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What is important for tourism?

Di Antonio Caneva English translation Paola Pr, 12 Aprile 2002

You reach Ranco by driving along the lake shore, if you come from Angera. Suddenly, the road makes a 90-degree turn and starts climbing into the interior. Where the road bends, there lies a large public park on a sort of peninsula, surrounded on one side by the wall of a famous restaurant on the Relais et Chateaux Guide, and enclosed by the lake. Lake Maggiore is rather narrow in that area, and on fine days it almost seems that by stretching your hands you can touch the mountains on the opposite bank. Ranco is a delightful little village, 60 kilometres from Milan; the houses facing the lake are small enough not to obstruct the view, while on the opposite side of the road are the villas – traditional residences of the wealthy Milanese – with their harmoniously unkempt parks and their large-trunk trees, which in this season are brimful of flowers. It is the ideal place for an excursion from Milan. Near the park, a little up the road that climbs uphill, you can enjoy the sight of the Belvedere restaurant – an old villa with a terrace covered by a woodbine which is now sprouting: small pale green buds promising soon to throw shade on the tables, from where you can enjoy a priceless vista. Food is the way you expect it to be in that area – close to the local tradition, never careless. The municipal park is the place where you go for a stroll before and after your meal. For many years it was a niche of green where the typical trees of that area grew without design, or better, according to the design of nature. You breathed an aura of peace when you looked at the rocks set to defend the embankment from the small waves raised by the few motorboats passing by – that is rather a place for sailing. A large willow, centuries old, rose in the middle, and was the point of reference for the mothers who patiently watched their kids playing. One day, suddenly, someone in the town council must have decided that a tourist resort like Ranco was not to have such a poorly tended park, and major works were undertaken to transform that green space, which had an identity of its own, into a sample collection of saplings, shrubs and plants. In the middle, however, the willow was still standing, a point of junction with the history of the village. Last Saturday I went back to Ranco: The first thing I noticed on walking through the barriers which now guard the access to the park was a semicircle of stone, where an arrangement of small plants among white pebbles spelt the name “Ranco”, in a horrible composition reminiscent of the worst of the Sixties, and then I sensed there was a void, something was missing. I could see the small palms, just planted, a stunted rambling rose resting on a railing, an incredible variety of plants large and small without any relation to the place and … the willow was no longer there! In its place there was a large hole and a notice, warning that the area had been treated with plant protection chemicals. I asked a passer-by why the big tree had been felled, and he explained that it had died: the brick paving of the park had probably not allowed the plant to breathe any more. These days we daily witness the effects of such a mistaken concept of what tourism needs. People do not realise that, especially in a unique country such as ours, true success lies not in disrupting reality to turn it into a Disney world, but in making good use of what we already possess. The park of Ranco is a metaphor, but one well worth reflecting on.

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