The Le Marche region in central Italy is deeply connected to its land and locality, with small-scale organic and biodynamic vineyards, agrotourisms, passionate communities and a focus on local and sustainable food. The region sits between the Adriatic Sea and the Appenine mountains that extend along the length of peninsular Italy.
I was recently given the opportunity to visit this stunning region, with the main aim of testing out a new App: Bioculture, aimed at people visiting in Le Marche. I have to admit, I was a bit dubious at first. My idea of a holiday is somewhere I can turn my phone off and immerse myself in the culture and countryside of my localities. But the Bioculture App surprised me.
Bioculture is the baby of Federico Bomba, a theatre director and advocate of local business. Federico was fed up with artists in Italy not being able to find paid work. Since the economic crash, more and more Italians are either moving abroad to find work or are leaving their city careers for the ‘slower pace’ of life in the countryside – growing grapes, olives and food – which although may be ‘slower’ is actually a lot of hard work.
Federico wanted to bring artists back into the economic sector and saw the best way for this was to connect them up with tourism. This is how Art Walks with Bioculture was born. This project and app joins up agrotourism, local food, businesses and artists who are passionate about the health and tourism of their region.
All participating agrotourisms provide local organic food and drink. Some grow organic wine, others olives. The restaurants also serve local and organic. We visited the Osteria Ophis restaurant in Offida, run by Michelin-star Chef Daniele Citeroni Maurizi, born and bred in Offida. He personally selects fresh, local and seasonal ingredients, updating his menu every two weeks. Chef Daniele is just an example of the passion and love for Le Marche and what it has to offer.
During our trip we could only visit a few of the places that feature in the Bioculture app. One of the main features and a big reason why Ferderico followed this journey is Terroir Marche, a consortium of 11 organic vineyards from across the region. “The Consortium is a non-profit association that aims to promote and enhance organic/biodynamic winegrowing in the Marche region, to safeguard the territory and resources for the common good, to disseminate the culture and practices of a sustainable and fair economy.” Across their 119 hectares, Terroir Marche produce a range of red and white wines, choosing varieties suitable to their soil. Being organic can be difficult but Alice, who now runs La Valle Del Sole with her sister, explained to me how their 15 hectares on a slope – near Offida – is perfectly suited for grapes (their conditions are mostly windy and dry), between the Adriatic ocean and the Sibillini and Laga Mountains. However the wet summer of 2014 meant there was a lot more work involved in creating the wine. Instead of spraying fertilisers to prevent mildew, Alice and her team prune the surrounding hedges and the fauna around the grapes to give better air circulation. This weather causes the white wines to become lighter which could be detrimental to the future of these wines.
Each member vineyard has their own story for becoming organic but one of my favourites was the story of Pignati Federic, owner of Aurora and President of the consortium. In the 1980s, Pignati moved to organic because he had noticed his employees were getting sick. This was long before the organic movement and for Pignati there was little advice and resources so once a week he would call a professor in Turin who was researching organic growing methods.
We visited various beautiful towns embedded with history, from the dizzying heights of Smerillo, which holds an annual Chestnut festival, to the rebellious Offida, known for its wild and fire-filled yearly pagan carnival and its locally made lace, once made from the silk of worms kept in shoe boxes but now from locally grown hemp.
At all of the stops we were encouraged to use the Bioculture App. The App features a map of a 19 stage, 150 mile walk through Le Marche and was taken by Federico and the artists at the beginning of the project. As they walked, they found the region's hidden treasures and inhabitants as well agrotourisms, restaurants, all of which were added to the App which feature on the interactive map. I love that some of these artists did not know each other before the project and have been brought together through their journey. Each of the artists created their own interpretations of the walk, from videos representing tourism, storytelling including that from the persepctive of a bee to multi-layered art of photographs and graphic design. The Bioculture project has inspired these young artists, who are now travelling Le Marche to encourage others to do the same.
Federico’s Bioculture App is a unique experience, mixing stunning scenery and beautiful walks with local food, wine, business and art. Its many dimensions means it has something for everyone and opens the user's eyes to a new style of tourism.
Rozie Apps is assistant editor at Permaculture magazine.
Getting Around - Two main train lines run through the region. Visit www.le-marche.com/Marche/html/getaround.html for more info
Visit the Bioculture website at www.bioculture.it
For more on the App and to download visit www.bioculture.it/bioculture-app.asp?lang= (available for Apple and Android)
Exclusive content and FREE digital access to over 20 years of back issues