Between Earth and Sky: the Great Beauty of Siena and Val d’Orcia
Welcome to Val d'Orcia, both an echo and embodiment of a paradise. | All photos: Gabriele Forti,

Between Earth and Sky: the Great Beauty of Siena and Val d’Orcia

Siena and its lands, parts of the ancient glorious Repubblica Senese, are still the same as in the 14th century, when my ancestors took part in the agricultural revolution happening in the most beautiful hills of Tuscany. They had one goal in mind: to live in communion and synchrony with the beauty found in every corner of the city and its territories.

Gentle green hills sway sinuously in perfect harmonious dialogue with the clear sky of my Tuscany. 

Welcome to Val d’Orcia, both an echo of the past and the modern embodiment of a paradise. Where a traveller can marvel in the same way Christian pilgrims did during the Middle Ages when, at the borders of these lands, they slowly progressed along the Via Francigena southward towards the Eternal City, Rome.

Where the gentle green hills meet the clear sky. | Photo: Gabriele Forti,

Golden light, the scent of the laurel and the area’s unique atmosphere still dazzle the many visitors to this corner of Tuscany called Val d’Orcia. Let me take you to some of my favourite spots…

Among the most beautiful places to visit in this area is Pienza, a medieval village completely rebuilt in the 15th century by the architect Bernardo Rossellino. The village is famous for its Piazza Pio II, which is considered one of the most wonderful examples of a Renaissance square. We move on to Montalcino, known for its wine, Brunello di Montalcino. The village is perched on a hill and offers splendid views of the valley below. 

Then there’s San Quirico d’Orcia, with its Romanesque church of San Quirico and Giulitta. Located in a historically strategic position, it sits at the crossroads of two important communication routes. We continue to Castiglione d’Orcia, notable for its Rocca Aldobrandesca. La Rocca is an imposing castle which dominates the village and the valley below.

Rocca d’Orcia, standing over the village and valley below. | Photo: Gabriele Forti,

An irresistible stop for many tourists in the area, the famous cypresses of San Quirico are perhaps the most photographed trees in the world. These “Cipressini” have become a distinctive icon of the Tuscany region across the globe.

Also appealing to visitors is our fascinating heritage and history. This is a place built on aesthetic values. An ideal of beauty permeated the minds of the Senese citizens of the 14th century. All activity, from the practical (cultivating the land) to the more decorative (the ornamentation and design of architectural structures) had to correspond to aesthetic criteria that included harmony and order, and be capable of evoking peace and serving the Common Good. 

Medieval historical documents tell us of the existence of the Beauty Officers, special local police in charge of checking that the city of Siena was indeed in good order and that every urban element was pleasing to the eye and an expression of splendour. These ideals persist in our surroundings, as Old Siena with its lands has been much the same for 700 years.

Il Duomo di Siena at twilight. | Photo: Gabriele Forti,

Being so lovingly preserved, it is no coincidence that the historic centre and the Crete Senesi, a clay lunar landscape located just outside the city walls, have been named a UNESCO World Heritage cultural site.

An image of the Crete Senesi can be seen in the famous frescoes by the Italian painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti, a pictorial cycle of scenes representing the Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government inside the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, in Siena.

There, on the eastern wall of the Sala della Pace, you can observe the countryside captured as it was in 1338 with its agricultural settings, highlighting the landscape’s distinctive characteristics and conveying the main theme of environmental care, with good government enabling the recreation of an Eden on earth.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Effects of Good Government in the Countryside (1338-1339) | Public Domain

I can always feel my heart beating faster in Piazza del Campo when it’s crowded with people, imagining myself transported back to the time of the most famous Senese saint, San Bernardino da Siena — when all the city’s inhabitants and visiting pilgrims from the Via Francigena flocked to Siena´s majestic Gothic Cathedral, Il Duomo, to take part in his homilies.

Today you too can lose yourself, admiring the shell-like curve of the piazza, or getting swept up in the artistry of the Fonte Gaia which faces the Palazzo Pubblico. Look up and turn your gaze to the top of the palazzo’s symbolic torch-shaped tower; an allusion to a flame of pure light that illuminates this city that dedicated its foundation to the Virgin Mary.

Piazza del Campo, full of life and vibrant with history. | Photo: Gabriele Forti,

Siena is a city that has embodied beauty, strength and spirituality since ancient times. Since its founding, its history has been marked by great events that have shaped a new era throughout Europe. For centuries it has been a cultural and spiritual centre of notable importance, a point of reference for intellectuals of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Poets, scientists, saints and conquerors have passed through these same streets that I’m walking. 

