How to raise a rock climbing community: what does it take?
Francesco Guerra tells us about some of the efforts to develop Southern Italy's climbing community.
Posted on Mon 29 Nov 2021 · Community
March 10, 2021
Francesco Guerra, local climber and Professional Photographer, tells us what does it takes to create and feed Southern Italy's rock-climbing community. We asked him a few questions to understand what does it takes to raise an entire climbing community. South Italy is full of good rock and strong climbers, but somehow these places are quite unknown and many of their crags abandoned.
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Hello Francesco, it’s good to hear you back!
We first met a few months ago, when we were still allowed to travel and we were looking for an outstanding climbing destination for a Mapo Tapo climbing trip. We clicked not only for our passion about lesser-known climbing destinations, but also for our common goal: to empower local communities through climbing.
Francesco: Yes, I remember that I was excited to get on board with your project because the empowerment of local climbing communities has also been a long-term project of mine for some time now, so it was natural to have a good feeling and get along with it!
You were born and raised in Southern Italy, weren’t you? So, it’s easy to understand why you’re actively trying to show how beautiful is climbing here through your work as a professional photographer. Would you say Southern Italy can offer more than leisure tourism?
Francesco: Despite the fact that I was born and raised in Naples, it wasn’t until the last two years that I got really active (and trying to get even more active nowadays) trying to show how much climbing and in general adventure terrain there is here in the South. Not only in my region (Campania) we have a lot of beautiful crags set in beautiful sceneries such as the Amalfi Coast, but in all of Southern Italy we do have a lot of virgin rock still to be explored, both ready for sport climbing or alpine routes. Also, from time to time there are news that some local climber discovers new bouldering areas.
So, long story short, Southern Italy could be deseasonalized by promoting climbing and outdoor activities from Autumn to early spring, and leave the leisure tourism for the Summer. In other words, it is a good adventure playground!
Gaeta is a well-known climbing spot in Italy, close to Naples. here, Federica Mingolla flawless on the 7b+ king line of the crag © Francesco Guerra
Speaking about climbing, how things are going? Would you say you have an active and committed climbing community?
Francesco: Thanks to the next Olympics and to some major climbing achievements and documentaries (Honnold’s Free Solo, Caldwell and Jorgeson’s Dawn Wall), climbing is definitely growing in popularity around the World and it is slowly growing also here in the South. Another thing that is absolutely helping the growth of climbing here is the presence on the territory of some growing elite climbers (Pietro Radassao among those) and the opening of new climbing gyms in the regions of South, which are helping the development of the sport.
Pietra del Toro is one of the most outstanding climbing spots you'll visit in your entire life. Rock features here won't stop surprising you even after many years.
Caterina Maiullari, 8A-local climber, knows that very well. © Francesco Guerra
Would you say Southern Italy could be compared to other popular climbing destinations in Europe or in the World? If so, which ones?
Francesco: Yes and no. There are some crags like Positano and Palinuro that could be compared to Kalymnos for the scenery, the style of climbing and the good food you get to eat after a day at the crag! But we also have some uniques: Frosolone is, as I know, a standalone. The crag has these massive rocks that seem to have been placed there like in Stonehenge, with perfectly smooth rock and holes.
I want also to mention the largest boulder area we have in the South: Pietra del Toro, in Basilicata. The place is easily accessible, it has something like 400 boulders and the rock is solid sandstone which ensures a fantastic grip on the holds, especially on the slopes!
As I’ve been told, even world-class climber Nicky Ceria mentioned it as one of the best places in the World where to do bouldering.
We know Pietro Radassao just did the First Ascent of a new 9a sport-climbing route in Oratino crag, Molise. Pietro is a very well-known elite-climber in Italy, and we often hear about Molise thanks to his performances. But we never heard about good spots for easier climbs in this Italian region.
Francesco: Yes, Pietro is not only a very strong climber and bolter, he is also a nice and humble person, who has done and is doing a lot to develop the climbing culture in Molise, alongside our friend and Alpine Guide Riccardo Quaranta (last year they published Molise Rock, the ultimate climbing guide of Molise). I consider myself lucky to work with them and call them friends.
Getting to the point: Of course there are easier climbs in Molise. Just to mention the crag of Colle dell’Orso, mostly known just with the near village name Frosolone, it has more than 400 routes to choose from, and they vary from easy 4th and 5th grades up to 8c+/9a routes. It is the best playground every climber could ask for.
Pietro Radassao during an attempt of his last climbing achievement, "Ultra Istinto" 9a in Frosolone crag, Molise © Francesco Guerra.
Let's talk a little bit about the future! 2021 has just started, and it seems like you have many projects and ideas in order to help Southern Italy climbing community to raise.
Francesco: With a knee injury in February and the Covid-19 pandemic in March, I was forced home unable to move for three months straight. Even if this was a huge drawback from one side, I found a way to remain positive and work more on myself, tracking and understanding better which were the flaws in my personality and how to change them for good. If last year has been the one for self-improvement, the resolutions for 2021 are mostly two.
The first one is to improve my outdoor photography career, creating more photos with a precise vision, doing more outdoor experiences and telling more meaningful stories.
The second thing, strictly connected with the first resolution, is to do my best to improve and amplify the outdoor and climbing reputation of South Italy.
South Italy has loads of crags with amazing scenery, whether they are hilly like Frosolone in Molise or facing the sea like Capo d'Orso or Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Also, the whole Southern Italy landscape is plenty of untouched rock waiting to be explored.
After a deep reflection, I would say my overall goal for this year is to give voice to the very few people who are trying to develop a real climbing community in the Southern Italy. This territory is more than good food and beautiful coastlines and sea. South Italy has a huge potential for the outdoor and climbing industry that should be developed in the most eco-sustainable way possible.
It is a hard path for sure, but who likes easy stuff anyway!
Well, it’s enough to start thinking about the next climbing trip once we will be allowed to travel again. Thanks so much for your effort Francesco. Can we get in touch with you again if we need any kind of information about crags and climbing advices in the South?
Francesco: Of course you can get in touch with me, I will be happy to help you as much I can! I hope to see you guys over here in the next few months!
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Down below you'll can find a trailer for "Molise Verticale", a new project based on Francesco's will to empower Molise climbing. You can get in touch with Francesco via his official website or his instagram.
If you'd like to visit Molise yourself, Mapo Tapo are now running trips there. During our Climb and Explore Molise trip you will spend a weekend climbing in this beautiful region, meeting incredible people and sampling delicious local food and wine. What are you waiting for?
Pietro Radassao's Instagram here
Caterina Maiullari's Instagram here