Slow Train to Food and Culture™

Heritage railways and associated museums can make a significant contribution to stimulating tourism and the local economies of regions that are under-developed or have experienced economic decline. The European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways (FEDECRAIL) estimates that annually over twenty million people visit Europe’s heritage railways; the UK accounts for approaching thirty per cent of this total. In many countries, steam railways and museums make a significant contribution to understanding the local history, aesthetic tastes, technological development and historical socio-economic norms. Despite these positive contributions to local economies, these railways and museums are often reliant upon the volunteer sector, particularly in terms of engineering skills, and there is potentially an underlying threat to their sustainability. Moreover, it can be argued that many initiatives have stemmed from a “silo” approach of nostalgia of enthusiasts rather than one that adopts a holistic approach to local economic development and economic re-generation.
Italy has an advantage over many countries. With forty-seven sites, Italy has the highest number of UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites. This level of  cultural heritage and diversity is also reflected in its cuisine;  a combination that is admired world-wide.  These factors combined with the country’s diverse natural beauty and a large number of secondary lines that expose the traveller to this aspect of Italy’s often hidden natural wonders, have been the rationale behind Slow Train to Food and Culture. Thus Slow Train to Food and Culture is not just about heritage railways; it takes a broader holistic approach to encourage both environmentally sustainable tourism focused on Italy’s gastronomic and cultural diversity.  Above all, the aim is to act as a catalyst to enhance Italian creativeness, innovation and inherent entrepreneurship to generate new employment opportunities beyond tourism, particularly for youth. 
Slow Train to Food and Culture recognises the importance of accessibility and connectivity between the high speed rail network, the traditional mainlines that risk being marginalised and the secondary regional, sometimes quasi private, lines and heritage railways. Whilst initially Slow Train to Food and Culture will focus on the later two elements to promote local gastronomic and cultural tourism, it has the ambition to become a forum to discuss the important issues of promoting sustainable tourism using railways and to encourage innovation to enable the public to easily use this means of transport. 
A network that builds on existing resources. Slow Train to Food and Culture aims to bring together like-minded organisations (public & private) and to develop in order to create a collective marketing strategy of mutual interest to its members. Members will be drawn from, among others, heritage railways and museums; regional railway transport providers; gastronomic organisations; and tourist entities. 
Step-by-step It is appreciated that Slow Train to Food and Culture is an ambitious project that could easily be de-railed by too many diverse stakeholders and interests. Therefore, it is proposed that a step-by-step approach be adopted by taking a bi-annual cycle of cluster of regions that are interested in taking forward the ambitions of the STFC organisation. This would permit the development of models of best-practice for replication and adaptation. Moreover, it will be essential that these initiatives are “locally owned” and appropriate participatory mechanisms are adopted.
Secondary and heritage railways in Italy make a significant contribution to gastronomic and cultural sustainable tourism that promote economic re-generation, social cohesion, innovation, entrepreneurship (including cooperatives), in particular among the younger generation.
To be a major vehicle to promote the vision of Slow Train to Food and Culture nationally and internationally.
Broad initiatives 
  • Promote sustainable tourism by encouraging the use of secondary and heritage railway lines;
  • Encourage the up-grading/re-establishment of secondary lines (and the idea of steam tourism where appropriate) - local economic generation, tourism and others. 
  • Encourage "slow tourism" by train to introduce Italians/foreign tourists to many of the out-of-the-way events
  • Provide wider exposure of tourists to prodotti tipici and local cuisine,
  • Identify opportunities of employment for young people (tourism, engineering etc.)
Marketing and Promotion
  • Multi-lingual website and blog that promotes the gastronomic and cultural tourism using rail travel, in particular secondary and heritage railways
  • Documentation of regional events such as sagre and rail open days
  • Publication of detailed regional guides (rail routes, times, events etc)
  • Documentaries
  • Assist heritage railways and museums to strengthen international linkages with, for example, similar organisations in the UK
  • Create linkages with organisations such as Slowfood
  • Assist in organising exchange visits and technical placements
  • Organising regional/national/international conferences
  • Create network and resource base in different areas of expertise (both nationally and internationally)
Project Development, Resource Mobilisation  & Project Management
  • Assist members in the development of project proposals for private and public (national and European) funding.
  • Project management of project implementation.
  • Development of story-lines for documentaries
Innovation (Examples)
  • Through public and/or private funding organise competitions for innovation projects that will support the broader ambitions of local economic development
  • Through public and/or private funding organise competitions for innovation projects that will provide innovative ideas for improving the accessibility for rail tourists ( of existing (inter-city) rail coaches for other purposes such as transporting bicycles; seminars
  •  etc)
  • Information systems for hiking routes that use dis-used railway lines or buildings
  • Competition related to Expo Milano
Training and skills development
  • Act as a broker in identifying skills gaps
  • Develop capacity building programmes to be implemented by locally identified institutions and outside of Italy (where appropriate)
Special Trains
  • Support the organising of thematic heritage train journeys that include supporting multi-lingual materials for tourists i.e. the gastronomic, cultural, historic significance of the journey.

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