The many achievements of such a place couldn’t remain hidden, but it was the proximity of the Via Francigena that helped spread the word of the modernity that this city had achieved in the era — sometimes considered dark — of the Middle Ages. Perhaps the most important communication route of those times, the first representation of a primitive but enlightened form of tourism, this was the spiritual path that people travelled to reach the truth and knowledge of ancient Christianity.

When they set out, many of these travellers have committed to covering the Via Francigena’s vast total distance of about 2000km on foot; all the way from Canterbury in England to Rome. So it’s only fitting that these pilgrims are treated to a sight for sore eyes (and feet) as they approach Siena — taking in some of the world’s most beautiful scenery as they head into the final stages of their incredible journey.

The pilgrim path of the Via Francigena. | Photo: Gabriele Forti,

The writer wishes to thank Stefano Andrei for contributing to this article.

Mathia Pacenti


Mathia Pacenti is based in Northern Norway. He lives in the Vesterålen archipelago, where eagles fly and the Northern Lights illuminate his path. Italy is his country of origin, a birthplace that instilled a big passion for history and geography — and a deep sense of community and traditions. Mathia also believes in the ideas of cultural sharing and travel sustainability. He began his career by jumping into international tourism, rapidly improving his skills in the hotel and service industry. After a long pilgrimage, he arrived in Norway; for Ethical Travel Portal he now introduces visitors to the dramatic northern landscapes he’s fallen in love with.

Time to Read:  5 Minutes
Storyteller: Mathia Pacenti
21 September 2023
Local Stories - In This Moment

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How Food Choices Nourish Sustainable Destinations
Eating local means doing your homework and being aware of what's truly authentic, not just what’s offered to tourists.

How Food Choices Nourish Sustainable Destinations

At the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we find essential physical requirements such as shelter, food and water. So when we arrive somewhere, naturally we begin with the basics. We all understand the need for food; we need it to live. And when we travel, we need to eat! These days, for sustainable travel, the most common go-to advice is to “eat local”. 

It sounds good when it’s written on a menu or appears on a restaurant sign. But if we dig a bit deeper, what does it all mean, and what kind of impact can food have in creating more sustainable destinations? 

What is eating local?

You can read about eating local in any good “how to be a responsible tourist” guide. But it starts with going to restaurants that serve locally sourced, seasonal food with a menu based on local dishes; that use their decor to provide an ambience reflecting the culture and flavour of the destination; and that hire local staff and are locally owned.

By getting this far, you are already ahead of the game. Without a doubt, a restaurant hiring local people on a decent salary also gives back to society. The employees’ well-earned money will start circulating in the surrounding community when the staff buy their own food, go to the theatre, purchase their everyday necessities, and take the local bus. 

A good employer is naturally synonymous with a good place to work; where salaries are fair, and holidays and benefits are available. As they’re most visible, too often we tend to focus only on the ‘front of house’ — those who greet us or serve our food — rather than considering all of a restaurant’s staff. But from the manager to the dishwasher, it is not difficult to spot an employee who feels like they’re being treated well and with respect, and happy staff will always give you the best service. 

Sustainable Travel

When the tomatoes served to you come from the farmer around the corner, that grower makes money which again will circulate into the local economy. The food is less travelled and does not come with a large carbon footprint; and hopefully, the farmer is being paid well for their crop.

Apart from enjoying what they produce when it’s served in a restaurant, a high-value experience can be had if you’re able to visit the farm that supplies those tomatoes. Just recently, I visited Kiritappu in Hokkaido, Japan, a town which has a lot of dairy farmers nearby. We were literally eating freshly made ice cream while looking at the factory that makes it, to the soundtrack of cows mooing.

Restaurants that serve food based on local specialities usually design their offering based on what the country produces and eats themselves. At least, this is what you would reasonably assume with most menus based on local dishes, right? But be aware of what is genuinely produced seasonally, do your homework and know what is actually in season when you plan to travel.

You might discover that the traditional ‘must try’ dish may be served at a tourist restaurant year-round, while in reality, it is only available to locals at a certain time of the year. Outside this period, the ingredients are imported. One way of learning about seasonal food and determining what is available in a destination is to visit a local market. Not only is it educational and a great way to get a sense of a place; you never know what taste sensations you’ll discover!

Next time you’re at a restaurant when travelling, look around you.

Notice the furniture; think about where the interior could have been sourced from. Does it reflect the local culture and traditions, and materials that are readily available in the region… or could you have stepped into a restaurant that could be anywhere, or is “just like what you have at home”? Locally furnished restaurants are not only more authentic-feeling but also more likely to have purchased their furniture in the area.

By observing your surroundings, you will also quickly notice if a restaurant cares about the environment. Avoid those that provide single-use and disposable items such as plastic bottles and straws. It is not easy on a one-time visit to a restaurant to research its waste management system. You may be able to check it online before visiting the restaurant, but if not, you can gain a quick understanding by looking at how they operate. 

