Archive for September, 2013

Chinese buyer for Puglia safari park?

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A Chinese investment firm is looking at buying Zoosafari, a safari park and theme park outside Fasano, a town in the Province of Brindisi, La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno reports. The newspaper says the park, which houses many protected species of animals, is experiencing financial difficulties. The potential buyer is identified as National Investment Company, Shanghai-based firm principally active in 3D and post-production technology for film and TV.

As Puglia gains more of an international profile, good or bad, some of its sites become more attractive to foreign companies as relatively cheap investments, as a park official pointed out: “(It is) with regret we say that a jewel of organizational efficiency and superior quality as the Zoosafari is going out of hand.”

A newcomer’s first impressions of Puglia

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Check out Anneli Rufus’ blog on the Huffington Post website, titled “Let’s Make Puglia the New Umbria,” an account of a first-time visitor’s trip to the region and the surprises she discovered there. I know exactly how she feels, because her impressions were the same as mine the first time I visited Puglia. Her blog is illustrated by pictures taken by Kristan Lawson, who perfectly captures Puglia’s cultural treasures (especially the food).

Another publicity boost for Puglia wine tourism

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

The New York Post’s “Living” section is featuring an article about Puglia’s excellent position as a wine-producing region. The article, headlined “Italy’s Magical Puglia Region,” focuses on what the reporter describes as “quality, inexpensive wines … in the country’s third-biggest wine-producing region, which boasts about 30 different indigenous grapes.” Grapes discussed include Primitivo, Negroamaro, Black Malvasia and Aglianico. Read all about it here.

A shrine to Puglia’s Saint Pio

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

I was required to take care of some family business on Monday so I didn’t have an opportunity to write a post in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.

We made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Saint Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, a mountaintop village on the Gargano Peninsula in Foggia Province, several years ago. We traveled by an early-morning train from Bari to Foggia, then by bus up the mountain and spent an entire day there before returning to Bari at night.

Saint Pio, born in 1887 and baptized as Francesco Forgione, took the name Pio (Pius) when he became a Capuchin brother in 1907. He was ordained a priest in 1910 and became Padre Pio (Father Pius). He died on Sept. 23, 1968, and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.

During our visit, we toured the entire Shrine, visited Saint Pio’s small preserved cell and confessional, attended Mass in the small chapel in which he said Mass, and prayed at his tomb and at the exact spot where it is said that he received the stigmata. It was an inspiring and unforgettable experience for us.

Saint Pio has millions of followers around the world. Tens of thousands of them make pilgrimages to his Shrine every year. Many of them also visit the nearby Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano, the Shrine to Saint Michael the Archangel at Monte Sant’Angelo (Mountain of the Holy Angel). There, we attended Mass in the underground chapel that is carved inside a cave and which tradition says was consecrated by Saint Michael around the year 490. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as are Puglia’s Castel del Monte and the trulli houses in Alberobello.

Religious pilgrims represent a significant portion of Puglia’s annual visitors and they serve as ambassadors for the region’s religious heritage. There are restaurants, small hotels and other visitor facilities and amenities adjacent to the Shrine of Saint Pio and the hospital he built, Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home to Relieve Suffering), to make your visit comfortable. For believers, it is a joy-filled experience and one you will not forget.

Puglia Center awards ceremony Oct. 3 in New York City

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The Puglia Center of America will present the third edition of its “Puglia’s Italy Award of Excellence in America” ceremony in New York City on Thursday, Oct. 3.

This year’s honorees are Joseph Torsella, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for UN Management and Reform; Mauro Romita, president and chief operating officer of Castle Oil Corp.; and Donatella Arpaia, restaurateur, celebrity chef, author and TV personality.

Download the details here.

A preliminary report on Puglia’s tourism season

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Ostuni, the “White City,” is a popular destination for international travelers. Photo by Vito Arcomano © Fototeca ENIT

The need for a coordinated program of careful, sustainable tourism development and promotion throughout Puglia was underscored in an interview this week with Pierangelo Argentieri, provincial president for Federalberghi Brindisi, an organization representing many operators of visitor accommodations, conducted by La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno.

In the interview, Argentieri said of the latest summer tourism season, “the Province of Brindisi continues to be a popular destination for Italian and foreign tourists, attracted by those who are the strengths of our territory, or the beauty of the landscape, crystal clear sea and the food and wine.” He added that Ostuni (called the “White City” for its white walls) and Fasano, “where the focus was on quality tourism,” remain the province’s most popular destinations.

Asked where the foreign travelers are coming from, he replied, “A strong presence of German and, above all, Belgians, as well as French.” These tourists tended to book stays of about seven days, longer than in previous high seasons. Many visitors also preferred to stay in the countryside, he said: “Many of the tourists who visited the area in the summer … (chose) the peace and tranquility of the countryside.”

Reflecting a factor that is less favorable for tourism, in Brindisi and throughout Puglia, is the continuing issue of littering Argentieri noted. “Many tourists have complained about the images of decay observed in some places. I refer to the garbage left on the street,” he said. He suggested that a strategy of sustainable tourism development be followed in the province. “We must not get caught up in the frenzy of chasing everyone and everything and then end up with some upset,” he told the newspaper. “In this regard, I take the example of what happened in Gallipoli, where the tourist boom has created many problems, perhaps because of a lack of organization and planning.”

Argentieri said he welcomes a new law that regulates bed-and-breakfast accommodations. Federalberghi, he said, is “willing to welcome them with open arms, provided they are in good standing … (they) can play an important part in the development of tourism in the territory of Brindisi.”

