Structural changes: Tuscany project offers prospects for local residents

Europe’s rural areas are often cut off from economic development. For these structurally disadvantaged regions, tourism can sometimes offer unique prospects – a good example of this is the TUI Castelfalfi resort in Tuscany.

Combating rural migration with new prospects

Tuscany has a romantic air about it. Sparsely populated and shaped by centuries-old communities, the region situated beyond the cities of Pisa and Florence is particularly dependent on agriculture. Wine making and the production of olive oil are among the most significant sources of income. Challenges to the region include youth unemployment rates of up to 40 per cent and a rural exodus. Not so long ago, the village of Castelfalfi was a good example of this problem. In 2007, there were only a handful of residents living there. With no functioning infrastructure and no prospects of new jobs being created, the area was at risk of being completely abandoned.

 

Since then, Castelfalfi has experienced something of a renaissance. In close cooperation with the authorities in the area, the TUI Group acquired approximately 1,100 hectares of land, including a castle dating back to the Early Middle Ages. Since 2012, the travel group has made it its mission to rebuild this cultural gem. Local stakeholders have been involved in the project from its outset:

  • Infrastructure:  The TUI Group has invested 185 million euros in the project so far, with money going towards new water and sewage infrastructure as well as the renovation of all main buildings and the listed castle buildings from the 11th Century. Further investments amounting to 65 million euros are to follow, in the form of a five-star hotel – the first hotel of any kind to be built in this region of Tuscany in 20 years.
  • Jobs: Today, with around 140 direct employees on site the TUI Group is the largest employer in the region. Added to that is the creation of several hundred indirect jobs. Young people in particular are benefiting from the education opportunities and prospects offered by the tourism group. For example, the star-rated head chef of the new castle restaurant, Michele Rinaldi, is only 32 years old.
  • Agriculture: Castelfalfi is more than just a tourism project. The agricultural land has been restored, thousands of new olive trees have been planted and a new 17-hectare area has been set up for ecological wine-making. This allows for the project to be self-sufficient in many areas: Semolina and wheat from the 250 hectares of farmland is used in the TUI kitchens; 60 per cent of the raw materials for the biomass power plant, which supplies the site with energy, come from its own land. 

The TUI Group’s commitment to sustainability is valued by the local community. The German travel group is proud to be a partner working in a region so steeped in history.

Political support

“The construction of a five-star hotel represents the next important milestone in the development of Castelfalfi – a further leap forward for a project that has not only breathed new life into an abandoned village and revitalised agriculture in the area, but has also qualitatively increased its reputation as an international destination. As mayor I am overwhelmingly proud of this development and this project that has put the entire Montaione region on the map.”

Paolo Pomponi, Mayor of Montaione municipality

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