*January 2023 update
- Help us make Castelvetro di Modena and the Levizzano Castle restoration project win the Green Destinations People's Choice Award, the audience award of one of the most important international competitions on responsible travel and sustainable tourism!
- All you need to do is give your vote to Castelvetro on this page, with your gmail or google account, from 11.00 a.m. on 5 January until 11.59 p.m. on 22 January (choose "Europe" and then "Castelvetro di Modena").
- The project chosen by the public will be awarded at the Green Destinations Story Awards 2023, which will take place at the ITB Berlin fair in March.
- This is a great opportunity to bring a unique and innovative project to victory: share the link with your contacts and help Castelvetro to succeed!
Every year, the Dutch non-profit foundation Green Destinations, which has been dedicated to developing and certifying sustainable destinations since 2014, selects 100 sustainable development projects from around the world with the aim of promoting and sharing them as inspiring examples. The initiative is called "Top 100 Stories" and is now recognised as one of the most important worldwide for the promotion of sustainable tourism development. This year no less than two Italian destinations have been included in the list of award winners: the Val d'Ega, in Alto Adige and the municipality of Castelvetro di Modena, in Emilia Romagna. The latter is of great interest to the Touring Club Italiano, as since 2003 Castelvetro is one of the 274 towns certified with the Orange Flag (in Italian "Bandiere Arancioni"), the Touring seal that rewards small Italian towns (up to 15,000 inhabitants) for their tourist and environmental qualities. More than 3,000 municipalities have applied for this prestigious recognition in its 25-year history, under the leadership of our non-profit association, the largest in Italy in travel and tourism (with almost 200,000 members).
How did a small town in Northern Italy - Castelvetro has just over 11,000 inhabitants - achieve this prestigious recognition? And above all, why? To tell us the inspiring story of "green Castelvetro" is Nicola Ferrario, Global Coordinator of the Good Travel Program by Green Destinations, who followed the application process of the municipality to the Top 100 as a volunteer consultant. Nicola was also, among other things, a student of the 2nd edition of the Master in Tourism Management and Territorial Development organised by Touring and Fondazione Campus: it was through the Master that he came up with the idea of involving Touring in the selection of an Orange Flag town to be nominated for the Top 100 Stories.
Nicola, you have described Castelvetro as "excellence among excellences". What is so special about this place?
For several years, Castelvetro has been focusing on sustainability, both through environmental certifications (such as ISO 14001 and EMAS) and by concentrating its efforts on attracting "slow" tourists to its territory, which, moreover, is very suitable: the historic centre is perfectly preserved; the food and wine experiences are all farm-to-table and of high quality (just think of the lambrusco, parmigiano reggiano and balsamic vinegar produced in the area) and there are countless walking and cycling routes through vineyards and countryside in a UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) area. But the fundamental "story" to enter the Top 100 is linked to a specific attraction of the area: the castle of Levizzano Rangone.

Castelvetro di Modena - photo Municipality

The landscape around Castelvetro di Modena 

What is the history of Levizzano Castle?
Owned by the municipality, it is an ancient castle, an architectural treasure of extraordinary value and an integral part of the community and the territory since the Middle Ages. For years in a state of neglect, it was restored in 2009 and finally reopened to the public; however, its use had remained limited to occasional events, such as festivals and weddings. Wondering how to give the castle back to the community, making it accessible and enjoyable for everyone and part of the daily life of residents and tourists, in 2017 there were two people working for the municipality: Giorgia Mezzacqui, deputy mayor and councillor for Culture and Tourism, and Alessandra Anderlini, an officer of the Culture Department. From their commitment a visionary project was born.
So, how was the idea to return the castle to the community?
Giorgia and Alessandra came up with the idea of creating a museum inside the castle linked to the territory. And not just another ordinary museum: an innovative museum to revive the traditions of the past by linking them to the experience of the present, to educate and show how the steps we take today follow the paths created by those who preceded us yesterday. This is how Rosso Graspa - Museum of Wine and Rural Society was born, inaugurated in 2019: a place at the heart of the territory, connecting people through a rich offer of itineraries, events, and initiatives. It was not easy, there was a lot of resistance, but in the end the community embraced the project, and the museum came to life. 

