THE SUSTAINABLE MARK OF TUSCANY. FORUM ON THE FRANCIGENA AND THE PATHS

The two-days discussion meeting in San Miniato focused on this topic, with the purpose of putting institutions, associations and private operators online. The meeting has been organised by Toscana Promozione, Tuscany Region, Municipality of San Miniato, with the support of the European Association of the Vie Francigene and the media partner RadioFrancigena.

SAN MINIATO – Planning in progress and future perspectives. From the path to the accommodation, from UNESCO to the collaboration pact between the four groups of the 39 municipalities of Tuscany. An intense day of discussion and work with many speeches and great involvement.

After the welcome of the hosting town administration, Tuscany Region and the European Association of the Vie Francigene started the forum.

The assessor Stefano Ciuoffo opened the institutional speeches by reminding the audience of how the Via Francigena, now in a phase of great development, has become a touristic product based on experience. “Tuscany supports the Via Francigena because it represents a complementary and alternative source to mass tourism, bound to the cities of art. It is the Via Francigena of the little towns that helps us discover incredible stories and emergences along the almost 400 kilometres of the path: it is a new way of narrating the history of our territories”.

Enrico Conti, representative of IRPET’s Tourism, talked about the demographic development of the 38 “francigenous” municipalities, in order to analyse the impact of the itinerary on the territory that started from restrained levels of development. “From 2007 on, the presence along the Via Francigena and bordering areas grew considerably thanks to the significant increase of work in the cultural and performance branches, in addition to catering and accommodation.

Between 2009 and 2015 we can evaluate the presence of more or less 35000 people per year, whose number has been growing in the past triennium. Other numbers must be pointed out as well: 21.1 millions of GDP; 8.8 millions of investment; 388 units of workers. We still have to build the product of the Via Francigena, it is only upon this development that we will be able to increase the tourist flow bound to the path”.

Francesco Gazzetti, coordinator of the meeting, region councilman, underlined the importance to start a new phase, that must necessarily involve the private area, alongside the public one and the associations. “We are working on this aspect also inside the regional law dedicated to tourism, in order to begin also some considerations about accommodation on charitable contribution: the purpose is to get to a norm in the area. The association part has a fundamental role for the development of the Via. From this two-days meeting we want to obtain an agreement protocol with the associations working on the path, in order to reach various purposes: to have an idea of the state of the art and the forces available, to put initiatives online and to promote what is done by this important area”.

EAVF’s President Massimo Tedeschi reminded that Tuscany Region is a representative of an example for the development of the Francigena at a European level. “It is a region that counts almost 50 million people and that decided to invest on the itinerary, in order to enhance the tourist offer of the region itself”.

It has also been underlined the European aspect of the path as a fundamental element: the Via Francigena is the cultural itinerary of the Council of Europe and it follows its principles and morals: respect, democracy, tolerance and peace. And it is precisely the Program of the Cultural Itineraries of the Council of Europe that celebrates in 2017 its 30-years anniversary and this year, at the end of September, the Tuscany town of Lucca will host the Forum oriented to the 32 European cultural itineraries.

The Via Francigena is the history of a successful institution. What makes a path an example of success? continued Tedeschi – When harmony develops between institutions and associations, that is to say between pilgrims, who represent the soul of the Via Francigena, and the institutions, who represent the whole community. To this it must be added the scientific research component and the private operators.

EAVF is nowadays at the service of institutions, associations and the crossed territories. In the last year it has been launched the official guide (that will also be available in English from next week), the vademecum of the path, the abacus of the signage, the agreement with Trenitalia. The challenge that opens up is to make this path always more international.

Monica Barni, vice president of the Region, talked about the UNESCO candidacy of the Via Francigena. An ambitious project, that wants to give value to all the work that has been done until today, by identifying that the Via Francigena is representative of growth, exchange and comparison factors between people that come from different countries. The morals of the Council of Europe are an important element around which this candidacy will develop.

Integrated and participated planning, to which we are often not used to. We need to develop a new system of governance that invites us to think about management and sustainability of our sites, in terms of social, cultural and economic development.

We sign an agreement protocol between the 7 Italian regions to promote a method of integrated analysis and planning, in harmony and coherence with the principles of the Council of Europe, for the UNESCO candidacy of the Via Francigena. It starts a path in close collaboration with the European Association of the Vie Francigene, to work on the segment to nominate, the priorities of intervention, the procedures of dialogue with the territories and of management.

At the end of the meeting, the assessor Ciuoffo presented the partition project of the territory of the Via Francigena in Tuscany in four homogeneous areas. The purpose is to hold the municipalities responsible on planning, maintenance and accommodation of the path, thinking with a collaborative spirit that invites the local administrations to work with bordering municipalities in a sustainability perspective. The Via Francigena in Tuscany is structured even better through a collaboration agreement between the four groups of the 39 municipalities (the leader municipalities, from South to North: Siena, Fucecchio, Lucca, Pontremoli).

Afternoon dedicated to the project now in the game on the Via Francigena and the paths in Tuscany region. Alberto Peruzzini, Toscana Promozione, coordinated the meeting.

From “The Via Francigena on foot, bicycle, horse” to the project “Google trekker Francigena Tuscany”, presented by Diego Ciulli. Francesca Basanieri (mayor of Cortona, representative of Tuscany ANCO Tourism) presented “Wi-fi and accessibility along the paths”, while Mons. Andrea Magliavacca participated in the field of the “accommodation on the paths”.

Then, the “economic reality around the path: opportunities of the territory” with the participation of Giovanni Morozzo (Slow Travel Fest), Massimo Cimadoro (Abbadia Isola Hostel, Monteriggioni), Simona Polli (Sigeric cooperative of Villafranca in Lunigiana) and Luigi Lazzerini (Walden Travels).

At the end of the meeting, preview showing of the docufilm “Tuscany on the Francigena: stories, mysteries, curiosities of a Major Via”.

The second day, instead, there have been meetings of discussion on the path: from the cycling ways of the year of the Borghi, to the specialised guides to narrate the paths, to regional itineraries.

Finally, it has been stipulated the important signature of the protocol between 7 Italian regions (Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia, Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio), in order to start the works bound to the candidacy of the Via Francigena to UNESCO World Heritage. A new challenge, a new opportunity of dialogue between institutions, associations and territories.

Luca Bruschi