When browsing the menu, keeping an eye out for healthy organic produce and fairly traded ingredients is also part of eating locally and sustainably. An organic product should be kinder to the environment. However, have you ever thought about the knock-on effects of the clearing of land to make space for agricultural production? What is the balance sheet for destroying a natural habitat in order to produce organic food? 

And though it is wise to leave (some of) your eating habits behind at home and go all in for the local style, be aware of places that practice controversial hunting methods and unsustainable mass production. Even if it’s the “done thing” you might not want to support that industry by buying their products. 

How can destinations create a sustainable food structure?

It is crucial, for a more sustainable world, to look at our eating habits and the food we produce and consume.

In many ways, food has been neglected as a sector that can have the power to make sustainability gains or reduce climate change. That’s why organisations like EAT are working to put food on the agenda and lobbying the world’s decision-makers. We need to acknowledge the impact that both the production of food and what we eat (and waste, uneaten!) have on the globe. The whole food system needs to change,

If all borders were closed for import and export today, what would you eat if the only thing you could have was what your country produces? Perhaps a restaurant should work according to that principle as far as it is possible… and they could still serve good quality, tasty food.

For starters, restaurants should be looking at their food waste management; what is being purchased, how it was produced and how it is served. A restaurant needs to look into its planning of menus, buying strategies, and organisation of meal delivery on a whole different level. In doing so, they will also discover there is money to be made — and saved. For restaurants, taking the PLEDGE on Food Waste is one way of tackling the challenge.

Planning and preparation are key. To avoid too many unnecessary trips, restaurants should look into the number of times they are shopping during a week. Can it be reduced to one main shop and a supplementary shop? For products coming from further away, restaurants in a given area should look into banding together to form an association; to cooperate on delivery and ordering, so the supply company makes limited trips to the area, with less driving and fewer carbon emissions.

Too often restaurants have a menu with too many options, which also means the restaurant has to stock everything. If dishes with certain ingredients are not ordered by customers often enough, the risk is that those ingredients will not be used and have to be discarded. Can the menu be reduced and made more flexible, with fewer ingredients that have greater versatility? Then the restaurant can better plan what ingredients to use based on availability, and also use up what needs to be used before it expires.

Too much good food is being thrown away. It is frustrating to see people ordering more than they’re able to eat, with it consequently going to waste. In fact, in many restaurants food is the largest contributor to financial losses. Yes, food is compostable, and these days we should be past the point of needing to discuss whether or not food waste goes to compost. Instead, before we throw food away, let’s think twice — can we give it a second life?

It is important to do an assessment, make a strategy for reducing overproduction, and consider what constitutes a reasonable serving size. Even in cultures known for their hospitality, there is such a thing as being over-generous; if plates are regularly coming back to the kitchen half full, portions may be too big.

A local commitment beyond just “eating local”

As part of visitor management and destination planning that creates better places for people to live in — as well as to visit — food must be on the radar. It is an interlinked sector that overlaps many different tourism-related industries. From the sustainability point of view, if destinations get the food sector right, it will make a positive impact on the local community as well as improving the bigger picture. It is crucial that efforts are anchored cross-industry and supported by the local government to facilitate some of the action points.

At minimum, this should include:

  • Using locally sourced food (with limited food miles) wherever possible;
  • Association partnering on ordering and delivery, to reduce transport and carbon emissions;
  • Proper menu planning, building in flexibility to use up produce with a limited remaining shelf-life;
  • Working on creating seasonal, authentic menus and adding value for (and to) the region;
  • Ensuring a food waste management system that works is in place and being used effectively;
  • Focussing on ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ — where the industry works with charitable organisations that give good quality leftover food a second useful life;
  • And ultimately, making sure no edible food goes to landfill but is handled as it should be and distributed where it is needed.

PS… one last tip! To learn more about local eating on your sustainable food journey, join a “Cook Like a Local” experience. You will gain a deeper understating of local eating, how their food is produced and where it is sourced, and you might even make a few new friends.

Linda Veråsdal

Resonate Team

Linda Veråsdal is one of the driving forces behind Resonate, and is the Founder of Ethical Travel Portal. Splitting the year, she spends half her time in Norway and the other half in The Gambia. Linda is passionate about responsible tourism and using tourism as a tool for positive development. With a Master's in Responsible Tourism, she has years of experience in the field, from owning a company to developing experiences to leading trips. Putting principles into practice, Linda has shown how tailor-made responsible travel packages can have a transformative, positive impact on communities, especially in remote areas of The Gambia where she and her team have been actively promoting sustainable tourism for several years.

