Via Francigena

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The Via Francigena receives the European sustainability award

Only a few days after being granted the ‘Destinations of Sustainable Cultural Tourism 2023’ award by the European Cultural Tourism Network, the Via Francigena and the Horizon2020 project rurAllure have won another important international recognition: the Skål Europe Sustainable Tourism Award 2023.

The award ceremony, held in Malaga on 5 November on the occasion of 2023 Skål International World Congress, was attended by Martin Lopez Nores from the University of Vigo, rurAllure project coordinator.

The initiative, held in parallel at European and global level, awards best examples of sustainability in the international tourism scene. Participation is open to all public and private sector companies, educational institutions, NGOs and government agencies related to tourism in Europe.

Endorsed by Skål Roma, the EAVF nominated the rurAllure project in the category ‘Major Tourist Attractions’, presenting the network of more than 11,000 km formed by the pilgrimage routes united by the project as a mega-destination for sustainable tourism that transcends national borders, promoting European heritage and diversity as an opportunity for enrichment and cooperation.

The EAVF is a partner in the rurAllure project and manages its frontline communication through social channels and the website, as well as promoting the project at European level through collaborations with journalists, bloggers and international organisations. The EAVF is also responsible for researching and mapping heritage sites along the Via Francigena for the Ways to Rome pilot project.

The ‘Skål Europe Sustainable Tourism Awards’ are an initiative by Skål Europe – which is part of Skål International – an associative organisation of international importance recognised by the World Tourism Organisation. Since 1934 Skål has been bringing together more than 12,500 members from the world of tourism professions, promoting networking and cooperation. Projects must have a clear sustainability focus following the lines of the UN 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Paolo Bartolozzi, International Councillor for Skål in Italy, commented on the award underlining that “projects such as the Via Francigena and rurAllure are extremely significant for their ability to transmit a rich historical memory. This historical memory is linked to the role of the walking routes as a crossroads of peoples, cultures and ideas, which endures also in the present. Skål Awards aims at encouraging these projects to continue promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability. By ensuring the existence of tourist destinations that avoid environmentally negative processes and dilute the flow of tourists over long distances and different times of the year, pilgrimage routes premise a unique tourist experience.”

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The EAVF submitted its three-year Strategic Plan   

The Strategic Plan of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways (in three languages) is the result of a solid shared and participative work with municipalities, regions and associations of the four countries crossed by the European cultural route. It was a team effort that lasted six months, which took shape with its guidelines during the EAVF General Assembly in Calais on 26 May. In Pavia, during the autumn members’ assembly on 20 October, the design of the plan was presented.  

“Building on the positive experience of the 2020-22 strategic plan, our European Association has prepared the 2023-25 strategic plan, a very important three-year period because in this period we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the awarding of the ‘Cultural Route of the Council of Europe’ certificate to the Via Francigena (1994-2024) and in 2025 the Roman Jubilee will take place.  The 30th anniversary celebrations will allow us to reflect on the journey we have made and what lies ahead. In these thirty years, the world has changed a great deal and a route such as Via Francigena responds well to the signs of change: it is sustainable, responsible, it networks people and local communities, generates economy, enhances cultural heritage“, said President Massimo Tedeschi in the incipit of the strategic document. 

The plan focuses on five macro-areas that are translated into activities on the territory: a route that involves no less than 715 municipalities for a length of 3,200 km:  

1) Monitoring of the official route and cooperation with territorial stakeholders  

2) Governance and strengthening of the common identity  

3) Communication, organisation and animation of events  

4) Monitoring pilgrim and cultural tourist flows  

5) Research, culture and sustainability.  

Communication and promotion have been outlined with a specific Media Kit that illustrates the opportunities linked to the enhancement of the itinerary, which is increasingly visited by an international public.   

Download the Strategic Plan at the following link.

The media kit is available here.

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EAVF at TTG 2023 in Rimini 

Our Association attended the last edition of TTG Experience, one of the most important B2B events in the tourism sector at a European level. From 11 to 13 October, the event – now in its 60th edition – welcomed hundreds of hospitality-related exhibitors, as well as stakeholders, tourists and workers. EAVF’s staff attended the ‘Le Vie verso Roma’ (Ways to Rome) stand together with the Romea Strata and Romea Germanica teams, to present the interactive platform developed by the three-year European project rurAllure, dedicated to the major cultural points of interest located along the main European routes.   

