Italy’s Protected Parks Are Home to Some of Our Favorite Farms
If you’ve spent some time browsing the Giadzy shop, you might have been struck by the fact that some of our incredible products are grown in protected nature preserves. We’ll admit, it made us wonder, too! Here in the U.S., you would never dream of farming in the middle of a national park—that land is strictly protected from private use. (Although one, Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, does run an experimental farm program.) But in Italy, where it’s understood that careful, respectful farming can be done in a way that causes no harm to the land, it’s a different story.
To understand why parks are so different in Italy, it helps to go back to the beginning. Before World War II, there were only four nationally protected parks in Italy, the first of which was designated in 1922. By contrast, the first American national park, Yellowstone, was created in 1872. By the time the U.S. National Parks Service was created in 1916, some 35 parks were already in existence. In Italy, it wasn’t until environmental issues became a global conversation in the 1970s that the government began to consider creating parks to protect endangered animals and wildlife. And just as the U.S. has national parks and state parks, Italy has more than 100 regional parks that are managed by the 20 regions that make up the country, almost all of which were established in the 1970s or later.
Since so much of the Italian conservation effort happened in the last few decades, officials had to think differently about how to protect the land. For one thing, many of the areas that were ecologically significant were dotted with small villages that had been there for centuries. They couldn’t simply evacuate every town to create parks! In many places, the land had been occupied for millennia, from indigenous settlements to Ancient Roman construction, Byzantine structures, and so much more. Preserving that cultural heritage was just as important as protecting the natural ecosystems.
Photo Credit: Agricola Fillipone
Luckily, living in harmony and respect for the local ecosystem was already a way of life for many rural Italians! By coming up with strict rules about how to protect the land from future harm and encourage endangered plant and animal life to thrive, Italian officials were able to come up with a parks system that incorporates local homes and businesses, rather than excluding them.
Sicily’s Madonie regional park, for example, is home to rare orchids, birds, and some 15 villages that date back to the medieval era. It’s also where Agricola Filippone grow their organic lavender, wild oregano, and other fragrant herbs. The company is certified by the park administration that their products are “created with respect for mother earth, the ecosystem and the environment in order to promote biodiversity and fair and sustainable agriculture within the Madonie Natural Park.” That care and respect shows in the quality of their herbs, which are harvested by hand and dried on the branch to preserve the integrity of each plant.
Being able to taste the produce from some of Italy’s most beautiful landscapes is a truly special experience—and a delicious one, too.