Giacomo Miola—entrepreneur, tourism operator, and sustainable food activist—joined the FS 511 course on Food, Rurality, and Local Development in his newest role as Slow Food Vice President to discuss the importance of community engagement in gastro-tourism. Recognizing a need to reconnect travelers to local food and producers, Giacomo pulled on his educational background in design to envision and create the gastro-trekking experience, Metafarm: an alternative tourist offering on the Amalfi Coast. Intended to encourage travelers to think more critically about the food they are consuming, a Metafarm visit opens with the question: “What will we eat today?”

His creation of a “Social Food Lab” serves as a response to the congestion of travelers on the Amalfi Coast’s shores, where visitors focus more on sun and sea than on their connection to the land. In contrast, Metafarm offers tourists an opportunity for immersion in the local food environment, as they forage, cook, and commune together over the fruits of their labor. For Giacomo, community involvement—coupled with innovation—is central to the preservation of local heritages and biodiversity in gastro-tourism.

Giacomo approaches his work with Slow Food Travel, under the umbrella organization Slow Food, with the same philosophical intentions. Referencing again his design background, he conceives of creating a union between tourists and food in the same way that a producer envisions directing his film: each element must be carefully considered. Slow Food works in a similarly intentional way, as a movement that intends to act, inspire, and voice the need for policy changes, particularly on behalf of local community interests.

In a way, Giacomo’s work allows him to expand on the objectives set forth in his Metafarm model—yet on a much larger scale. Slow Food Travel simultaneously advocates for tools that maximize economic benefits to local communities, while offering tourists the traditional experiences they eagerly seek. Thus, gastro-tourism must be approached from a multifunctional lens. Only when food, experiential tourism, and rurality work in synergy does the newly created system function with respect for the community and the land.

Giacomo’s dedication to Metafarm, and sustainable travel as a whole, ties back intimately to his early thesis research based in the idea of Metafarming—an idea that everyone should be a farmer in one way or another, as all consumers must understand the processes through which their food is produced. As a tour operator, and now Slow Food Vice President, Giacomo contributes to the continual formation of self-sustaining systems that respect the land, the people, and the traditional methods of food production: elements central to the tourist experience. A community-centric mentality is the key to designing and innovating processes that bring rurality and tourism together through food.

Report by:
Michaela Colangelo
Graduate Student Assistant