthy living and sustainability. Furthermore, initiatives outlined in regional laws, such as the promotion of food education through prevention and the protection of the Mediterranean diet, underscore Marche’s dedication to fostering well-being at both individual and community levels.

By emphasising its high-quality lifestyle and well-being offerings, Marche positions itself as an attractive destination for tourists seeking immersive experiences and a balanced way of life. This comprehensive approach to branding not only enhances Marche’s appeal as a tourist destination but also reinforces its status as a representative territory of “Made in Italy,” characterised by authenticity, tradition, and innovation in promoting well-being and quality of life.

How is the Marche region working on building the brand of the land of well-being and quality of life, and how does the Mediterranean diet fit into this process?

The Marche region employs an interdisciplinary approach, involving various stakeholders such as public entities, regional agencies, universities, research institutes, schools, business representatives, trade and tourism organisations, unions, training institutions, and professional orders. Together, they are building a dedicated regional network aimed at engaging multiple sectors including food, agri-food supply chains, health, welfare, industry, environment, tourism, culture, sports, education, and training.

Marche’s leadership in enogastronomy, bolstered by its rich biodiversity, positions it at the forefront of the “Made in Italy” movement. The region boasts Europe’s largest organic district with over 2400 companies and 150 traditional products, supported by a diverse culinary landscape represented by eight Michelin-starred chefs. Marche’s culinary excellence was underscored when it was chosen by the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies to represent Italy at the Week of Italian Cuisine in the World held in Paris in October 2023.

Building on its primacy in the Mediterranean diet, Marche plans to institutionalize “Well-being and Quality of Life Days” to sensibilise and actively involve citizens and businesses as territory ambassadors. This initiative will integrate actions from well-being and Mediterranean diet laws, including educational projects, training for food sector operators, support for Mediterranean diet products in collective catering, collaboration with health and social care facilities, promotion of cultural-landscape heritage, and international relations focused on well-being and the Mediterranean diet.

This branding initiative also serves as a promotional tool for attracting new residents, considering that 45.3% of tourists visiting Marche belong to Generation Y (between 29 and 43 years old), with one in four tourists continuing to work while on vacation. Thus, the “Marche, land of well-being and quality of life” branding represents more than just a sum of actions; it embodies a strategic vision for Marche’s resurgence, backed by significant investments in manpower and resources.

Mr Joze Tomaš, President of Split Chamber of Economy, Vice-President of Forum AIC, Member of AMIS (Mediterranean Tourism Foundation) 

The Split Declaration on the Preservation and Promotion of the Mediterranean Diet in the Adriatic and Ionian Region: Well-being, Sustainability and Culture is a great achievement, could you tell us more about it?

The Split Declaration on the Preservation and Promotion of the Mediterranean Diet in the Adriatic and Ionian Region: Well-being, Sustainability, and Culture signifies a significant achievement, resulting from collaborative efforts. Initially conceived by Forum AIC board members as a means to elevate the visibility of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle, the declaration emerged as a joint initiative involving Forum AIC, UniAdrion, and FAIC. Recognizing the Mediterranean diet’s UNESCO heritage status since 2010, the declaration serves as a strategic tool to leverage EU funds for regional development projects.

Could you please provide some information about the role of the hospitality industry and the tourism sector? 

The role of the hospitality and tourism sectors in this endeavour is paramount. Food holds immense importance in travel experiences, and the declaration extends beyond culinary aspects to encompass culture and lifestyle. When people worldwide think of the Mediterranean diet, they associate it with the Adriatic and Ionian region, alongside Spain and France. Thus, preserving this heritage while ensuring sustainability and demographic awareness is crucial. With the declaration in hand, decision-makers in Brussels now have a framework to support and implement new projects in the region.

What would be the role of the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation in promoting the Mediterranean diet and sustainability in the Adriatic and Ionian region?

The Mediterranean Tourism Foundation could could serve as a catalyst for the Mediterranean diet and sustainability in the Adriatic and Ionian region by addressing the challenges faced by staff and workers in the sector.

