Faraway, so close!

As Interreg Volunteer for the French-Italian cross-border program ALCOTRA, I met another European Initiative for the Youth: the Road Trip Project and its two travellers, Louis and Louisa!

On Sunday the 6th of May, a strange vehicle has travelled across the Piedmont roads, attracting the tourists and the curious inhabitants of the city of Ormea, at the heart of the Italians Alps, 20 km from the French-Italian border. The youngsters of the Road Trip Project (https://roadtriproject.eu/) organized by the European Union are wandering about 3000km along the Mediterranean Sea from Greece to France in a minivan, with two young Europeans on-board who discovers European financed projects along the road.

This step of the trip gave us the opportunity to discover a very mountainous Mediterranean as well as a leading light project financed by the cross-border program Interreg ALCOTRA France Italy: the ex-military Road Stramil. ( http://interreg-alcotra.eu/fr/decouvrir-alcotra/les-projets-finances/stramil2)

As Interreg Reporter for the ALCOTRA program, I took this chance to visit with them and be part of this special day. I could share my feelings with the two travellers Louisa and Louis on the meaning of being a young French volunteer living near the border, between two countries, two (and even three) languages, and to understand their strong links and differences.

The road of this project is in high altitude (from 1000 to 2000m) and was reopened after heavy renovation roadworks financed by the crossborder program funds. It crosses 39 km of French and Italian territories connecting remote villages from one side to another on the border, characterized by a unique landscape and biodiversity in Europe, and can be travelled by bike, mountain walk and, with limitations, by car.

The encounter started with a meal that is typical from this Alpine Region. For the Road Trip team, it was a very different food from the rest of Italy, at the crossroads of mountain, sea, Italian and French flavours.

The weather conditions did not allow us to reach the road, but we came close as we were going up the Valley, until the village of Briga Alta where we could glimpse the road, snow-covered. So close and yet so far, not easily accessible, at the top of the col, this road separates and links France and Italy for centuries.

This visit has led us to understand that not only this border is administrative but also physical and that this relation between two countries is built everyday with patience, just as the project beneficiaries are doing for the development of their own territories.

For Louis, Louisa and the rest of the team, those few hours spent in the Val Tanaro are only a little piece of their long road. Whereas for this territory, the European Union and the Development Fund are a constant and essential need: Stramil, so as the Road Trip project, help giving more visibility to the natural and cultural local heritage of the Tende Col landscapes.

Being Interreg Volunteer was for me a great opportunity to make a bridge between the connected Europe from the capital cities, open-minded and young travellers, and the remoted territories that we try to protect, representing local cultures and millenary history in the Alps.

As I supported the encounter by putting in contact the project actors and the road trip organization members, I came to realise that they represent two different worlds, with a different work culture, languages and codes. In fact, the essential role of the European Youth, and especially Interreg Volunteers, according to me, resides in this ability to understand and talk to those two different worlds from the local to the institutional Europe. The European Union and the youth policies (Erasmus among them), has been forging a new generation that is capable of moving on different scales. Yet, a huge challenge remains: reaching not only the graduated, Erasmus generation but also a whole generation of young Europeans with many origins and background, less aware of the huge opportunities they could find maybe, 20 km from home on the other side of the border.

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