Italian Resort Foresakes Tourist Dollars for Cultural Integrity


Image: o2ma/Flickr

Tuscany’s Forte dei Marmi is the kind of resort where the ultrawealthy spend €100,000 on a villa rental or €1,000 for a dinner reservation. As in many resort towns, local citizens have been forced out by skyrocketing real estate prices, courtesy of millionaire tourists. For most such tourist towns, that’s part of life. But Forte dei Marmi’s mayor is taking a different stance, foresaking tourist dollars in favor of preserving Forte dei Miami’s culture. From the Guardian:

Forte dei Marmi – the traditional summer retreat for Italian captains of industry, writers and film stars – is changing the law to try to stop locals fleeing because of house prices driven out of control by incoming Russian millionaires. The town’s combative mayor, Umberto Buratti, is reserving space next to luxury villas with sea views for new homes that will only be sold to locally-born buyers or long-term residents. Other Italian resorts with similar problems will monitor the experiment with interest.

“We want to safeguard the character of the town instead of seeing it turn into a place with no ties, as anonymous as a motorway service station,” Buratti said.

“Despite their wealth, the Italians here have always loved elegant simplicity and understatement,” said hotelier Paolo Corchia, pointing to the tradition of CEOs and aristocrats shopping by bicycle at the town’s family-run shops. Where those stores once proliferated, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu – with a shop window full of coyote fur stoles – now draw in the Russians.

Born and bred in Forte dei Marmi and the son of a tailor, Mayor Buratti said he is seeking to preserve a local culture handed down from the fierce tribes who defied the Roman empire and the Roman slaves who later settled, leaving traces of their accent in the local dialect. But he is not getting too misty eyed. “The locals were the first to profit from the rising house prices by selling up and buying houses in the hinterland,” he said. “That is why there will be a ban on selling the new houses for 20 years.”

Buratti’s move could actually be a sounds long-term tourist strategy for the town. By limiting tourist influence now, he can help preserve the very culture that has always attracted tourists in the long run. In 20 years, a new wave of millionaires–Chinese or Indian, perhaps–may flock to the town to imbibe in its unique culture and setting. It also takes serious conviction to turn away tourist dollars in a global recession.

This is an interesting story to follow, and not the last time we’ll read about a debate like this, especially with new kinds of tourists proliferating destinations that traditionally only saw European or Western visitors.