Via Francigena

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1994-2024: 30 Years of the Via Francigena, Cultural Route of the Council of Europe
In 2024, the Via Francigena marks a significant milestone: it’s the 30th anniversary of its certification as a Cultural Route of the Council of Europe.

The Cultural Routes Program was initiated by the Council of Europe in 1987, aiming to demonstrate, through a journey across space and time, how the cultural heritage and traditions of different European states contribute to a shared cultural legacy. The dossier for the Via Francigena was presented by the then Department of Tourism of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Italian Ministry of Tourism, in coordination with the coordinating committee led by the Emilia-Romagna region. The final decision by the Council of Europe was made in April 1994.

The introductory part of the dossier recalls that “this work aims to be a technical-scientific contribution for further investigations on themes related to the Francigena route. It should be seen as a working tool for public administrations and interested economic operators who, from now until 2000, will have to undertake actions for environmental, cultural, and touristic enhancement necessary for the preparation of a competitive offer at the European level.”

INITIAL INSTITUTIONAL INITIATIVES

The celebrations of the 30th anniversary kick off on March 1st in London, with a symbolic meeting at the British Library, which houses the ancient “Diary of Sigerico”: the manuscript from 990 A.D. served as the historical basis for reconstructing the contemporary route of the Via Francigena. The European Association of the Via Francigena ways (EAVF) participates in this event along with the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Rome and the city of Canterbury.

The European Association of the Via Francigena ways is preparing to celebrate this significant event with two General Assemblies scheduled for April 26th in Vevey (Canton of Vaud, Switzerland) and October 18th in Monte Sant’Angelo, Puglia. Alongside the Assembly, there will be study visits, walks, exhibitions, cultural events, conferences, and many social gatherings. Significant celebratory moments are planned for the Vevey event, including the inauguration of an exhibition on the Via Francigena with panels displayed in the “Place du Marché” and an official “declaration” to reaffirm the cultural values ​​associated with the Via Francigena route.

In addition to the two EAVF assemblies, there’s the “Training Academy” on cultural routes scheduled for June 4th to 7th in Brindisi. The event, supported by the Puglia region with the contribution of the municipality of Brindisi and in collaboration with the “Association Brindisi and the Ancient Roads,” will host managers from 48 European routes and will focus significantly on the Via Francigena. EAVF is the organizing body.

CULTURE AND TOURISM

2024 also marks the relaunch of the UNESCO World Heritage candidacy dossier, led by the Tuscany region with financial support from the Italian Ministry of Culture.

On April 13th in Fidenza, during the Francigena Fidenza Festival (April 11-14), a scientific conference organized by EAVF with the support of the municipality and the collaboration of the University of Parma is planned to celebrate the 30 years of the cultural itinerary, with the presence of experts in history, tourism, geography, landscape, and anthropology.

The new website and app, in four languages, funded by the Italian Ministry of Tourism with the Lazio region as the lead, will go online by the end of the year. The project also includes an 18-month international promotion campaign for the Via Francigena. This communication and marketing activity will have implications for the entire European route of the Via Francigena.

The website, a true catalyst for all initiatives on the Via Francigena, introduces an important new feature in April: the launch of the new section dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary. A timeline that retraces the Francigena history of this period is planned, along with a collection of thoughts and reflections from authoritative “ambassadors” of the Via Francigena and testimonials from pilgrims. This material will help preserve the identity and history of the Via Francigena: “History is memory,” as reminded by the medievalist Jacques Le Goff, a great supporter of the Via Francigena, which he called “a path of cultures.”

The “Via Francigena” magazine’s June and December 2024 issues will also feature in-depth analyses and reflections on the last thirty years of history.

WALKS, ANIMATION, AND PROMOTION

There’s significant attention to animation in the territory with multiple initiatives and organized walks by EAVF in collaboration with project partners and local associations in the four countries traversed. We’ll also walk thanks to the new European ERASMUS Sport project “Hike,” starting in April. The areas identified for activities are in Italy, Greece, and Turkey.

EAVF is also participating in the significant relay “La Grande Randonnée vers Paris” organized by the FFRandonnée – French Hiking Federation, in anticipation of the Paris Olympics. Among the 10,000 km of planned walking throughout France, from March 31st to April 14th, the association will be present on the Via Francigena-GR145 trail in the territories of Doubs, Haute-Saône, Haute-Marne, Aube.

Promotion is also emphasized, with participation in important Fairs: “Salon Destination Marne” on March 16-17 in Châlons-en-Champagne; “Fa’ la cosa Giusta!” on March 22-24; “Festival Grandes Heures Nature” in Besançon on June 14-16.

2024 will certainly be an important year for the Via Francigena. We are ready to celebrate it, honor it, walk it, and bring it back to life to celebrate this anniversary to the fullest!

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