Have you ever wondered what exactly a camino is and what distinguishes it from trekking or hiking more generally?
A walk is defined as a pedestrian route-which can also be traveled by other non-motorized means-that is mostly unpaved and tends to be spread over several days. But in addition to the "technical" aspect, what distinguishes walks is that they usually have a significant theme to which they are named, which can be spiritual, artistic, literary, naturalistic, religious and more.
With this brief explanation we would like to introduce the project of Nicola - a Pilot 8 participant - who together with the other 6 co-founders conceived and created the St. Francis Caracciolo Path, a project dedicated, precisely, to St. Francis Caracciolo, the patron saint of Chefs.
Hi Nicola, nice to have you with us. Would you like to tell us how this very special project came about?
Of course, the idea was born several years ago, in 2008, but it only began to take concrete shape in 2019. If I had to describe it briefly, I would tell you that our goal from the very beginning was to re-enact through the concrete experience of walking what was the last journey of St. Francis Caracciolo, the patron saint of Italian cooks, from Loreto in the Marche to Naples, from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea crossing the central Apennines and "chasing" flavors, fragrances, products of the popular, monastic, aristocratic cuisine of four regions rich in history, traditions, art, culture, and nature. Currently we have built and made usable a 90-km stretch from Fara San Martino (Abruzzo) to Agnone (Molise). A 60-km section in the upper Casertano area will also be ready soon.
Just now talking about your project, I called it "peculiar," but maybe it is also something more, what do you think makes your path unique?
The project is unique because only one is the patron saint of cooks! This makes the focus on food and wine and the food supply chain particularly strong, authentic and credible, thanks also to the collaboration with the Italian Federation of Chefs and the Hotelier Institutes along the route.
I imagine that building a project of this caliber was not the easiest, do you feel like telling us what were the biggest difficulties you encountered along the way?
I must say that from the very beginning we dreamed big, so the real problems were dream-sized! The first difficulty was concretely building the first section of the 90km in the middle of lockdown, when you could not leave home and we would have to scout two regions (Abruzzo and Molise)! We decided to devote ourselves in the meantime to other aspects of building the walk but always having to deal with unpredictable and changing situations, fluctuating motivations, which made it difficult to maintain a steady direction and led us to act in a haphazard and ineffective manner at times. The modest availability of economic resources also strongly influenced the possibility of proceeding smoothly and calmly, planning the actions and positions of the people involved well. Today we can say that we have a much clearer understanding of the great complexity of the project, the extreme variety of skills it requires, the priorities; all this has matured us and helps us to make more conscious and solid strategic decisions, to interact with the most useful actors at a certain stage.
And is the Pilot Program helping you on this path? How did you get in touch with Apical?
Apical was referred to me by a friend and it seemed an appropriate response to what I was looking for i.e. building, grounding, and commercially communicating the product/experience.
Inside then I also found something more, namely a real community. Among the projects that are participating with me in this edition there is a common vision of a "dream" and desire for the realization of this dream to be shared with "clients." The participants are at different stages of project progress and have more driven skills some in one field and some in another, and we are all probably trying to integrate what we lack.
It's always good for us to see that there is mutual esteem, respect and willingness to collaborate among the various projects in the Pilot! On the other hand, regarding impact, I know it is also a very important issue for you, can you tell us about it?
Of course! For us, the environment and the local community are the priority. With this project we aim to create and nurture an extraordinary virtuous network of relationships involving the Order of the Caracciolini Fathers (founded by St. Francis Caracciolo) and the communities associated with it in Italy and around the world, the Italian federation of chefs, the hotel institutes (primarily those insisting on the itinerary) the territorial communities crossed (cultural, productive, social, etc.), the communities of walkers/cyclists as well as those of people all over the world who bear the surname "caracciolo," so as to contribute to the cultural, social and economic growth of the inland areas of the central Apennines, which are notoriously suffering the effects of depopulation. We are aware that we have great ambition, and this stimulates us!