ANSA/Tourism: Airbnb Experience lets tourists 'live' Italy

With 1,500 choices, Sicily at the top. 'Promoting Made in Italy'

(ANSA) - Agrigento, June 26 - In the hills of the Valley of the Temples, in the heart of Sicily, everything seems to tell the story of ancient stories and important heroes.
    Even the ringing of bells from a herd of goats with twisted horns, which the locals refer to as "inturciniate" horns in local dialect, is a reflection of the area's unique history.
    This is where Valeria and Giuseppe raise 120 Girgentana goats, a breed of goat that is indigenous to the province of Agrigento and that mythology even says were nourished by Zeus, which is now threatened with extinction.
    Valeria is an anthropologist and mother to three children, and said she didn't want to "stay outside of the book but to go inside it".
    Her husband, Giuseppe, said he has had the work of a goatherd "in the blood before even knowing it".
    The couple is hosting one of the first ever Airbnb Experiences, a new sector from the lodging giant that is launching across Italy.
    The programme gives tourists to Italy a rare way to discover cities, small towns, and the countryside by sharing activities offered by locals who live there.
    There are already more than 1,500 proposals online, ranging from activities in nature, sport, art, entertainment, artisan handicrafts, and food in all its forms (which makes up 57% of the bookings).
    Reserving is simple, with just a click from a smartphone or a tablet, and the next thing you know you can be out in the pasture with Valeria, in the stalls milking goats, or at the dairy preparing Tumazzo, the traditional curd cheese stewed in ricotta whey.
    Above all, however, the experience allows for uncovering a new story that's common to all young Italians.
    "For us everything started eight years ago, when we got four goats for our children," Valeria told ANSA.
    "We had been away from Sicily for many years for work and school, but we were dreaming about something that could bring us back to our home. So four goats became 10, then 15. And, we found ourselves in another life," she said, smiling.
    "You stop to look at a Girgentana goat just for its beauty.
    But it produces one-third the milk of other breeds, so it's also not very widespread. We are convinced that to protect it you have to tell its story, to get to know it. That's why we decided to open our doors to Airbnb guests," Valeria said.
    The Airbnb Experience, in fact, is also a way to defend the Made in Italy brand, by supporting one's own business.
    Giuseppe, a 31-year-old engineering graduate, for example, was facing a saturated work market and decided that instead of emigrating, he would stay.
    He took the teachings of his grandparents and his mother, Caterina, and now he produces extra-virgin olive oil in the village of Bruca, in the province of Trapani.
    Giuseppe was already an Airbnb host, and now he is proposing an immersive experience in the countryside, from the olive fields to the oil mill to the table.
    "It's a way to experience the flavours, colours, and traditional essences of our Sicily and the great Italian oil that no one can duplicate," Giuseppe said.
    "And also to create a portfolio of clients. Perhaps you only come to Italy once, but you use oil your whole life. Just last week I welcomed two young people from Silicon Valley. They were so impressed that they are coming back to get married here," he said.
    Some people are also using the Airbnb Experience opportunity as a way to experiment.
    One such example is Corrado, who left his desk job in Milan in 2007 and came back to Noto with his wife to farm.
    Corrado also produces olive oil, as well as Datterino tomatoes.
    "Now we're trying the Siccagnu tomato, the only one that's native to Sicily, which we grow without stressing the plant, respecting nature's timeframe," he said.
    He offers guests a wine tasting in the garden and the nearly ancestral rite of preparing the tomato sauce. While the pot boils, there's time to get to know each other.
    "The Airbnb Experience allows us to test out all the possible ways to grow the Siccagnu, with the essential financial support in view of entering the market," he said.
    Guests receive a jar of tomato sauce and a recipe to take home with them.
    But, above all, Corrado said they get "a sense of belonging to our land".