The App enriches the pilgrim’s experience by displaying locations of historical, artistic, ethnographic and architectural interest, as well as identifying activities and initiatives along the route, for an authentic immersion in the local territory. The TTG fair was an important opportunity to meet the association’s partners, both those who are already consolidated and those with whom actions are in progress to enhance the promotion of the itinerary in all its richness and variety.  

Every year TTG also becomes the setting for meetings and debates dedicated to planning the future of tourism and hospitality. More than 200 events were scheduled in this year’s programme, and on the 12th it welcomed the rurAllure round table on slow tourism and pilgrimage experiences, organised by the Rimini Campus of CAST-Centro Studi Avanzati sul Turismo of the University of Bologna, with the patronage of the Associazione Geografi Italiani AGeI. The round table was organised in two different sessions. In the first part, it brought together representatives from the Italian regions of Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy, Apulia and Friuli Venezia Giulia, to share study cases related to the development of cultural tourism along pilgrimage routes, under the leadership of Alessia Mariotti, President of the Rimini Campus Council. In the second part, an international panel moderated by the coordinator of the rurAllure project Martin Nores Lopez, presented the opportunities linked to the tangible and intangible heritage of the paths as a fundamental asset of the development of slow and sustainable tourism. Both discussions highlighted how the involvement of local communities and dialogue with public institutions and private entities are of key importance for the promotion of a form of slow tourism increasingly open to new targets, with different demands and needs.  

In this context, the Via Francigena is in the front line for the valorisation of small villages excluded from the traditional tourist circuits, thus offering important opportunities to municipalities and territories located along the 3,200 km that build the itinerary, as was also emphasised during the meeting “La Francigena verso il Giubileo 2025” organised by the Lazio Region during the Rimini fair. 

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The first prize of Destination of Sustainable Cultural Tourism 2023 for digitalisation   

An important recognition for the work of our Association comes from the European Cultural Tourism Network ECTN, which annually awards best tourism initiatives for their exceptional contribution to sustainability, culture and socio-economic development.   

Organized by the ECTN, in collaboration with Europa Nostra, the European Travel Commission and NECSTouR, the Destinations of Sustainable Cultural Tourism 2023 award was announced on 19 October 2023 in Pafos, on the island of Cyprus.  

Among the various categories presented at the tenth edition of the award, first place dedicated to digitalisation and digital transition in sustainable cultural tourism was awarded to rurallure.eu, the three-year European Horizon2020 project in which our Association is a full partner.    

The EAVF manages rurAllure communication on the front line through social media channels and the website, as well as promoting it on the international level thanks to the collaborations with journalists, bloggers and international organisations.   

The EAVF is also in charge of the research and mapping of the heritage sites along the Via Francigena for the Ways to Rome pilot project together with the Via Romea Germanica and the Romea Strata.  

The award given to rurAllure highlights the importance of mapping of the cultural and natural heritage and its digitalisation, thus allowing pilgrims to consult the main points of interest along the route in a user-friendly way before starting their journey. The project has also developed the technological platform and the dedicated mobile app – tools that allow anyone to build personalized travel itineraries, planning the route based on their interests to learn more about the surrounding heritage. The App also offers local authorities a space to share their services aimed at an audience of pilgrims and thus contributes to the development of pilgrimage routes.  

In 2019 the AEVF won this award in the category “Transnational walking routes” for the promotion of the cultural route of the Via Francigena and in 2020 – for the development of the Via Francigena in the South from Rome to Santa Maria di Leuca. 

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Funds for the development of the Italian religious routes 

The Ministry of Tourism published a notice for the development of the Italian religious routes tourism offer. The release of this important notice was announced by Italian Minister of Tourism Daniela Santanchè at the “Conference on walking and sustainable tourism” in Pavia, in Lombardy on 19 October, an event organised by the municipality in collaboration with the European Association of the Via Francigena ways.  

The Via Francigena and the Italian walking routes network have been reaffirmed as a significant axis for the development of slow tourism.  

An overall budget of 4,320,000 euro is available for projects aiming at: 

– the enhancement of public properties along religious routes;  

– improving the usability of paths;  

– tourist promotion of the routes themselves.  

The notice addresses public local administrations as well as associations, foundations and civilly recognised ecclesiastical bodies that meet the explicit requirements of the notice.  

Applications can be submitted from 26 October to 13 November 2023.  

