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Responsible tourism is a key conservation element on the Amalfi Coast and surrounding areas. Nature has done its best to protect itself here, with steep cliffs making construction difficult for developers, but the resulting beauty attracts so many tourists, both local and international, that the entire region is at serious risk. Overbuilding, forest fires, and overuse of water resources are the region's top problems, together with marine pollution: All of these are exacerbated by the enormous tourist pressure. The dawning of conservation and sustainable tourism in recent years has made the local tourist industry well aware of the fragility of the local environment and committed to protect it, together with the Italian government and the numerous local associations working for its preservation. Water and sewage management plans are active in most hotels and restaurants, and a large number of them buy only local produce and services. Shortsighted developers, backed by organized crime, are still very active, though, and constantly try to encroach on protected land, often resorting to arson. We can all make a difference by choosing sustainable resorts and accommodations, and by respecting the local ecosystem.

Naples might hardly be what you picture as an eco-friendly destination, but the rest of the region is actually one of the prime destinations for eco-tourism in Italy.

Campania is home to Italy's second-largest national park -- the Cilento -- and to a large number of parks and nature preserves, including the National Park of Mount Vesuvius, the miniarea of the Valle delle Ferriere in Amalfi, and the marine bioparks of Baia (near Pozzuoli), Procida, Ischia, Punta Campanella (Massa Lubrense), parts of Capri, and of the Cilento coast.

You'll also find a great number of agriturismi, working farms that increase their income by turning themselves into small resorts (similar to some ranches in the United States). This movement has been successfully promoted by the Italian government to reduce acquisition of abandoned farms by developers, and to protect natural areas, and has found a perfect home in Campania, where the countryside often offers dramatic natural attractions and close proximity to the seaside. Also, most of the agriturismi have embraced the organic movement, adding increased environmental benefit. Operations are controlled through methods such as surprise inspections, and agriturismi are strictly regulated by law to prevent exploitation by corporations and developers: In order to obtain the right to call itself an agriturismo, the farm must: (a) offer fewer than 30 beds total; and (b) make most of its profits from the agricultural component of the property -- in other words, the property has to remain a farm and not become a glorified hotel.

Staying in an agriturismo is a great way to contribute to green tourism in Italy; it can also be quite attractive for the special amenities it offers.

Throughout this guide we recommend services that are committed to sustainable tourism. These hotels may have bathroom fixtures that reduce the amount of wasted water, soap dispensers to reduce the number of empty plastic bottles and unused soap that ends up in the garbage, and energy-saving bulbs. They increasingly rely on energy derived from solar or wind power, and they also invite guests to save water by using towels and bed sheets for more than 1 night. They often have made or are enacting plans for the recycling of gray water, and reduce plastic use by offering fresh, local, and often organic foods rather than industrial prepackaged breakfast goods, and water bottled in recyclable glass bottles.

Several local organizations are good resources: Associazione Italiana Turismo Responsabile (www.aitr.org), Legambiente (www.legambiente.eu) and its regional section for Campania (www.legambiente.campania.it), FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano; www.fondoambiente.it), and WWF Italy (www.wwf.it). We also recommend a few excellent operators: Planet Viaggi (www.planetviaggi.it) organizes enticing eco-tours in Naples and the Cilento, CTS (Centro Turismo Studentesco; www.cts.it), and AMEntelibera (www.viaggiamentelibera.it).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.