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Maintenance works on the “Via Dinarica”, the network of hiking trails that connects villages and mountain communities across the Western Balkans, have begun in Kosovo. Armed with signs, stone cairns, and white-red markers, experts from the Italian Alpine Club (CAI) and mountaineering associations from the municipalities of Peja, Decan, and Junik have started working on restoring the existing mountain route, clearing the trails, and installing new horizontal markings; all part of the Italian development project “NaturKosovo”.

“This marks the first milestone in a journey that began last year with reconnaissance actions and planning interventions necessary to strengthen the trail system. It will continue with the expansion of the current route, the opening of alternative paths, and complementary routes aimed at enriching the options available to hiking enthusiasts”, the Italian Ambassador to Kosovo, Antonello De Riu, and the Director of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) of Tirana, Stefania Vizzaccaro, say.

“The added value of ‘NaturKosovo’ lies in the virtuous exchange of experiences and good practices between Italian and Kosovar stakeholders in the sector, exemplified by the joint work being carried out by experts from the Kosovo Alpine Clubs and the Italian Alpine Club, not only on trail development, but also on alpine rescue”, CAI President Antonio Montani adds.

The prospects of the development program and future intervention actions are the focus of a press conference held today, June 15, at the iconic mill in Peja called “Mulliri i Haxhi Zekes.” In addition to Ambassador De Riu and CAI President Montani, participants included the Kosovar Minister of Industry, Enterprise, and Trade Rozeta Hajdari, the President of the Mountaineering Federation of Kosovo (FBNSK) Arianit Nikqi and the Head of Environment and Nature Sector of AICS Tirana Giovanni Timillero.

“With this event, we also aim to launch the next phase of the project: an innovative grant scheme, totaling 360,000 euros, in favor of small tourism businesses operating along the Kosovo section of the Via Dinarica, such as agritourisms, B&Bs, and guesthouses. The goal of the project is to improve both the quality and quantity of existing tourism services, in order to make Kosovo adequately prepared to welcome a higher number of European and international hikers. Central to this perspective is the development of female and youth entrepreneurship, aimed at promoting sustainable economic growth and the creation of new jobs”, Ambassador De Riu explains.

“NaturKosovo: the natural and cultural capital in Kosovo and the sustainable tourism development of the Via Dinarica” is an initiative worth 1.8 million euros, funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, with the support of the Italian Embassy in Pristina. It is implemented by the Italian NGOs RTM and CELIM, in partnership with the Utalaya Foundation, CAI – Italian Alpine Club, CNSAS – National Alpine and Cave Rescue Corps, AITR (Italian Association for Responsible Tourism) and in collaboration with the Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation of Kosovo.