Specifically, the foundation could initiate training programs and cultural exchanges aimed at educating chefs from third countries about the nuances of Mediterranean cuisine. By providing insights into the differences between Mediterranean food and dishes prepared elsewhere, these programs could help preserve traditional tastes and culinary techniques.

Moreover, the foundation could support efforts to raise awareness about the importance of maintaining the authenticity of Mediterranean cuisine. This could involve promoting initiatives such as the “marenda” project in Split Dalmatian County, which aims to elevate traditional culinary practices to the status of a recognized brand.

Additionally, the foundation could collaborate with local authorities and organizations to highlight unique cultural traditions like the Croatian tradition of “fijaka” (the “art of doing nothing”). By celebrating these cultural heritage elements, the foundation can contribute to the overall recognition and promotion of the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.

Overall, through a combination of education, advocacy, and collaboration, the Mediterranean Tourism Foundation has the potential to play a vital role in preserving and promoting the Mediterranean diet and sustainability in the Adriatic and Ionian region.

Ms Vesna Milanovic, Representative of Educational-Experimental Agricultural Company “Pasquale Rosati” (UNIVPM) 

What is the Agricultural Company P. Rosati and what are its primary activities and roles?

The Agricultural Company P. Rosati, founded in 1993 as part of the Polytechnic University of Marche, is an educational and experimental agricultural entity with a total area of 140 hectares, divided between Agugliano and Gallignano. In Agugliano, integrated agriculture techniques are employed, while organic agriculture practices are implemented in Gallignano, which includes a botanical garden functioning as a research hub for preserving Adriatic biodiversity.

Its cultivation repertoire encompasses a wide array of tree crops like olive trees, vineyards, fruit trees, and nuts, alongside diverse field crops such as wheat, barley, sunflower, and legumes. The company actively engages in 30 to 40 national and international research projects annually, collaborating extensively with local and national producers.

The products harvested serve a dual purpose: some are commercially marketed, while others are utilized for experimental and educational activities, fostering a circular economy model that benefits the company’s employees. Moreover, P. Rosati manages the outdoor and green spaces of the university, facilitating educational visits, thesis projects, and internships for students across various academic disciplines.

In summary, the Agricultural Company P. Rosati plays a pivotal role in advancing research, education, and sustainable agricultural practices within the Marche region.

What do you do at the Agricultural company “P. Rosati” to measure and fortify the grain supply chain? 

At the Agricultural company “P. Rosati,” several measures are taken to assess and enhance the grain supply chain, particularly focusing on durum wheat:

  1. Variety Selection: Emphasis is placed on selecting the most suitable varieties for specific soil types and climatic conditions to ensure high-quality grain production.
  2. Technological Integration: Utilization of advanced technologies such as AI and drones is incorporated into agricultural procedures to optimize various production phases.
  3. Agronomic Practices: Implementing best agronomic practices throughout the cultivation process to enhance yield and quality.
  4. Storage Management: Ensuring ideal storage conditions are maintained to preserve grain quality and manage pest control effectively.
  5. Milling Process: Careful management of the milling process to maintain quality traits and sensory characteristics of the grains.
  6. Pasta Production: Monitoring the quantity and quality of ingredients, extrusion methods, and drying techniques during pasta production to uphold product standards.
  7. Research and Development: The company serves as the national centre for comparing durum wheat varieties and conducts on-site long-term experimentation to conserve agricultural practices. Additionally, it engages in various research activities to improve production techniques.
  8. Collaboration: Close collaboration with local agricultural and artisanal companies for the transformation of raw materials ensures a comprehensive approach to the grain supply chain, involving both production and processing sectors.

Through these measures, the Agricultural company “P. Rosati” plays a vital role in ensuring the efficiency and quality of the grain supply chain, contributing to the overall success of durum wheat cultivation and processing.

Don’t forget to follow us on our social media channels to receive all the latest news and updates!