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Crystal-clear waters, precious seabeds and beaches to dream of They are preserved thanks to the AMP, the Protected Marine Area.
Apart from the amazing sea, a tiny but important museum of marine biology dedicated to the great scholar, Pietro Parenzan, and fishmongers, fish restaurants, fishing tourism... by Ferdinando Boero
Porto Cesareo (Lecce). The town
is famous for its crystal-clear sea,
with its incredible shades of blue
and almost always calm.
Photo Archivio Fotogramma
In Italy, the Protected Marine Areas (AMP) are the equivalent of the territorial National Parks: they identify areas of great natural value and declare them worthy of protection by the Italian state. They are our natural jewels. This protection limits any destructive activities, reducing the usual attacks on nature that have been taking place for decades now in our country. The limitations curtail a certain type of income for the local populations, but, on the other hand, they raise the selected area on a pedestal, and give it high visibility. The national parks are opportunities for development, but not for uncontrolled growth. The quality of life can improve without damaging our natural heritage; just the opposite, it should restore it!
Many years ago, in the sea of Porto Cesareo (and Nardò), Pietro Parenzan, a pioneer of marine biology in Puglia, found a great concentration of diverse marine habitats, with the presence of populations of species that elsewhere are absent or rare. He was so struck by this wealth that in 1966 he decided to found a Museum of Marine Biology in Porto Cesareo itself. The museum was donated to the University of Salento, in 1977, and in recent years was dedicated to its founder, becoming the Pietro Parenzan Museum of Marine Biology. Parenzan really was a pioneer, and drew up a map of the treasures of Porto Cesareo: in fact, he drew the map of the distribution of the various typologies of seabed present in the area. There are coralligen, prairies of oceanic Poseidon, caves, inlets with giant sponges (unfortunately no more) where the fish fry gather, sands where the best mullet can be found, fresh water springs and much, much more.
For years Porto Cesareo was the emblem of construction piracy, with the illegal building of thousands of houses without planning permission on the wonderful sand dunes. Its rocky seabeds have been devastated by the fishing of date mussels. The other side of the coin, however, was, and is, the abundance of fish and restaurants. The fishmongers’ road in Porto Cesareo is an experience that is worth the trip, together with a visit to the Parenzan Museum, and then on to one of the many fish restaurants that enliven the town. And now the AMP that, by its presence has brought about the creation of many initiatives to accompany visitors, with boat trips, assistance for scuba divers and fishing tourism trips. Fishermen often compete amongst themselves to see who can catch the first fish, thus impoverishing the populations and reducing, in the long run, the fishing yield. Nature needs a break. But the fishermen have to earn a living. So a compromise must be found. At Porto Cesareo it’s called fishing tourism. The tourists board the fishing boats and go fishing with the fishermen. The day is not as busy as when they are in full swing. They just catch enough for a lunch based on the fresh catch and the AMP guarantees the respect for the rules and the quality of the service. The AMP is managed by a young biologist, Paolo D’Ambrosio, who has a PhD. from the University of Salento, and particular knowledge of the biology and the ecology of what is now “his” park. With him there are some other graduates of the University of Salento, like Luciana Muscogiuri and Sergio Fai. They work with the children who visit and make sure that the rules are respected. The co-operation with the Pietro Parenzan Museum of Marine Biology, curated by Anna Maria Miglietta, with the help of Marcello Posi, is a sounding box for the fruition of the AMP, the only one in Italy to have a university museum in its territory. The AMP of Porto Cesareo (and Nardò) is redeeming this territory after a long history of uncontrolled building, fishing, and mindless destruction of the environment. Our reputation depends on what others say about us and the reputation of Porto Cesareo is growing daily; the population has by now realized that AMP is a hallmark of quality that attracts a superior level of tourism. This requalification is under way and the trump card is respect for the environment, the quality of the gastronomy, the beauty of the beaches and of the underwater scenery.
WHERE: Porto Cesareo (LE)