More information and the notice itself are available in Italian at this link.

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Waiting for “I Love Francigena 2024”, a year of free excursions thanks to Coop Italia

2023 was a year full of walks and hikes along the Via Francigena, here all its steps, thanks to the collaboration with Coop, which promoted a new edition of ‘I Love Francigena‘; 16 free hikes, two of which by bicycle, from spring to 1 October in seven Italian regions – Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Tuscany, Lazio and Apulia – under the banner of well-being and sustainability.

Hundreds of pilgrims and walkers participated in the excursions, organised by EAVF with the support of Francigena Service S.r.l., accompanied by professional guides and the Association’s staff. Let’s relive this beautiful journey together!

A spring full of surprises along the way with Coop

On this trip that began in mid-April, we started out on the Ligurian section of the route from Castelnuovo Magra to Sarzana, where we were able to admire the ancient fortifications and a beautiful landscape with glimpses of the sea. On the same weekend, the Tuscan hills provided the backdrop for another adventure between Torrenieri and Bagno Vignoni, discovering monuments, spas and local products. The next event could not be missed, namely the walk between the spa town of Salsomaggiore Terme and Fidenza, in Emilia-Romagna. On the same weekend, walkers also participated in the hike from Costamezzana to Medesano. In May, the first heat was felt in the south, so why not take advantage of it? The walk between Polignano a Mare and Monopoli came at just the right time! In addition to the two ancient villages, the stretch was a succession of marvels including sea views, fishing villages and nature sites. Remaining in Apulian territory, Coop accompanied us on the leg from Montalbano to the Sanctuary of Madonna Pozzo Guacito, amidst dolmens, farms and olive groves.

pellegrini e villa 𝐝𝐚-𝐆𝐚𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐨-𝐚-𝐂𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐞𝐜𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐨
The arrival of summer on the ‘I Love Francigena’ route

Those who took part in the bicycle ride in Lucca in mid-June treated themselves to a lovely tour between the Serchio river park and the city centre, crossing Ponte San Pietro. At the same time, heading northwards, the first Piedmontese destination of ‘I Love Francigena’ took participants through vineyards, along the road from Palazzo Canavese to Lake Viverone, where they could admire the ancient and peculiar Romanesque church ‘il Gesiun’. The following weekend we returned to Emilia-Romagna with Coop, with two highly anticipated excursions: a walk between Cassio and Berceto, with visits to the two villages and Castellonchio along the way, and a stage that touched on the second highest point of the Via Francigena, Mount Valoria, and then continued through the woods from Berceto to the Cisa Pass, where the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia solemnly resides.

pellegrini-in-cammino_coop-2023

In September, the return from holidays was less traumatic thanks to a beautiful excursion supported by Coop between Collecchio and Gaiano, to enjoy the beauty of the Boschi di Carrega Park and the hills of Val di Taro.

Coop’s walks concluded with the hike from Villanova d’Ardenghi to Pavia in early October: a great way to celebrate the arrival of autumn along stage number 13 of the Via Francigena, following the Ticino river, whose park stretches for some 65 kilometres and offers vegetation unique to Lomellina, including varieties of hazelnut and hornbeam. During the walk, there was no lack of curious anecdotes thanks to our knowledgeable guides, such as the story of Carbonara al Ticino, a municipality in Lomellina whose name has a dual origin. It could derive from the Latin word ‘carbonar’, i.e. the ditches dug in the ground to collect water that flowed in from other lands, or from Sylva Carbonaria, the forest where the Carbonari, local inhabitants used to set fire to the forest along the Ticino to obtain charcoal.

segnaletica-vif__coop-2023

 “I Love Francigena” is an experience that gave participants moments of sharing and discovering places and local products that characterise the different territories crossed by the Francigena.

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Pavia, a crossroads for pilgrimage routes, hosted the EAVF General Assembly 

8 new members joined the network, reaching a total of 239. The Via Francigena is in the spotlight as the 30th anniversary celebrations of the European certification are coming up.  

The gorgeous Aula Magna of the Ghislieri College in Pavia hosted the autumn session of the General Assembly of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways on 20 October. An extensive number of members and ‘friend associations’ from the four countries crossed by the path (Italy, Switzerland, France, England) participated, demonstrating the importance of such associative moments that make space for dialogue, discussion, participation. The Assembly also welcomed 8 new members (thus reaching a total of 239 municipalities, provinces and regions), and a new friend association (93 in total).  

