Allegrini 2018

The key words to relaunch Oltrepò Pavese are spas, castles and wine. But networking is the priority

The Lombardy Region is working on a major investment project with entrepreneurs and leading local companies
New and major investments to relaunch Oltrepò (photo: Edoardo Vaccaroli)

Dozens of projects to “relaunch” Oltrepò have been started. Almost all of them, though, have never been completed. It is a historical Italian wine territory, highly suited to a variety of great worldwide successes, such as Pinot Noir (as a matter of fact, 75% of Italian Pinot Noir is grown here). However, due to internal conflicts, investigations and scandals, it has never managed to develop and become established on levels that its more remote history and winemaking potential would allow. Now, though, institutions and banks are taking a new road - where wine is not the only, but one of the most important ingredients, combined with well-being and culture. Spas, Castles and wine are the key words which the Lombardy Region is working on, together with entrepreneurs and leading local companies. to relaunch Oltrepò Pavese. The priority, though is to create a network, to the advantage of an area whose tourist potential has not yet been adequately expressed. The intention is to attract new investors that will draw thousands of tourists, from abroad as well, to the area.
The three main guidelines of the plan that the Region and the stakeholders share, are reactivating the local thermal heritage, relaunching the food and wine supply chain in a wine tourism key, and opening the numerous Castles in the Pavesi Hills to the public. Up until now, instead, almost all of these “jewels of history” had been closed to the public and they will now be able to be used as high quality accommodation facilities, for overnight stays, weddings, conventions, conferences and fashion shows. The main focus, though, will be thermal well-being, as Oltrepò aims to become the leader in the southern area of Lombardy. The team also boasts the participation of “Terme Italia”, led by Massimo Caputi, who, thanks to the management know-how he has acquired at Terme di Saturnia (historic brand accredited by the Ministry of Economic Development), has launched a project to create a network of Nationwide spas. The spa project, authorized by the Ministry of Health, includes prevention, treatment and rehabilitation therapies, focusing on “global well-being”. The Ministry of Tourism has also shared the strategy as it is interested in relaunching spa tourism. “Terme Italia” is evaluating the first major investment for the Terme di Salice, an important development hub for the entire Oltrepò area, as well as a second, considerable investment, divided between purchasing and carrying out work to create a “Well-Being Pole”. The Pole will integrate, in various phases, three different structures that are now closed (the former Thermal establishment Salice Terme, the former New Hotel Terme and Parco delle Terme), to offer a range of thermal structures and various services including leisure, wellness, beauty, sport, and medical.
While the total investment figures are confidential, the numbers related to the potential tourist value of Oltrepò Pavese are well known. There are 50 historic Castles and villages, 1.700 wineries, 3.500 agri-food companies, 18 accredited typical products and 100 itineraries. Many of the paths on the itineraries have names that recall history, nature and well-being, such as Via del Sale, Costa del Vento, and Sentiero delle Fontane. Furthermore, there are 13 spiritual paths and 60 churches, in the footsteps of Sant’Agostino, Sant’Alberto and San Colombano, which have earned Pavia the name of “Crossroads of the Religious Paths of Europe” by the European Commission. The spas are the source of well-being, as their waters are rich in healing attributes used by the ancient Romans in Rivanazzano, Miradolo, Montescano and Salice (soon to be reopened). Barbara Mazzali, Councilor for Tourism and Territorial Marketing of the Lombardy Region, Matteo Casagrande Paladini, General Manager of “Colline e Oltre”, a tourism promotion company founded in 2021 (51% owned by Intesa Sanpaolo and 49% % by the Banca del Monte di Lombardia Foundation), and Stefano Antonio Zaghis, vice president and head of development of “Terme Italia”, participated in a series of meetings in the area to finalize the project. “Castles, fortresses and villages are the historic treasures kept in the green hills of Pavia, adorned with rows of vineyards that are just as fascinating as those in Monferrato. This is also a land of ancient farmhouses and towers, comparable to those found in Tuscany”, Barbara Mazzali Councilor for Tourism of the Lombardy Region, declared, “a picture that attracts and captures the eye, conquering all the visitors’ senses with its spas known for their healing waters since Roman times. And, of course, local food and wine made of high quality wines and PDO cured meats, completing an all around wellness offer. The challenge is to bring thousands of tourists here, including many foreigners, who, I'm sure, will fall in love with these places, like Versilia, the Langhe and our lakes”.
The “Colline e Oltre” company has been given the task of creating the “Tavole Oltrepò” brand, an association of local innkeepers comprised of 16 restaurateurs with the aim of relaunching the local tourist accommodation. “The objectives outlined aim to create a DMO (Destinations Management Organization) for Oltrepò Pavese”, Matteo Casagrande Paladini, General Manager of “Colline e Oltre”, emphasized, “which involves private and public stakeholders, the collaboration of experts on the food and wine and tourism chain, and attracting new National and International investors”. “What distinguishes Terme Italia is our holistic vision”, Stefano Antonio Zaghis, vice president and Development Manager of “Terme Italia”, explained, “drawing inspiration from integrating the concepts of relaxation, Sia and medical, conceived as preventive, curative and rehabilitative medicine, and as their lowest common denominator, valorizing the variety of precious thermal waters: salso-bromo-iodine, sulphurous and sulphate-calcium waters. The objective of the services we are working on is to create a synergistic spa destination with the territory, aimed at de-seasonalizing tourist flows, thanks to being able to care for our customers, who are at the center of our wellness programs”. And, who knows, perhaps it will be the right time to reconfirm Oltrepò as an important wine district, which it potentially is.

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