Apart from museums, travelling, and strictly the term “heritage travel”, another topic that intrigues me is sustainable travel. When I recently went to the Province of South Tyrol, in Italian Alps, for the second time (and the first time in a spring season), I visited the Touriseum, a museum of tourism located near the city of Merano.
After coming back from the trip, I decided to ask my followers on Instagram (after finally having 1000 of them) what would they like to read first. I offered some options such as “a survival guide to visiting famous attraction”, “an introvert guide to (culture) travelling to big cities alone”, etc. The option that caused the most of attention was the “sustainable travel”, so I’m coming up with this topic today.
Let me first ask you – what comes first to your mind when you hear “sustainable travel”? People may have different ideas. Even I’m often confused sometimes what does it mean.
What did I learn in the Touriseum, the Museum of Tourism in Merano?
So, the whole museum is about the tourism of the province of South Tyrol and their tourism industry. The story starts from the early moments of any hospitality in the area, with the first locals who opened spare rooms in their homes for travellers to stay.
The Trauttmansdorff Castle is the home to this museum. The Castle has a long history dating back to the 15th century, and it used to host the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as Sissy. A part of the Castle’s rooms still keeps the original decoration, including the places that served as the Empress’s bedrooms and dressing rooms. There is no furniture, but visitors can still enjoy the beautiful fresco paintings.
The Castle is surrounded with one of Italy’s most beautiful botanical gardens, while the whole province looks like a kind of natural paradise. No wonder the royal families liked spending holidays there, don’ you agree?
There is an in-depth analysis of different kinds of activities holidaymakers practices by visiting South Tyrol. The Museum’s exhibition says a lot about thermal waters, hotels, ski resorts, car races and so on. But what’s the main point?
The awareness and responsibility towards the environment.
This Museum says a lot how important it is to care about how our travelling habits and our tourism industry affect the planet. Here comes a beautiful recycled statue (on the picture).
So what are my thoughts about travelling responsibly?
1. I believe it all begins with responsible travel choices.
It’s up to us to choose a destination and a travelling style having on our minds the sustainability. I will not agree with those who say that we should avoid air travel or big resorts, because even these big industries are adapting towards more sustainable policies.
More and more I try to check for some “sustainability declarations” on the companies’ websites. I also try to find if there is any particular practice that confirms their statements.
2. I recommend everyone to look for services provided by local businesses. It means, for instance:
- When buying souvenirs (I don’t buy any, but many people do), clothes, or shoes, check their origin. While I would buy things produced in China, Thailand, or Bangladesh while visiting these countries, I’m not quite a fan of buying these things in Italy. I don’t think I need to explain the reason for such opinion.
- The advice of eating local food is not applicable to every destination in the world, for obvious reasons. But for instance, in most of Southern Europe, that’s a thing to do. However, in that part of the world, travellers should be particularly aware of something named “tourist trap”. To choose a restaurant responsibly and wisely, look for places full of locals. You’ll notice that the property has a local owner, and most of his clients are frequent clients – that’s the culture thing.
- Visit a not-so-famous museum. Don’t just go to “must-visit” museums, but try visiting something off-the-beaten-path. You will learn something new, and support the local community.
- Around the whole world, there are beautiful, immersive experiences organised by locals, where we can learn about things we want to know about the destination. By going for these experiences, we support the local economy. The thing to be aware of, in some cases, is the safety and whether their business operates legally.
On the picture: In front of the Touriseum, Museum of Tourism in Merano, Italy
3. Responsible travel preparations are the key.
During my recent trip to Rome, I regretted one thing. After visiting the Colosseo in Rome, I threw away my empty bottle. I thought I drank enough water, and I was planning to get another bottle after my visit to Forum & Palatine Hill. What a mistake!
Two reasons why it was a big mistake:
- My visit to that sizeable archaeological park lasted more than 2 hours, through the intense midday sunshine and almost summer temperatures.
There were vending machines with a lot of bottles of water. They cost no more than 1.5 Euros. However, there was something else – drinking water fountains! Oh yeah. I just washed my hands in the bathroom and used my hands to drink. With a bottle, it would be more comfortable.
Conclusion: plastic bottles are far from being environmentally friendly things. When travelling around Europe, there are many fountains with drinkable water.
My thoughts on sustainable travel are somewhat Europe – centric, I know. It just comes from the fact that so far I have only been in Europe and a little part of North America, but not in the rest of the world.
Sustainable travel, nature and environment in a nutshell – Trauttmansdorff Castle and Gardens
The Museum of Tourism is a small part of this experience worth a day trip. The entire botanical garden takes at least two hours for a decent visit. There are countless spots of interest there. From animal shelters to viewpoints, from a “lovers garden” to gorgeous parks of roses.
I think there can hardly be the any better place to feel what is something called “sustainable travel” supposed to be. Alongside a great interpretation of context inside the museum, there is such a complete, masterpiece landscape architecture outside. The further view reveals vineyards and mountains, which are often snowy.
Notice that you’ll need at least 4 hours to explore the museum and the whole botanical garden areas. Even 4 hours may be tight; I spent about 6 hours inside the complex.
The Touriseum does not open for visits during the whole year. It’s closed between 15th of November and 31st of March. So there is no way to visit the place during your winter holidays in the Alps.
The entrance fee is 13 euros. The whole museum and the area are incredibly accessible for any disabilities. Pets are not allowed.
Do you love the idea of visiting the province of South Tyrol in Italian Alps? Consider reading about 25 things to know about South Tyrol, the article I wrote after travelling there in January 2017.
I wish you a happy travel and sustainable travel experience!