Puglia ports of Brindisi & Gallipoli featured in Seabourn sailings in 2014

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The just-issued Seabourn Cruise Line 2014 luxury cruise brochure features “Adriatic & Greek Isles” itineraries that include calls at two ports in Puglia: Brindisi, an Adriatic Sea port, and Gallipoli, on the Ionian Sea coast.

Sailings being marketed as “Adriatic & Venetian Stars,” “Heart of the Mediterranean,” “Venice & Adriatic Charms,” “Venice & Adriatic Gems” and “Venice & Adriatic Treasures” visit Brindisi or Gallipoli, or both.

The cruise line offers nine shore excursions out of Brindisi, including trips to Alberobello, Lecce and Ostuni, as well as tours using private cars and vans with English-speaking guides. The company’s website currently has no details about its calls at Gallipoli (Greek for “beautiful city”), which has a historic center near the harbor.

Some cruise passengers who visited Brindisi on relatively brief stops have commented that they found little of interest there except for some shops and restaurants near the waterfront. To its credit, Seabourn’s shore excursions feature extended visits to some of Puglia’s better-known and worthwhile attractions. But maybe there’s an opportunity for local and regional tourism officials to work more closely with Seabourn and other cruise lines to develop more interesting, and perhaps even lengthier, port calls in Brindisi, Gallipoli and also in Bari, Puglia’s chief Adriatic port city. Cruise passengers won’t mind all-day excursions away from their ship if they are being transported to places that interest them. Seabourn’s luxury-cruise clientele certainly fits with Puglia’s target market of upscale, seasoned travelers who are interested in learning about local cultures. And there’s room for other cruise lines to follow suit, if their port calls are arranged and conducted in a sustainable manner.

“Ciao, I am Frederick II!”

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

A trio of ghost hunters in Bari tells La Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno that twice within the past few months they have been visited by the ghost of Frederick II of Swabia, the politically powerful Holy Roman Emperor who ruled Puglia in the 13th century.

“Ciao, sono Federico II!” (“Hello, I am Frederick II!”) the ghost reputedly tells the startled ghost hunters. Both appearances, the last on July 30, are said to have occurred late at night on Vittorio Emanuele outside the Teatro Piccinni. The men described the ghost as having long hair and wearing a yellow crown, white tunic and red satin shoes, resembling existing pictures of the emperor, who died in 1250.

Frederick left his mark on Puglia, largely through his construction of massive castles throughout the region, perhaps most notably the eight-sided Castel del Monte in Andria, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most-visited and significant tourism attractions in Puglia today.

Considering that during his lifetime Frederick was known as “Stupor Mundi” (“Wonder of the World”), you never know…Read about it for yourself here.

Puglia’s tourism potential: Taking a sustainable approach

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

The Porto Vecchio and Centro Storico (the Old Port and Historic Center) of Bari, the capital of Puglia. Photo by Vito Arcomano
© Fototeca ENIT

An important tool tourism professionals, researchers, marketers, consultants and scholars use to assess the viability of a place as a quality tourism destination is a Situation Analysis. This is very detailed and comprehensive research intended to answer two important questions: Where are we now and we are we going as a tourism destination?

One key component of a Situation Analysis is a “SWOT” Analysis. This tool helps tourism planners determine a destination’s status among its current markets as well as its short-term and long-term prospects for success in creating and maintaining a sustainable tourism industry. (More about sustainability in future posts.)

SWOT ‒ the letters stand for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ‒ analyses are used in many industries and fields of study, but they are particularly useful in tourism. In these analyses, strengths and weaknesses are considered to be internal factors that a destination can potentially control through its public and private sectors. Opportunities and threats, on the other hand, are external factors beyond the control of local entities. Lists of all four factors can become quite lengthy, so it is best to focus on a few of each that deserve the most attention, are of most value to the end users and have the best potential for generating improvements to a destination.

Over the next several weeks, I would like to conduct a tightly focused SWOT Analysis for Puglia centered on its potential to attract and build tourism traffic from the United States during what the travel industry calls “shoulder seasons” ‒ the periods before and after the “high season,” and not including the “off season” or slowest time of the year for tourism businesses. For Puglia, the shoulder seasons are April to June and September to November. These spring and fall periods are especially well suited for generating travel from the U.S. target market, as prices are lower, the weather is more temperate and places of interest are less crowded than in high season. The region’s government and private-sector tourism entities have identified these seasons and the U.S. market as important to Puglia’s economic future, so that will be my focus.

I invite anyone who has ideas for listings of what they see as Puglia’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats concerning international tourism to respond to this post. I’ll follow up with as many as I can.

Next: The “S” in SWOT ‒ Puglia’s strengths as a shoulder-season destination for U.S. travelers

Positive press for Puglia’s Salento peninsula

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Photo by Sandro Bedessi © Fototeca ENIT

An interesting newspaper article headlined “Italy’s Salento Is a Haven for Sun Worshippers” that was first published in The Daily Telegraph has been picked up and reprinted by numerous other newspapers in other countries, putting Puglia in a positive light as a quality tourism destination in a number of international travel markets. It also marks the first time I’ve seen Puglia compared to England’s Cornwall. The article says, in part, that “the Salento peninsula in southern Puglia is the Cornwall or the Galicia of Italy: a seagirt place of ancient and insular cultural traditions, not all of them diluted into tourist attractions.”

The article also highlights the Greek influence in Puglia that still exists from ancient times, noting that parts of Salento “may be the only living remnant of Magna Grecia, that swathe of southern Italy colonized by Ancient Greece back when the Romans were still living in huts.” Furthermore, the article points out a variety of places that are interesting to explore along the coast.