Giro-E meets… Aljoša Ota, the director of the Slovenian Tourism Agency in Italy. For the second year in a row Giro-E passes in Slovenia. The stage No.16, on 27 May, will set off from Kobarid (Caporetto in Italian) and finish at the Sanctuary of Castelmonte. It is just one of the events that will link Slovenia and the Corsa Rosa. The 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia, on that same day, will start in Marano Lagunare, and the riders will enter the Isonzo valley and climb up the Kolovrat, a testing ascent, before hitting the finish line at the Sanctuary of Castelmonte. Slovenia is also supporting Giro-E as the Maglia Pistacchio sponsor.
Next May will be a further opportunity for Slovenia to show to the world its cycling soul, its Green Heart and its vocation to sustainability and environmental safety. Sustainability, outdoor activities, excellent gastronomy are the mainstay of a virtuous path that has brought the country a series of awards and that make it one of the Green Hearts of Europe. “We are very happy to be a partner of Giro-E, because it is a crazy event,” says Aljoša.
Slovenian cycling has come to the fore: you have super champions, such as Tadej Pogačar, Primož Roglič, Matej Mohorič, and you are one of the most coveted countries for cycling tourism.
“We are. We love cycling and we want to talk about cycling. Especially this year, because our focus in the next years – as Slovenian Tourism Agency – will be sport in all its forms: cycling, hiking, nature.”
Sport equal to bicycle…
“Definitely bicycle. Cycling remains one of the most popular activities among the post-Covid tourists, as everyone feels the need for outdoor activities and nature more than ever, what has been off limits for a while during the lockdown. In Slovenia we have worked hard in the cycling sector to offer new routes, new cycling tracks and trained personnel that is able to respond also to the market needs for accommodation as well as equipment rental. From the Isonzo valley to the capital city Ljubljana, from Maribor to Portorose, the entire country is involved in this great cycling project.”
You have been one of the first countries to receive the Safe Travels Stamp from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTCC).
“This achievement is the result of the hard work our Agency has carried out in collaboration with all the local tourist boards across Slovenia. We have been implemented polices aligned with all the WTCC protocols so as to provide responsible tourism offer in Slovenia with adequate safety and health assistance standard. It has been a great teamwork, and today Slovenia has its Green & Safe brand. On top of that, Ljubljana is Best European Destination 2022: more than half a million travellers from 182 countries have chosen it for its green, contemporary, young and cutting-edge soul, among other European cities.”
The Giro-E stage will start in Caporetto, Kobarid in Slovenian.
“It will be a great stage. The Isonzo valley is one of the favourite areas for cycling tourism in Slovenia, because there are so many cycle routes as well as hiking trails. It is a truly outdoor valley. We will be there in May, which is an ideal time of the year to enjoy the spectacular landscape. Caporetto is the Slovenian start city of Giro-E. Then, the course takes in the great climb up Mount Kolovrat, and it will be very exciting to see the e-riders there. I guess, there will be both Slovenian and Italian crowds cheering them.”
Setting off from Caporetto is a message too, in current times of war
“Of course. Caporetto is home of the Museum of the Great War, testimony to the horrors of war, to those mistakes that man must not repeat. Showing the horrors of the First World War is a warning to new generations. Seeing those images, catapulted into the current situation, will really make an impression. We must learn from history.”
One of Slovenia’s strengths, and not just in terms of tourism, is gastronomy
“Indeed. In Caporetto our starred chef Ana Roš, the best female Chef in the world in 2017 – two Michelin stars with her Hiša Franko, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. But she is only the spearhead, because in Slovenia there are a total of 7 chefs who have won the famous star. Gastronomy has been significantly enriched in recent years, thanks in part to the debut of the Michelin Guide Slovenia in 2020. Many new restaurants have sprung up, and Slovenia is already one of the most sought-after European countries for a gourmet experience. Practicing sport and eating well go hand in hand. In fact, the organisation has created cycle paths linking gastronomic excellences: it is a project called Green Gourmet Route and it connects the whole of Slovenia, from Ljubljana to Goriška Brda, the Vipava Valley and the Karst, the Soča Valley and Sevnica.”
What kind of role does e-bike play in all that?
“E-bike has opened up the possibility to travel even for those who were not active players in the cycling world before. Through technological innovation brought by the electric bicycles, many people have started to ride on trails that used to be available only to well-trained riders. This has given a big boost to the whole of cycling tourism.”
Will you ride on stage No. 16 of Giro-E, setting off in Caporetto?
“I have not made up my mind yet. I keep fit, but I am afraid I won’t, because I will be very busy with our partners in following the event. But I will certainly take part in another stage of Giro-E. I do care a great deal about it.”