Between land and tourism
Alongside the depopulation of the Cuneo valleys, during the second half of the 20th century the Alpine agriculture and livestock sectors lost ground - literally and figuratively speaking. The cultivated fields decreased drastically and so did the pastures, with the abandonment of the more inaccessible and less profitable sites and maintaining only the most accessible mountain pastures. In recent years, however, there has been a positive increase in interest in organic farming and livestock farming and, more generally, in the promotion of local excellence.
Agriculture and livestock farming The territory of the Park, from the point of view of a farmer, is not exactly the promised land: here the summer season is very short, the land is steep and difficult to work, often poor, stony and covered by snow for most of the year. Until the middle of the last century, the families who densely populated these places, devised a thousand adaptations to an inhospitable site, worked mainly for their livelihood in a regime of strict self-sufficiency. Today, production for trade is limited to the renowned Entracque potatoes and modest quantities of rye. The animals most often encountered in the Park's alpine pastures are the Piedmontese white cows - a Slowfood breed - bred today only for meat production, thanks to the high yield and quality of the cuts. Among the sheep breeds, two are Slowfood Presidia. The Frabosana-Roaschina sheep is hardy and well adapted to pastures, once the transhumant sheep par excellence. The Consortium for the recovery and enhancement of local sheep breeds in the Piedmontese valleys brings together the breeders of this native breed, spread over several valleys in the provinces of Cuneo and Turin. The Sambucana sheep is bred for its milk, but particularly well-known and prized for its meat is the Sambucana lamb, a Slowfood Presidium. Beekeeping, with excellent local products, deserves a separate mention.
Tourism The first promoters of tourism in Valle Gesso were the royal family of the House of Savoy, bringing elite visitors to the thermal baths and the upper valley. In the Vermenagna Valley, skiing has always been the driving force behind tourism development, with the slopes at Limone Piemonte. In general, over the last few years - after the boom in mass tourism of "holidaymakers" and the wild rush to build second homes - tourism has become more "gentle" and less impacting. There is a more diversified offer ranging from sports and outdoor activities to culture and food and wine tourism, and greater attention to the environmental sustainability of visits. This approach is encouraged by the Park and implemented by the local operators through the association Associazione Ecoturismo in Marittime. Alpi Marittime Park was one of the first in Italy to sign the European Charter for sustainable tourism in protected areas, back in the year 2000. This was transformed into a Strategy and Action Plan for sustainable tourism.
Handicraft Examples of excellent local craftsmanship are pieces by Paolo Giraudo (Valdieri), who in recent years has expanded his range to include diatonic accordions typical of the musical tradition of these Alpine valleys. Another valuable product, the Vernante knives, the "vernantìn", made entirely by hand starting from the blade obtained from a piece of steel. Born around 1400 on the style of ancient French models of 1300, they are today known and imitated all over Italy. We find these knives produced by both Piedmontese and Tuscan artisans, and on an "industrial" scale, also abroad. Although the vernantìn made elsewhere may be made with the same care and elegance that distinguishes the model, the most sought-after are those produced by Mario Vallauri, the maker's mark is MARIO and below it VERNANTE and Giacomo Vallauri whose mark is VALLAURI and below it VERNANTE. The vernantìn have now become collector's items.