Just when you thought the days of merrily stuffing your cabin bag with wine and oil from your holiday were well and truly over, one Italian airport has relaxed its strict liquids regulations – for customers buying local pesto.
Under Genoa airport’s new scheme, Il Pesto è Buono (pesto is good), the 100ml limit on liquids has been relaxed for passengers carrying pesto in their carry-ons – as long as they make a donation to local children’s charity, Flying Angels.
The suggested donation is at least 50 cents (44p) per item, paid at either the airport ticket office or the place of purchase. Passengers can then take either one pesto pot of up to 500g or two of 250g on board.
To avoid any cheating, passengers are given ‘Il pesto è buono” stickers to put on their purchases. Only pesto pots with the stickers are allowed through security. The pesto is then checked with the same anti-explosive equipment as is used to check medicines and breast milk.
The scheme launched on 1 June, and in the first three weeks, more than 500 pots have been taken through security, raising over €500, according to the airport. "We consider it an amazing result", airport press officer Nur El Gawohary told The Independent.
Genoa is of course the birthplace of pesto – the combination of basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and oil is called “pesto genovese “ in Italian. The airport is at pains, on its website, to specify that the new scheme only applies to pesto genovese.
The scheme will surely be welcomed by passengers who’ve been repeatedly caught out by the rules on liquids.
“Every year we were confiscating hundreds of pesto jars at security control, and throwing them away," El Gawohary says. "It was a waste of food and an annoyance for our passengers. So we started to think about how we could allow people travelling with hand baggage only to take pesto with them."
The airport worked with ENAC, Italy’s civil aviation authority, El Gawohary told The Independent, to find a solution which “guarantees safety and promotes our excellent local cuisine.” They chose pesto for two reasons: “Firstly because jars of pesto were among the most commonly confiscated objects at airport security, and also because pesto is the most famous food product of Genoa - it’s one of the symbols of the city, every Genoese family has their own recipe, and it’s one of the most famous sauces in the world.
“To allow tourists to take it home in their hand luggage, as well as allowing Ligurians to bring it to friends and family when they visit them, is a way of serving our clients, helping Flying Angels, and promoting our Ligurian cuisine.
“It’s true that you can buy pesto in the airport, but for the Genoese, traditional pesto – made at home or by your favourite company, has a special value. Every family has their own recipe, and to be able to take pesto made by your mother or grandmother as a gift is really something that we felt important.
“The first people to thank us were Genoese kids studying abroad – lots of them in the UK. They always travel without checking a bag, so to be able to take their mamma’s pasta home to London and get their friends to taste it has been something they really appreciate.”
Local pesto producers are also delighted by the move. Davide Faravelli of Baico Pesto Lab in the Cinque Terre region of Liguria, told The Independent, “I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone – for us producers, who’ll be able to sell our products more easily, and for our clients, who are finally able to take home a piece of our culinary tradition."
Faravelli started his company three years ago, but noticed that, with luggage weights vigorously enforced, tourists were reluctant to buy pesto. "Right from the start I came up against this difficulty with products that are considered 'liquid'," he says. "Luckily this wonderful news has arrived, without us putting any kind of pressure on the airport."
Favarelli – who also sells wine and oil in Vernazza – hopes the scheme might go further. “I think it’d be great to do the same for other products, as long as it’d be scrupulously controlled,” he said. There are no plans to do so, said El Gawohary: “Guaranteeing security is our first objective.” However, he was at pains to point out that the airport duty free stocks many local products.
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