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food / travel

A Guided Tour Of Italy's Tourism Promotion #Fails

The Italian government's use of a computerized version of Botticelli's Venus as an influencer to promote Italian culture has been described as “humiliating” and “grotesque”. But it is not Italy's first ridiculous and costly tourism campaign. Italy's La Stampa daily looks at a long and solid traditions of failures when the country tried to promote itself as a tourist paradise.

A Guided Tour Of Italy's Tourism Promotion #Fails

The italian governement launched a campaign featuring a computerized version of Botticelli's Venus taking selfies in front of Italian landmarks.

Nadia Ferrigo

TURIN — “Visit the website. But please, visit Italy,” said then Minister of Cultural Heritage Francesco Rutelli in a 2007 promotional video for the launch of the italia.it website.

He was flooded with criticism and made fun of, both for his mediocre language skills and for the website itself, which was supposed to promote the image of Italy in the world but instead became a classic example of how politicians waste public funds.

When it launched, dozens of experts rapidly organized to make a better version of it. When it transpired that it had costed seven million euros, zero-cost versions were proposed.

Italia.it remains online, managed by the Italian National Agency of Tourism. Now, its home page features a version of Botticelli’s Venus as an influencer on a bicycle with the Colosseum in the background.

The advertising campaign instigated by the current government of Giorgia Meloni and costing nine million euros has been much criticized for trivializing — according to some, dishonoring — Botticelli’s Renaissance masterpiece and the meaning of art.

The same campaign, called "Open to meraviglia" (Open to wonder), also included a video which used footage of people in Slovenia drinking Slovenian wine.

This is just one of many initiatives gone wrong that Italian governments have funded over the years to promote tourism.

Very Bello

In 2017, Cultural Heritage and Tourism Minister Dario Franceschini, together with the Minister of Agriculture, Maurizio Martina, and Expo Commissioner Giuseppe Sala launched the (now closed) VeryBello! website.

The goal was to gather all Italian cultural events in a single place and “relaunch the image of Italy in the world”.

Born amid mockery and memes, it was then shut down after only a year. The only “positive” note was that it had cost only 35,000 euros.

A few years later, Minister Franceschini created It’s Art, a digital platform to promote culture, which he dubbed “the Italian Netflix”.

The poorly functioning and uninteresting website was much criticized since its launch in the harshest period of the Covid-19 lockdown. The initiative, controlled by the Italian bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Chili streaming platform, lost nearly 7.5 million euros in its first year.

Image of Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Culture during his visiting the Santa Margherita a Terra Murata's church located in Procida,

Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Culture during his visiting the Santa Margherita a Terra Murata's church located in Procida in 2022.

Pasquale Gargano/ZUMA

Magic Italy

Some prime ministers have personally taken part in these initiatives.

In 2011, then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s voice was featured in a promotional video called Magic Italy. “Use your vacations to discover Italy, a unique country made of sky, sun and sea, but also of history, culture and art,” he said, as images of Italy’s most beautiful cities appeared on the screen.

Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi also did his part, although he was not trying to promote Italy, but to respond to an article in the Economist.

In 2014, the British weekly magazine portrayed him with an ice cream in his hand sitting on a paper boat made with a 20 euro bill that was about to sink. Standing on the boat were also portrayed other prominent European figures of the time: François Hollande, who was then president of France, then German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi, portrayed as the only one trying to keep the boat afloat with the help of a bucket.

The next morning, Renzi surprised journalists by appearing in the courtyard of the government building preceded by an ice cream cart driven by an ice cream man.

"I gladly offer you an ice cream," said Renzi to the reporters. “It's real Italian ice cream, the best one, so come to Italy and taste it." And then off to the pictures with a cream and lemon cone.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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