They say you can learn a lot about a culture from their language. Take Italy’s term for golf tourism, for example: turismo golfistico. The obvious English borrowing of “golf” as the adjective describing the kind of tourism is reflective of the peninsula’s “borrowing” of the sport. In a land where soccer is king next to the sport of eating and drinking (which, if you have ever sat down to a true multi-course Italian meal, you’ll agree that it takes a certain degree of fitness to make it through), golf is a relatively new introduction into the country. However, Italy’s been bit by the bug golfistico, and one of its pioneers, Donato Ala, is making strides in bringing Italians and Italy to the world’s golf stage. In this installment of Select Italy blog’s Expert Series, we sat down with Donato, journalist for and director of golfitaliano.it and director of Golf & Lifestyle LIVE IN MAGAZINE to talk to us about the sport of golf in a soccer-driven Italian peninsula.
SI: You obviously have a pretty significant interest in the sport of golf in a place where it’s not the most popular pastime. How is that you became interested and why is it an attractive sport to indulge in while spending time in Italy?
Ala: I began as a journalist twelve years ago and slowly began working with golf because not only did I enjoy the sport itself, but also I believed in its substantial potential to appeal to all types of people. Its attractiveness is not only in the game but the sport’s ability to foster a social connection, to allow its players to travel to new and exciting places, discovering new cultures and landscapes.
SI: What are the best golf courses (campi da golf) or regions to play golf in Italy?
Ala: Italy has various courses designed by the most prestigious architects, even American ones such as Arnold Palmer who designed the course Le Pavoniere in Prato [located in Tuscany near Florence]. Other examples would be the Golf Royal Park in Turin, Golf Bielle (also in the Piedmont), Las Arenas in Sardinia or Verdura Golf in Sicily. The best regions to golf in would be obviously the islands, Apulia, Tuscany and Latium. The northern regions are desirable from about the end of March to November before the winter weather begins.
SI: You are an advocate for “golf tourism,” but what exactly does that mean?
Ala: I would say that golf tourism means that in addition to playing a nice round of golf, one can also include cultural excursions, discovering the culture, history, art, and enogastronomy of the place where they are playing golf.
SI: What does Italy have to offer to Americans in terms of golf that cannot be found in the United States?
Ala: It is exactly that which I was saying before; Americans have a unique opportunity with golf tourism in Italy to enjoy a true vacation, which consists of the thrill of enjoying the new and exciting culture and history that the nation has to offer, while also taking part in a familiar, relaxing pastime of playing a round of golf. A part of this familiarity is that the staff at all of the major golf courses is fluent in English and ready and willing to help any American customers.
SI: And who is your favorite golfer?
Ala: Tiger Woods. No matter what kind of a person he is, he is the person who has time and time again reinvented what it means to be the top for golf.