Time to Read:  8 Minutes
Resonate Team: Linda Veråsdal
19 September 2023
Responsibility in Focus

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A Transition Trip for Adventure Travellers
Our beautiful Blue Marble with its limited resources — image of the Earth from Apollo 17. | Photo: NASA

A Transition Trip for Adventure Travellers

Speaking as an educator, a specialist in adventure travel and also an expert in ecological transition, Jean-Claude Razel discusses a transition trip towards a desirable future, navigating the challenges we are facing now. He puts a particular emphasis on the issues that will change the way we travel and our behaviour as adventure travellers.

Having worked all my career in adventure travel and tourism, I want to share some views about what I call this transition, especially for the adventure traveller. Before I start, I wanted to invite a stakeholder that is never part of this kind of discussion, but should be; Planet Earth.

The photo above is the most famous, most distributed, most reproduced, most printed picture ever. It’s called Blue Marble, and it was taken by the astronauts of Apollo 17 in December 1972. For the first time, we could see for ourselves that Planet Earth is indeed round, it’s blue, and it’s also beautiful… really beautiful.

And though all of that was a revelation, maybe the thing that most shocked astronauts is that it’s small. This is part of what they call the overview effect, as coined by self-described “space philosopher” Frank White. It captures astronauts’ feelings of a new level of environmental awareness and consciousness, and their reaction when they grasp the small scale of Planet Earth — and by extension, its limited resources — when they see it from space.

Now, let’s go back three or four billion years. On this blue marble of a planet, an incredible thing happened; life appeared. From the very first single-celled organisms, life proliferated and diversified, and eventually humans followed. Then we evolved; we made discoveries, learned new skills, organised agriculture, created transport systems to bring what we grew from one village to another. From relying on our own two feet to using horses and carriages; from constructing traditional canoes to building ships able to cross oceans. Simple habitation like tents became stone-built houses.

So much was improving so quickly, but everything that we’d steadily established over our first 300,000 years — an eye blink in the overall history of time — was nothing compared to what was about to happen. From the days of entirely manual labour, the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th to mid-19th century meant that suddenly we were able to build machines that would do the job in our place — and do it much faster. And so human force was replaced with machine force. 

Much more, much faster, much further. Everything was changing and at speed. In only the last 200 years, we became the product of this ‘more, more, more’ narrative that was born with the Industrial Revolution. We’re driven by the need for everything to grow all the time. The result? Think of the typical modern-day ‘achiever’ — we’ll call him Homo economicus — addicted to work and very, very keen on making money. His hobby? Consuming.

On the plus side, economic growth led to unprecedented improvement in the conditions for human life on Earth. If you take any curve — life expectancy, child mortality, poverty rate, number of conflicts, number of diseases — all of them made strides. But then there’s the downside. Remember the picture of our little blue marble in the vastness of space? It illustrates how at only 12,742 kilometres in diameter, Earth’s got its limits.

If the Industrial Revolution was dramatic, since 1950 the Great Acceleration — a marked, continuous and roughly simultaneous surge across a large range of measures of human activity — has been changing everything again, but even faster. Productivity, energy consumption and population all exploded. The milestone of the first billion humans was achieved in 1805. In the 200-odd years since, we went from 1 billion to 8 billion (as at the end of 2022). 

We’re addicted to energy consumption; without coal, oil, gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, we don’t have machines working. We’re addicted to growth; without machines working, we don’t have the productivity that drives it. And without productivity and growth, the system that our economy is based on breaks down. So the question of course that everybody will ask is, ‘Is our current exponential growth sustainable?’ And the answer is if we have an unlimited growth system on a limited planet, somehow, someday this will not work any longer.

Two major issues are worth mentioning here as well. First is climate upheaval and second, biodiversity (or its eradication). You’ve heard of course of climate change; but linked with that we must also be aware of what’s happening to habitats the world over. They’re vanishing due to human development, or being threatened by damage to fundamental pillars of life, like vital sources of photosynthesis and the carbon sinks they create.

According to Marco Lambertini, the Director-General of WWF International in the conservation charity’s Living Planet Report 2022, “The planet is in the midst of a biodiversity and climate crisis… and we have a last chance to act… A nature-positive future needs transformative — game-changing — shifts in how we produce, how we consume, how we govern, and what we finance.”

Looking into options; making the shift from growth to sufficiency

So for many reasons, we now realise Planet Earth is finite — and we can no longer sustain a system based on infinite growth. We need to find a new narrative, and work together on this new narrative so that we can live and thrive within the planet’s boundaries. Just accept that infinite growth is no longer an option. So what are our options?

Before we start, I want to be more precise on what is not an option: denial.

