Encountering Claudio Nardocci I had the idea of talking with a man and instead I found myself talking to 6,083 personalities, all affiliated to the Pro Loco of Italy UNPLI – National Union of Pro Loco Italian.
I asked him some questions but the answers inevitably were examples of the best success stories of some of the Pro Loco and are invested with a flood of enthusiasm:
“Do you know that the Game of Marostica Chess was created by a Pro Loco? And the fortress of San Leo has been restored and run by a Pro Loco with the proceeds also doing public works for that area? A small part of Serrano (Lecce) with its farmer’s festival (Festa te lu contadinu) has built some of the area’s sports facilities? Do you know that at the Festival of Artichokes in Ladispoli we have over 450,000 attendees? “
His story of promoting tourism began the year that Ladispoli was a stage of ‘Tirreno-Adriatico‘, the famous bicycle race. It was 1988, and together with a group of friends he founded a ‘Committee for the revival of tourism’ to try to benefit from this sporting event.
His family has been in business in the food industry since 1763, and, perhaps, his mixture of elegance and ‘commercial swagger’ comes from the enterprising grandfather’s marriage to the cook of Prince Odescalchi. Together in 1911 they founded ‘La Tripolina‘ restaurant that became a meeting point in Ladispoli where many tourism promotion initiatives started, such as the famous Roman Artichoke Festival.
The experience from that committee amuses him and he praises it, and Claudio continued his commitment, joining the Pro Loco of Ladispoli and soon entering the regional and national association of which he became president in 1996. He also wrote books in which he tells stories to transmit concepts on local promotion in a simple and understandable way even by non-experts. Claudio is an expert trainer.
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The Pro Loco is voluntary and its members need simple messages and a vision of what they need to achieve. Each has different needs, and Italy is a country with many traditions and much local culture all very different from each other.
“I consider myself a lucky man. A poet going around Italy. A romantic dreamer. I walk every year tens of thousands of kilometers by all possible means, and I passed the one million total kilometers five years ago”.
I do not know anything else about him because every question became an opportunity to tell something about one of the Italian Pro Loco. On the other hand in 2005 he rented the supermarket he had run and since then devotes all his time to UNPLI, the promotion of the country and his books.
The Pro Loco (Latin, literally “in favour of a place) are associations created to promote an area. They are an evolution of the ‘committees of care’ or ‘society for embellishment’ that had to take care of collective holidays and, officially, the first Pro Loco was born in Italy in 1881 in Pieve Tesino in Trentino Alto Adige (which then belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire).
“When a Pro Loco works it makes a difference in his community. Our system has been studied by many other countries. Brazilian researchers have proposed it as the best way to promote their territories and we are considered a model to be imitated by National Geographic. In 2014 we were invited by UNESCO and the Korean government to explain our organization to a meeting organized by the Korean Ministry of Culture “.
The UNPLI today is consultant to UNESCO for ‘Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage’ and is committed to the preservation of the past with its extensive archive (available on the Youtube channel and its annual awards for the ‘Local Language’, the ‘Treasury of Grandparents’ and intangible memory.
“Over the years we have built an amazing photo and video archive involving our local Pro Loco. This has allowed us to also publish a beautiful book of pictures on Italian Festivals. We want to promote more the best cases to help others understand what is the right direction to take”.
Looking at the website dell’UNPLI and looking in depth at the case histories of success, I realize that Claudio Nardocci and all the volunteers of the Pro Loco in Italy are accomplishing a small miracle and they are the real stars of ‘small tourism’, that of the small towns and of the thousands of local festivals. They are our business card for all international tourists who want to experience the ‘Italian Spirit’.