Discover Italy’s Eden destinations before the crowds

Each year the European Union selects a number of non-mainstream destinations which promote sustainable tourism

These places are awarded an EDEN (European Destinations of Excellence) classification, with the aim of drawing attention to areas – many off the beaten track – and national treasures.

The aim of the Eden project which began in 2006 is to draw  attention to examples of good practice in sustainable tourism and help de-congest over-visited tourist destinations.

And this week the Italian Tourist Board in London unveiled three different destinations which already have Eden project status, with the aim of encouraging tour operators to promote them in the UK.

This is a brief introduction to those places – gems which are relatively undiscovered so and  accommodation and food are a good deal cheaper than in the traditional tourist centres in Italy. There are five star hotels but there are lots of holiday farms and bed & breakfast accommodation, eating at traditional trattorias and inns.

As someone who has travelled all over Italy I was very intrigued to learn about these destinations.

Valli Del Mincio – Lombardia

Valli del Mincio, is in Lombardia, in norther Italy – in the area between Lake Garda going south towards the River Po.  The Mincio is a river which flows from the lake to the Po, which is a national park.  Alongside the river there are nature trails and cycle and pedestrian tracks which take you through historic towns and villages, and the largest city in the Mantova region.


I note that the riverside tracks are flat which is great for those of us who want gentle exercise!

It also contains the largest inland wetland in Europe – so a haven for birds (149 species) and other wildlife, including herons and storks.  A few English tourists do travel here (4%) but the majority of visitors are Germans (26%) who enjoy the perch and trout fishing.

Outside of the city of Mantova there are many villages to visit including Grazie, Rivalta sul Mincio and Soave.

To find out more:

Specialist travel agency in the park

Corciano – Perugia, Umbria

Corciano has the accolade of being one of the most beautiful towns in Italy.  So its a worth a visit just to see it.

But there is a wealth of attractions and activities to enjoy – even if you are only staying for a weekend – its only 22 kms from Perugia airport. There are four museums including a new archeological museum; Etruscan remains and the Necropolis of Strozzacapponi which contains more than 60 tombs.


Corciano’s ancient past

And if nature is more your thing, there are two mountains, Tezio  (961m) and Malbe (482m), plus two natural parks where you can mountain bike, wall climb and walk.

Local festivals are always a lively affair and Corciana has several – the Corciano cultural festival in August, the Castello di Vino and Dolce Borgo, both in October

Castel del Piano – Grosetto, Tuscany

The commune of Castel del Piano is in a relatively untouristic part of Tuscany.  Yes there is such a thing.  And here you find unspoilt villages where the cost of food and accommodation is cheaper than in the rest of this popular destination.

Castel del Piano

Rooftop vista of Castel del Piano in southern Tuscany

This village is situated in a truly magnificent situation – between two mountains – one covered in beech and chestnuts – one of the largest such forests in Europe.

As well as nature and outdoor activities…each year in September, there is the Palio, a fast and dangerous horse race. The riders represent the four contrade (quarters) of the city and the race has taken place since 1402.


A palio to rival the famous one in Sienna

This area is also known for its thermal waters so its possible to bathe outdoors in natural hot-springs.

In winter the village is above the snowline and the nearby ski runs are popular with locals but remain relatively undiscovered by UK winter holidaymakers.

The town has museums and as you could expect ancient churches.  There is also a famous artesian biscuit factory which its possible to visit.  And a cheese factory

There are plenty of places to stay and eat.  We are recommended the Borgo Tepolini, a country-house hotel on the outskirts of the town. It does have a swimming pool and offers various discounts i.e. stay 3 nights and save 15%/stay 5 nights and save 20%.

These are must visit destinations – so get there before the crowds…