Another point I’d like to make is that when I talk to people about these issues, many (or even most) believe that technology is the solution. I would say it’s partly true; I’m totally convinced that technology is a very important element. And there are extremely interesting physical, chemical, technological, digital solutions that can help us create a new narrative.

But what I don’t agree with is people who say that technology is the only solution and we just have to wait patiently because someday soon, somebody will find a way to save us, wave a magic wand to make it all better. That’s what happens in movies, but it’s not reality. That could take decades, and I’m not sure we have decades.

Technology is part of the solution, but not the solution. And this brings a lot of debate about innovation. What is innovation? What is important? Where do we have to put our effort into technology to be most effective? We need to rethink innovation, to rethink technology as a tool to support the new narrative.

So if denial is out, and technology is only part of the plan, let’s move on to what we can do. One option is to change the focus from growth to what people call sufficiency. The idea is that we no longer want to grow, but what we want is to thrive. We are looking much more for prosperity than for growth. So prosperity means that some areas of the economy could experiment with de-growth.

This has happened already, with some older economies or technologies that just vanished. They experienced de-growth; in places like Europe, with the collapse of the textile industry or the shift from heavy industry. A big changeover took place in the 1960s and 70s. In France, in England, in Germany. And when certain sectors collapse, new ones can take their place. Climate and education technology, digital health equipment, and other emerging technologies are on the rise.

So what is the narrative of sufficiency? Consider the economy; GDP (gross domestic product), industry, agriculture, services, technology, all of this is a very big and very important part of our lives. But it isn’t the central or most important thing, it is just part of human diversity and human society.

Many things are extremely valuable that are not rooted in the economy, and that are not based on growth — solidarity, friendship, associations, cooperation, NGOs. And this human society and diversity are only a part of nature and the bigger tribe of living things. This is a totally new narrative compared with the one I talked about before, where for Homo economicus the economy is the most important thing in life, period.

So we change this perspective, especially the relationship between humans and nature. Rethink what we’re doing, being led by sustainability science and what we know about the workings of some societies, Indigenous societies, traditional people who are more connected to the natural world they live in. I think we can find a lot of good and valuable information to help us reset our relationship with nature. 

This is the narrative of sufficiency. Now that we understand the concept, how do we make a transition towards sufficiency? By talking about this, we are on the transition trip.

Taking the transition trip; what it means for adventure travellers

The first thing needed to keep us moving towards a new narrative of sufficiency is education and engagement. It’s easy to find content on this transition, it’s plentiful online and in libraries and not difficult to obtain. You can educate yourself and be in a position to form your own opinions. Building a new narrative is very, very exciting and this can inspire engagement. This is important; while some people may not agree with everything an activist figure like Greta Thunberg does, I think that everybody would agree that she can symbolise effective engagement.

So my advice, my suggestion is to engage locally in your community, in your village, in your soccer team, in your association, in your church, in your family, in assembly. I mean anywhere you want, anywhere you like. Create engagement around creating a new narrative, changing some values, changing the way we see the world, changing the human-to-nature relationship — engagement is key.

The second thing would be what I call personal contribution. This includes considering mobility, especially how you’re using your private car. Then there’s food, especially eating meat. Next is housing, particularly heating and cooling your home. Taking France as an example, these three factors make up almost 50% of household carbon emissions.

So you can rethink the way you use your car by carpooling, using public transport, or swapping it with a bike whenever possible. And as eating meat is a major factor in your carbon footprint, changing your eating habits will make a difference too. I’m not saying that you must be vegetarian because that is your decision to make; but out of all the meals you eat each week, just changing the menu for a few will have a positive impact.

Improving the way you cool and heat your house, renovating it to make it more energy efficient, and rethinking the way you consume energy all make a big contribution. Though it may be difficult to achieve the optimum household carbon footprint, wherever you stand today, you can make gains. There are many free carbon footprint calculators available online, covering every country. Take a look at your own situation and see what you can do.

The third thing driving this transition towards sufficiency is what I call a transition narrative. So what is a transition narrative, especially for adventure travel? Simply, it’s the idea of ‘less, but better’. Yes, we can experiment with de-growth in tourism for the better because we have to reconsider the impact of mass travel. Walking in lovely Venice, we see the huge carbon bombs of cruise ships arriving and know that this is not a practice we can sustain if we want to change the narrative of tourism. It’s bad not only from the carbon perspective but also from the travel experience point of view, not to mention the local community’s point of view.

Another example is the Mona Lisa. The dream is to see this beautiful painting in the Louvre in Paris, to stand and gaze quietly at its beauty. But it’s been called the worst traveller experience in the world because the reality is queuing for hours to eventually be crowded in front of the rather small artwork, trying to see over a sea of people talking loudly to their companions and snapping away to post on social media. This is not an experience to remember and would probably be much more enjoyable as a virtual reality visit made from your sofa at home.

