Stefano Santi

A long time director of Parco Naturale Prealpi Giulie. Recipient of the 2021 Belar Award. 

20200919 105845 web


I live an hour's drive from Trenta and at the beginning of the 80s I had my first conscious encounter with the Triglav National Park. Together with a friend of mine we planned a hike on the mountains surrounding the Trenta Valley. The organization alone told us we were going to do something special, we were going to enter a special world.

The excursion confirmed that this special world really exists and we were walking through it. Everything seemed special to us: landscape, huts, flowers, animals, and even the food and beer at the end of the day.

We were both enchanted by the sights and I hurried to buy a hiking map of the area. At home I looked at it and looked again, carefully reading the names of the mountains and valleys and marking places where I would have liked to go. I studied that paper so much that after a few days it was full of holes.

After that first encounter I went several times to the Triglav area and every time was a new discover and a new adventure.

At that time, I never imagined that a few years later I would return to meet and collaborate with the people who have the task of protecting and promoting this extraordinary area.

And yet it was so.

In 1999 it happened that I began to work at the Julian Prealps Regional Natural Park. The construction of the Prato di Resia visitor center was about to start thanks to funds from the Interreg Italy - Slovenia programme. I egan to see letters with the Triglav National Park logo signed by director Janez Bizjak. All very positive and encouraging collaboration. "Wow", I thought, "I have to work hard here to make a stable connection." Our president at the time, Sergio Barbarino, Mayor of Resia, immediately agreed.

The first occasion was the release of some ibexes in the Mt. Kanin area. Our wildlife technician, Fulvio Genero, was worried that once they crossed the border the animals could be hunted. Thanks to his contacts and the availability of the director of the TNP it was possible to reach a protection agreement with the Bovec hunters. It was a fundamental step to start a collaboration that in the following years would have been increasingly stable and profitable.

A few months later Mr. Bizjak invited me to the Triglav Park headquarters to present our experience in managing Malga Coot (Kot mountain hut).

I arrived at the old headquarters, on the shores of the Lake of Bled, full of pride and emotion for the invitation received. I admit that when I entered I was in awe. But the welcome he gave me with his warm, deep voice and the belated little glass of “grappa” made me feel immediately at ease. The presentation went very well and I almost flew home (and it wasn't just the effect of the “grappa”).

From that day on, exchanges became more and more frequent and, over the years, led to the realization of several projects, initiatives, and activities, involving more and more people. An extraordinary experience that step by step has allowed me and many of my colleagues to meet and collaborate with exceptional persons from a professional and human point of view.

The list of names to remember would be too long and I would certainly risk forgetting someone but I cannot fail to mention three colleagues who over the years have been the heart of the cooperation between the two Parks and who have also become my dear friends: Mojca Smolej, Marko Pretner and Davorin Koren. Competent and always available people, open to propose and share ideas for the good of our common territory.

Together in Europe web

It is thanks to them and to the other people they were able to involve in this extraordinary adventure that our cross-border path aimed at protecting nature and promote sustainable development has been able to be successful and be set as an example throughout Europe. And that my dream of being part, at least for a while, of the magical world of Triglav could come true.