Mountains offer one of life's greatest pleasures; the combination of inspiring hiking/walking and gourmet eating.
Taking it one step further -- perhaps for the first time ever -- a mountain park endeavours to put the mountains right on your plate.
Any mountain meal in Europe is likely comprised of some local ingredients.
However, the Monti Sibillini National Park in Central Italy is offering a pure mountain taste.
The project called "Menu of the Sibillini" has challenged restaurants in the park to create a dish (traditional or innovative) whereby every single ingredient is from the park.
The spinoffs are amazing:
Some chiefs have researched ancient local recipes, for example making pasta using wild herbs. Now restaurants are reaching out to small local producers like never before, forging new links. Some restaurants have decided to create a shop area to sell and promote the local products after the meal.
Visitors are given a menu map of the mountain park. Each participating restaurant offers one meal on the menu. This structure spreads the economic benefits. Plus visitors are given more opportunity to plan amazing meals to fit in with all the stunning hikes in different parts of the diverse landscape this mountain park is famous for.
I interviewed Dr Maria Laura Talame, the Sustainable Tourism and Environmental Education officer for the Monti Sibillini National Park, and the instigator of this project, who explained:
"One of the greatest challenges mountain parks in Europe face today is to reconcile the needs of nature and conservation, with social and economic demands. Sometimes these needs are conflicting and this project was developed to harmonize these forces by stimulating sustainable, high quality tourism."
The public are encouraged to learn more about the plants and animals of the mountains while helping local producers. Food producers in turn can stimulate biodiversity, for example by keeping animals on the mountain pastures where grazing encourages the rich flora and fauna that have made the mountains so poignantly beautiful for many thousands of years.
When you sit down at each restaurant on the menu map to eat your 100 per cent mountain meal, there is a description of the ingredients, as well as the person who produces the food, their location in the park, and also how the products contribute to or help maintain biodiversity.
Menu of the Sibillini will be launched end of June so there is still time to plan your visit.
For now here's a taster.
Lets hope other national parks take up this inspiring idea for eating and walking.
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