This has to change. And now, we move on specifically to you — the adventure traveller reading my words. They sell you the challenge of Everest, and some legitimate mountaineers are the right people to take that on, but it shouldn’t be promoted as a tourist activity for nearly everyone. In reality, the adventure world, and the world at large, was shocked by the widely circulated picture of a traffic jam on Hillary Step as climbers made the push towards the Everest summit en masse during a break in the weather.

This is not exactly what we are imagining when we’re talking about adventure travel. And this is not what we want. So a transition narrative for tourism begins with it being decarbonised, and this is very difficult for tourism — because of course travel is about mobility, and that’s where the carbon footprint begins. It means travelling less and travelling by choosing methods with low-impact carbon. Longer trips and fewer short getaways.

Then there’s local tourism. I really like the idea of rediscovering the beauties of what you have around you. Like 5, 10, 50 kilometres from home. You probably have some nearby marvels that you never appreciate, and instead, take a plane and go to the other end of the world because you believe that there is a more valuable experience to be had there. And of course, there are some great experiences at the other end of the world, but through the idea of global tourism, we seem to have lost the concept of the wonders close to home. I think it’s time to reinvent the way we travel and reexamine the quality of the experience to be found in our backyards.

Finally, there’s what I call educational tourism. When you want to learn something, you go on a trip — you travel because you want to learn, to grow.

The best questions you can ask yourself as an adventure traveller when choosing a destination are, “What will I learn on this trip? Why am I going there?” And if you want to learn — because it takes time — you would probably choose to go on the longer trip. Or you can have plenty of local jaunts and not so many long-haul journeys; and when you do go further, plan a longer stay once you arrive.

So a transition narrative for tourism is decarbonised, local, and educational. And at the heart of these three dimensions you have sufficiency tourism. So for adventure travellers, we can also ask the question (which is a very good question to ask), “What do destinations need… maybe this is more important than what I need?”

If you travel being mindful of the potential benefits for destinations, you’ll make informed decisions for good reasons. So what do destinations need? Travellers who care, people who go there not only because it’s on their ‘wish list’ or one of the 100 Places You Have to Visit Before You Die. That thinking should be obsolete; tomorrow’s tourism is not about ticking the boxes of the places that everybody goes to, but rather deciding consciously to go where you want to go. And filtering your choices through the lens of the destination’s needs.

Who are the adventure travellers who care? Those who want to learn. That means to engage, that means to advocate, to stay longer, to contribute to the destination. And it could be a place where you would ultimately go many times. So the future of adventure travel is responsible, slower, more thoughtful; where you go again to a place, make friends, contribute, bring some of your knowledge, take away new ideas, and share cultures. When you bring all of this to a trip, you’ll find a place where you can make a difference.

To put all of this together into only one paragraph, we want to move from growth to sufficiency, from growth to prosperity; and consider that it’s no longer important to grow, but it’s very important to thrive. And we know that travelling locally, low-carbon, long, slow and educationally are very good options for you to thrive when you do experience adventure travel.

So in conclusion, going back to the picture of the blue marble at the top of this article, I would say that we have to experiment with a shift in our thinking in three ways. First in lucidity, meaning we now understand what’s happening and we can no longer continue with infinite growth when we have finite resources. Second, in humility; accepting that as humans, we’re not the masters of Planet Earth. Lastly, in responsibility, especially for the people who travel most, who are likely to be economically better-off and living in the world’s wealthier countries.

These are the people who created the tourism industry as it is today and influenced the way it has grown for many years. And that has brought many, many important things to the world of travel. But it’s important now to have a change in responsibility and to be the authors and actors of a new narrative.

If we want a desirable future, it’s up to us to decide the one we want to have. I encourage you to find this new narrative, to contribute to it, and to travel in a transitional way — from growth to sufficiency, and with our impact on destinations in mind.

This is the condensed version of a TravelTalk in Depth workshop given by Jean-Claude for the Resonate Travel Community. Based on transcripts, it has been adapted into article form and edited for length and clarity by our editor Emily Cathcart.

Jean-Claude Razel

Resonate Team

Jean-Claude Razel has 30+ years of experience in the adventure business. Initially focused on mountaineering and climbing, he is now active in all aspects and his company, Alaya, is the leading outdoor adventure provider in Brazil. Jean-Claude is currently an Educator for AdventureEDU, the training branch of the ATTA. Very much concerned with sustainability, he is also an Educator for Ecological Transition at French universities in Paris, Lyon and Dijon. As a manager of the Brazilian National Rafting Team, he won six world championships. French-born Jean-Claude lives in Chamonix; in his spare time, when he’s not exploring the great outdoors, he plays the piano and sings rock ‘n’ roll with his band.

