Carlo Bifulco

Rethinking National green areas with Forest Bathing: « Parks are also a place to feel good »

Carlo Bifulco has a PhD in Forestry and Natural Resources Engineering. One of the first Italians to be certified as a Forest Bathing Guide, he has traveled the world with a deep love for forests and especially for plants. He has promoted the latest FTHub training in the spectacular Monti Sibillini National Park in Italy. He is proud that the training has revealed to students from different professional fields that Forest Bathing is unlike any other practice they have experienced or offered in nature.

Consultant in international cooperation projects developed in Portugal, Armenia, Romania, Morocco and Italy on nature based solutions, soil and water bioengineering, management of protected areas, European legislative system on the environment, forest fires, drought, and staff training, he is also an FTHub Forest Bathing Guide and professor. 

He grew up in a city and the deeper bond with nature found him as an adult, involved in the conservation of natural areas and wildlife, having seen the return, among other species, of the italian wolves. 

Having managed two majestic national parks, Vesuvius and Monti Sibillini, he became interested in Shinrin Yoku with some skepticism until he trained with FTHub. Since then he has worked to incorporate Health as a new ecosystemic service in national parks. 

« National Parks are used as a tourism development company and also for example they finance parties, popular festivals and generally those things where people eat salami, cheese, sausage… And Health is a function which has not yet been fruitfully explored. Parks are also a place to feel good, where you can now also replenish yourself -even in the beach or other landscapes-. 

“And I think it is important to ensure trails where people don’t need to take long difficult walks, as in sports or adventure programs. I would like money to go into the parks related to the fact that the National Park gives health.

« As a child, nature was only during the holidays. I was born and raised in a big city. I would go to the beach, to the sea (near Naples). I am an electrical engineer and I was involved in programme information systems, in calculation systems, and I worked on the first italian national forest inventory, by making accounts of how much wood there was. 

“This was in Italy in the ’85 and at that moment I began to have a consciousness beyond the technical, more towards the forests. And at the same time I approached WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in Italy and the WWF in Naples ». 

Volcanoes and pine forests

« I began by taking care of the forests in the region of Naples, which is a state nature reserve in a volcanic crater that was the hunting ground of the Bourbon kings, and now it was a state reserve managed by the WWF Italy.

“At a certain point I broke my leg in a motorbike accident, I was two months still and the people I met in the forestry inventory recommended books, because they had seen my passion for forests. I loved one especially on what is now called Naturalistic Engineering, or Landscape Engineering. 

“In 10 years I managed to change jobs, in the sense that I continued to be an engineer of computer systems, but I was voluntarily working with the WWF and until I became director of the Vesuvius National Park, I worked with the National Research Organisation, in nature conservation projects. 

“I have been the Director of the Vesuvius National Park for 8,5 years, mainly interested in issues related to the pine forests,  where I made an adaptation of the naturalistic engineering techniques that were born in the Alps, to the Mediterranean climate. 

“Then I moved to Lisbon where I continued to work in international cooperation projects on environmental and forestry issues. Here I found myself promoting projects regarding forest fires management, counter-fire, drought mitigation projects, but in the meantime I decided to transform« .

Learning as a lifelong passion

“I wanted to formalize this self-taught knowledge, so I took a doctorate in Natural Resources and Forestry Engineering in a Lisbon University. At 60 years old

“I then became director of the Monti Sibillini National Park and returned to Italy for four years. I have my home in Lisbon so I went from Italy to Lisbon to be a teacher in the Coimbra Polytechnic in what today is called ‘Nature Based Solutions’. 

“I am much more attracted to trees rather than animals, as they are able to feed themselves without moving. In my opinion, plants are more refined.

“I heard about the Japanese Shinrin-Yoku, in which there was a cloud of lack of science at that time that I found later. So I took the first training of Forest Bathing in Italy in 2019. For me, it was a revelation. And I decided to propose this activity as an institutional Monti Sibillini activity, so I called consultants and we did in each municipality of the park a suitable route for Forest Bathing. If you go to the internet page of the Monti Sibillini Park, you will find them and the methodology we used ». 

Carlo, the Forest Bathing Guide

“I don’t guide as a work, but I take my friends, my wife, and they always ask me to go back doing a walk. I’ve seen the benefits. Everybody feels good. OK? With relaxation, well-being and so on, but I’ve seen people who had stress problems due to illness -recovery after cancer surgery, an immune condition in the blood- and they repeat this as a way of finding relief from the anxiety. Slowing down in a Forest Bathing walk is so important for them. 

« I am very happy to have organized this training in the Sibylline Mountains because the people who did it, when they said goodbye, they moved me. The way they thanked us for what we taught them, they were excited.

“Some people come in as if to say ‘I know what forest bathing is’. They are environmental workers, psychologists, doctors, environmental hiking guides. And in the end they said ‘this is really a new thing’, like ‘another thing’. Is not what they did by taking people to the park. 

« So for me it was very important for people to understand that people with experience who can offer knowledge about what Forest Bathing is, to realize with this training that they didn’t know what really Forest Bathing is.

“And this is also thanks to some politicians in the local area that support this kind of trainings, the president of the local Pieve Torina and also the vice president of Mount Sibillini National Park. I am proud of this. I also like that the ‘green jobs’ are growing ». 


Ph: Courtesy Carlo Bifulco

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