The castle of Levizzano, in the municipality of Castelvetro di Modena - Municipality photo

Can you explain how this museum stands out from other similar examples?
First of all, it was decided to give the museum a dynamic and multisensory dimension, so that the visitor can live an immersive experience: the key verbs are touching, listening, seeing and walking. It is therefore possible to touch and handle all the original objects and tools from a century ago, used by the inhabitants in the period between the two wars and collected thanks to the spontaneous donations of the many citizens who had kept them. Alongside the objects, extraordinary original photographs from the 1930s are on display, a living testimony to the world of the ancestors. The use of "public history" was then skilfully employed, recreating authentic characters recounting their daily lives in the first person to convey the experience with immediacy: recorded voices speaking the dialect of the time and the sounds of the countryside are played into the rooms in the form of "sound showers" and complete the sensory experience. And then there is the eco-museum of the territory: a network of 20 km of trails divided into three themed routes that allow you to discover twenty selected points of interest around the castle. What strikes me most is the clarity with which the connection between past and present is revealed along the paths: it suddenly becomes clear how the story told within the walls of the museum has been fruitful and has generated a rural landscape that is different but not lacking in charm, innovative ways of working yet linked to tradition, visionary projects with deep roots...and it is all there...in front of our eyes!

The Rosso Graspa Museum in the Castle of Levizzano, Castelvetro di Modena
You told us that the community was actively involved in its creation.
This was the most surprising aspect. Word of mouth brought not only objects, but also skills and artisans to the museum - and encouraged the creation of a network of exchange, for example between carpenters, with young people creating an association together with older people. There was also an enthusiastic response from schools and students. This has naturally fostered the development of a sense of belonging that had been waning and reconnected the castle with its community, one of the objectives most valued by Green Destinations. But there is more. Farmers were also involved; an interactive totem was installed in the museum, which also serves as a promotional platform for local producers. This is possible thanks to the municipality's participation in the Castelvetro V.I.T.A. Consortium, an organisation that coordinates more than 60 local entities (wineries and farms, accommodation, restaurants, shops) to promote in a unified way the tourist offer of the area. The MonteBarello155 collective wine label, among other things, has unprecedented requirements: the grapes must be harvested by hand, the product must be 100% organic and made from 100% local Grasparossa grapes.
What have been the results since the inauguration in April 2019?
The participation of the public has always been massive: thousands of visitors during the around sixty days a year that the museum is open (weekends from spring to autumn, always with free admission), but also for the many events, such as the TempoLento festival, whose second edition in May 2022 brought together more than 1,300 people at the castle for meetings with nationally renowned authors of travel literature. In September 2022, a bookshop was opened and an audio guide in English was introduced.

The Rosso Graspa Museum in the Castle of Levizzano, Castelvetro di Modena

The Rosso Graspa Museum in the Castle of Levizzano, Castelvetro di Modena

Can you explain how the application for the Green Destinations Top 100 is carried out?
Each year, when we launch the competition, municipalities, islands, regions, protected areas and private destinations can apply. Applicants first make a self-declaration on the core sustainability criteria of Green Destinations; if they reach 60% compliance, they can submit a "Good Practice Story", such as that of the Levizzano Castle, telling innovative solutions in the sustainable management of the destination. Of course, Green Destinations follows the whole project with specific training. There are several categories: from " Environment and Climate" to "Governance, Reset and Resilience" to "Culture and Tradition", in which Castelvetro participated. It should be noted that, once selected among the Top 100, the story is automatically nominated for the awards that Green Destinations presents every year at the ITB in Berlin, the world's largest tourism fair. The aim is always to give visibility, to inspire, to motivate, to engage as many people as possible. The replicability of the experience is one of the most important criteria.

Nicola Ferrario ad Atene a fine settembre per la premiazione di Top 100 Green Destinations 2022​; a sinistra è con Albert Salman, presidente di Green Destinations

What is the big challenge of sustainability in the tourism sector?
We are still lagging far behind in this area. There is no widespread culture of sustainability, with few exceptions; above all, we still rarely think that embarking on a sustainable path can both give visibility to one's own destination or company and bring an economic benefit by reducing costs and increasing profits. That is why it is so important to learn from others, to observe what is happening in other countries, and we hope that more and more entities will embrace the world of sustainability and responsible travel!