Time to Read:  15 Minutes
Resonate Team: Jean-Claude Razel
17 September 2023
Responsibility in Focus

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The Many and Varied Pastries of Malta
A visit to a local pastry shop has many delights in store. | All photos: Louise Slyth

The Many and Varied Pastries of Malta

Malta might be the world’s tenth-smallest country, but it packs a culinary punch well above its weight. Located in a prime strategic spot in the Mediterranean, it has been subject to myriad cultural influences, including Roman, Arabic, Spanish, French and most recently, British. I travelled there to do some delicious firsthand research on Malta’s array of local pastry delicacies.

A close neighbour to Sicily, Maltese cuisine is a fabulous melting pot of Mediterranean flavours, relying heavily on locally sourced products. Maltese breads and pastries perfectly demonstrate that cultural diversity. And I did my best to sample them all…

Pastries of Malta

Pastizzi, Malta’s Savoury Favourite

Every nation has its favourite savoury pastry. There is a universal joy in a delicious filling encased in a crumbly, moreish pastry — whether that’s a Cornish Pasty, an Empanada or, in Malta’s case, a Pastizz. 

Made from filo pastry, they are traditionally filled with either ricotta cheese or peas. To avoid a game of ‘pastry roulette’ the Maltese bakers have devised a clever way to differentiate the two fillings; a shell-like pastizz (round at one side with a straight edge on the other) is the pea filling while the diamond-shaped version holds the ricotta. Though they are a breakfast favourite, they are enjoyed throughout the day because they are affordable and easy to eat on the move.

Pastizzi shops are ubiquitous across the island — it’s hard to walk 500 metres without passing one, and because they are cheap (50 cents) I could easily have become addicted! You can also pick them up from most cafés and supermarkets. 

Ftira, the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich

The ftira is a local staple; it’s the foundation of many meals and snacks throughout the day. The name ftira derives from the Arabic fatir, which means unleavened bread (a type of flat bread made without any raising agents, like yeast). It’s the only type of Maltese bread still made by hand, based on age-old traditions. It’s such an essential part of Maltese life and culture that in 2020 it was included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list

Circular in shape, it has a thick and crusty exterior which gives way to a softer inside. Ftiras are traditionally used to make sandwiches and are commonly filled with Mediterranean ingredients like olives, tomatoes and capers with tuna. Nowadays you can find ftiras filled with anything from Parma ham to bacon and egg.

Gozo, the second largest island in Malta’s archipelago, has its own unique take on this much-beloved bread. Gozitan ftira (ftira Ghawdxija) resembles a pizza — using the ftira bread as a base, usually with toppings like cheese, potatoes, anchovies or tomatoes. I was won over with the first bite! 

Anyone with a sweet tooth needn’t feel left out — Malta offers its own unique sweets based on its multicultural history. 

Qagħaq tal-Għasel (Honey Rings)

Honey rings are a Maltese treat traditionally associated with Christmas, but due to their popularity, they are now widely available throughout the year. They look similar to a bagel, (circular with a hole in the middle) but that’s where the similarity ends. They are sweet rather than savoury, but don’t be fooled — there is no honey involved!

As a huge honey fan, I have to confess I was a little disappointed when I tried one for the first time. In fact, they’re filled with a sweet thick treacle which in Maltese is known as għasel iswed (black honey), hence the ‘honey rings’ name. You can buy them in most local bakeries and supermarkets, and thanks to Malta’s historic association with the UK, they are often enjoyed with a cup of tea. 

Biskuttini tar-Rahal (Village Biscuits)

Village biscuits are also known as christening biscuits as they are traditionally baked to celebrate… christenings! They resemble iced biscuits and taste similar to gingerbread (as they are made with cinnamon and cloves). Ordinarily, they are decorated with generous swirls of white icing, but when baked to celebrate a christening, the colour of the icing was traditionally changed to pink or blue according to the sex of the baby. A local vendor told me that she gets requests for a variety of colours these days.

Imqaret (Date Cakes)

The Imqaret is a traditional Maltese sweet which connects the country to its historic Arabic influences. Rectangular deep-fried pastry hides an interior stuffed with dates. Imqaret can be found in street markets and village feasts but can also be sourced from more ordinary everyday outlets like bakeries and supermarkets. They are sometimes served with ice cream. 

With so many traditional treats to explore, whether your preference runs to sweet or savoury, Malta offers a pastry for every palate. And in the name of science, I’m still conducting my own personal research!

