Fellowship Diary: Ingrid Gaiotto

Ingrid Gaiotto is an Italian entrepreneur with a background in design, education, hospitality and tourism. She has an interest in initiatives that promote the conservation and development of cultural and architectural heritage and combining that with sustainable travel, community building.

Ingrid’s company ‘In Giro Tours’ takes people to Italy on boutique tours with a local tour guide (herself) off the tourist trail. She engages in collaborations with cultural specialists, including mosaic artists, painters and mindfulness therapists, facilitating tours to Italy for them. She also teaches business in Central Victorian women’s and men’s prisons.

Below is a transcript of Ingrid’s interview:

What was your Fellowship about?

The title of my Fellowship is the ‘Albergo Diffuso’ or ‘Scattered Hotels: an innovative model for the Preservation and regeneration of Italian historic town centres. The Albergo Diffuso is an innovative concept in sustainable tourism which originates in Italy. It offers tourists a unique and authentic experience within a local community in accommodation scattered across historic town centres and incorporates local food and wine offerings and allied cultural experiences.

It has 2 aims:

  1.  The restoration and preservation of residences in towns and villages with a view to rehabilitating the existing buildings.
  2. On the other hand, the revitalisation of the economy of the towns by bringing work into the town and villages through restoration, hospitality and more.

What are the key things you have learned, gained or experienced from the Fellowship?

There are so many. The key personal learnings – I met an incredible number of inspiring and visionary people who were creating beautiful places and experiences with incredible innovative social benefits. I was inspired in my own work to see the kind of potential out there and what is being done to restore and preserve our inheritance – architectural and urban inheritance. Whilst also creating social benefits and economic growth – giving work to people and artisans and putting traditional food and incredible cultural experiences back on the map. For me it was those visionary people that pulled this off. On a broader sectorial level, I hope that the impact of my learning will benefit Australia and beyond. I want to promote and contribute to similar projects in Australia and beyond.

I would summarise my learnings into a few points:

  • Contributing to increasing world best practice in sustainable and cultural tourism and architectural regeneration and development
  • Learning how we might come up with strategies for resourcing Australia in preserving and packaging its own heritage for Australians and visitors
  • Create templates so locals in Australia can learn to package their own cultural heritage offerings
  • I’m interested in promoting Australia beyond its traditional icons such as the Sydney Opera House and Uluru. Broadening the interest and visitations to lesser known places such as some of the yet-undiscovered regional towns that have become bereft because industries have moved on; revitalising these lesser known local communities and their economies
  • Conservation and rehabilitation of natural areas, cultural and architectural heritage and local stories
  • Promotion of empathy and understandings between cultures

These are the learnings I would put on the table.

How have you used your learnings?

This work is linked to my own enterprise – what I have tried to do is continue the conversation between Australia and Italy around the preservation and experience and living of these places so that people from Australia might experience these places in Italy. So, I incorporate them into the packages I offer. At the same time, I’ve begun through conversations, the dissemination of the report and the beginnings of project planning, to talk about how we might be able to revitalize our own inherited culture.

Firstly where I live in Castlemaine, in Central Victoria. To start with what I know and the resources here. I think this will be a life long journey and one of the wonderful things about this fellowship is that I was able to do something that really excites me and contribute to a lifelong body of work that is about celebrating our inherited story which for me is from two cultures being Australian but being of Italian origin.

What caught your interest and why did you apply for this Fellowship?

I’m a single mum with 3 adolescent kids, running my own business and needing to work to pay my bills, yet inside I’ve got this hunger and passion to explore and delve into what excites me most in life. This fellowship was like a passport to that. In the middle of a period of time when it may not have seemed appropriate to access this kind of opportunity, because the focus needed to be on working hard, looking after the kids … but there was an opportunity and I went for it. For me it was an opening to a door to Italy and people expressing their stories. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. It happened very quickly; I saw the email come up in my inbox. I had a week before it was due. I just had a feeling “Ingrid this is yours, go for it. Don’t let this pass you by. It happens rarely and the timing is never right. Just go for it now”

Do you have any tips for anyone looking to apply?

If you have a passion, just follow it. It will always lead to a bigger, better life for you and everyone around you. You cannot go wrong if you align your efforts with your passion. The Fellowship was such a great vehicle for that.

At the time I didn’t think that my idea would get over the line, I rang up the ISS Institute and said “this is what I’m thinking but I don’t know if it fits in with your guidelines” and they were so helpful in assisting me to frame the Fellowship proposal so that it was in keeping with both my aims and the outcome of the Fellowship program. If I hadn’t done that I might have never applied. But I knew what I had to offer was important and valid and it was a real collaborative effort to have the support of the people from ISSI.

Watch a slideshow of Ingrid’s Fellowship photos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTgNKbYqulE&t=108s

International Specialised Skills Institute