Louise Slyth


Louise Slyth is a communications consultant and freelance writer. Born in Edinburgh, she has lived in Sydney and Barcelona, and now resides in Dublin with her husband. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including HuffPost, Stylist, The Independent and The Ethel, to name but a few. When she’s not writing, she’s planning her next trip. You can connect with her on Instagram.

Time to Read:  4 Minutes
Traveller: Louise Slyth
15 September 2023
Travellers' Tales - Food and Drink

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Milwaukee’s Finest Produce: A Wisconsin Market
Between May and November, seasonal selections change in perfect pitch with the weather. | Photo: Susan Vineyard

Milwaukee’s Finest Produce: A Wisconsin Market

It’s late July at the weekly market, and I beeline for the family-owned orchard’s stand selling tart cherries, $7 for a small basket. 

I’m far from superstitious yet I follow this rule every Saturday this time of year at my local farmers’ market in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I would never forgive myself if I ambled around the market first — and missed out on those cherries, because they sell out fast. They’re harvested from a spot four hours north, in Door County, a slender peninsula shouldered by Green Bay and Lake Michigan. 

Weekly Market

In a densely populated US city like Milwaukee, where I live, farming is non-existent. The farmers must come to us. And they do, at this market every Saturday morning, hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline in a county-owned park shaded by mature trees. 

To get to the cherry tent, I — gently — nudge past the 25 or so people waiting in line for Belgian liege-style waffles served out of a mint-green retrofitted camping trailer. The line includes a few belly dancers on break from their market performance schedule that day.

The perfume of floral bouquets — likely plucked from the fields that morning or the night before, making them fresher than at any store in town — slows my pace, whether sunflower bunches or a garden variety. At this particular market, many of the flower farmers are Hmong families who also harvest and sell farm-grown vegetables.

In the United States, Wisconsin ranks second only to California in the number of organic farms. This is pretty incredible considering the short growing season, but also speaks volumes about what can be done when locals support markets, as well as the chefs who frequent them to inspire their restaurant menus.

Land is less expensive than in other states, and institutions like the University of Wisconsin provide training and host workshops in farming, cultivating a micro-culture of agritourism that goes above and beyond cheese, the product Wisconsin is most aligned with. Farmers here are a far cry from what’s in Regionalist painter Grant Wood’s famed American Gothic — with its pale, stern-looking pair as depicted by the artist from neighbouring Iowa — but instead are vibrant and diverse.

Most Wisconsin markets are between May and November, with seasonal selections changing in perfect pitch with the weather. In June there are dragon’s-tongue beans, for example; followed by knobby, imperfect and juicy tomatoes in August; and heirloom varieties of apples in September, before squash arrives in October.

There’s also a collection of ethnic bakeries and preserved-food vendors, from a Mexican bakery’s sugar-dusted churros, homemade tortilla chips and tamales with “heat” (chilli peppers) to a Serbian bakery selling baklava. Crepes flipping at a fast pace in one tent smell like buttery pancakes while the smoky scent of brats on the grill — these German-style pork sausages are a Wisconsin staple — mingles with the lake breeze.

“Here, try a sample,” coaxes the operator of another tent, holding out a small spoon cradling a dollop of ice cream. The booze-spiked flavours are sold by the pint. I marvel at how the essence of Wisconsin’s most popular cocktail — an Old Fashioned, also reportedly invented in the state — rings true in its namesake frozen dessert form.

Naturally, cheese is woven into the mix whenever possible, including cheese spreads at the Serbian vendor (run by a restaurant I could walk to from here) and the cheddar combined with a fried egg, olive tapenade and sriracha mayo in a café vendor’s breakfast sandwich on sourdough bread (about as popular and sought-after as those cherries).

Speaking of cherries, flushed with success and now armed with my bagful of them, I’m marvelling at the reedy, high-pitched music stemming from an accordion player who is well under 40 (an old soul?), when someone calls my name.

Markets are the outdoor community centres of the Midwest during these warmer months. It’s a golden time when we shed the sweaters and heavy outerwear that we resort to all too often in favour of shorts and sandals, and bask in the sun. And as I catch up with a friend, I’m reminded of this radiating warmth, as we compare not only our respective market finds but what we are up to for the rest of this Wisconsin summer.

Kristine Hansen


Based in the U.S. Midwest, Kristine Hansen covers sustainability, food, and design as it relates to travel, contributing to other outlets that include, and She's also the author of Frank Lloyd Wright's Wisconsin: How America's Most Famous Architect Found Inspiration in His Home State and Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State's Best Creameries, both published by Globe Pequot Press.

Time to Read:  3 Minutes
Storyteller: Kristine Hansen
13 September 2023
Local Stories - Food and Drink

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