The new members that we are welcoming are the municipalities of Blessy (Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France) and Auchy-au-Bois (Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France), the Communauté des Monts de Gy (Haute-Saône, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), the municipalities of Corteolona and Genzone (Pavia, Lombardy), Busseto (Parma, Emilia-Romagna), Foggia (Apulia) and the Province of Foggia (Apulia). Finally, we welcomed the association San Giovanni Rotondo Francigena APS (Foggia, Apulia) in the network. The EAVF network thus strengthens its international outreach. Among the items on the agenda were the expected activities and projects for the 30th anniversary of the certification of the Via Francigena as a “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” (1994-2024). An important opportunity to reflect on the past and future of the Via Francigena.

During the assembly, a preview of the logo specially created for this anniversary was presented. “In these 30 years the world has been radically transformed, but the Via Francigena responds well to the signs of change: it is sustainable, it networks people and local communities, it enhances cultural heritage, it generates economy. The celebration of the 30th anniversary aimsto represent the many facets that make the VF a perfect synthesis of many souls combining to build one great cultural, social and sustainable tourism project: a great project of peace“, said President Massimo Tedeschi in his introductory message.

On Saturday morning, 21 October, a walk along the Via Francigena took place, together with members and friends, along a stretch of the route crossing the area of Pavia all the way to the marvellous Covered Bridge which hosted the local event “Storie di Vino” (‘Stories of Wine’).   

A journey to discover the flavours of this territory. The next EAVF assembly is scheduled in Vevey (Canton Vaud, Switzerland) on Lake Geneva on 26 April 2024. 

Click here to view photos of the General Assembly in Pavia.

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Winning shots of the “Share your route 2023” photo contest by rurAllure 

After four months, the 2nd edition of the “Share your route” photo contest officially closed on 30 September 2023, with the participation of pilgrims, walkers and tourists from all over the world, sharing their slow adventures.  

The initiative, organized by the European project rurAllure, collected over 4,000 photos and videos; with over 1,700 of them from the Via Francigena. 

A great recognition for the route by those who travel it on foot or by bicycle every year: congratulations to all participants! 

Below are the names of the winners of the photo contest for the Via Francigena, who can request their prize by sending an email to contact@rurallure.eu

Congratulations to

Consult all the winners at this link

Given the large number of photos received, the jury decided to award a special title of the Via Francigena Ambassador to those pilgrims who shared over 10 posts with us:

Special thanks to our partners, among them Garmont®, Ferrino and Cicerone Press for the beautiful gifts. 

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Via Francigena at the Forum on Cultural Routes in Łódź, Poland  

On 20 – 23 September the EAVF participated in the Annual Advisory Forum on Cultural Routes, organised by the Council of Europe in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. 

This event conducted in Polish at Łódź served as a dynamic platform for cultural exchange and cooperation among various stakeholders in the realm of heritage and cultural routes, in particularly gathering over 250 participants – representatives of the 47 cultural routes, ministries and 40 members states, actors from the sector of tourism and culture and international organisations.  

The forum focused on the role of cultural heritage in the construction of a peaceful and democratic society explored the post-industrial heritage with a several study visits over Łódź, former center of textile industry.  

The Via Francigena, one of the oldest cultural routes certified in 1994, was featured in a panel discussion focused on creative industries with the presentation of the EAVF project manager Sami Tawfik, who showcased best practices of the association – the European project “rurAllure” and the ongoing photo contest “Share your Route 2023”. “rurAllure”, the Horizon 2020 project, is dedicated to digital mapping of heritage, research and cooperation between the routes, while the photo contest allows interaction with walkers and creates a dynamic visual collection of the route from the point of view of a pilgrim.  

On the last day of the event, Elena Dubinina, European projects manager, presented the upcoming Training Academy on Cultural Routes, which will be hosted on 4 – 7 June 2024 in the Italian city of Brindisi along the Via Francigena by the region of Apulia in cooperation with the EAVF. 

By participating in this forum, the Association reaffirmed its commitment to preserving and celebrating the rich cultural tapestry of Europe, making strides towards a more connected and culturally enriched continent.  

More information here.

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French Departments working on the Via Francigena 

On Thursday 28 September, the European Association of the Via Francigena ways took part in the working and consultation day on the Via Francigena with the French Departments that are crossed by the Via Francigena.  

Representatives from Haute-Saône, Haute-Marne, Doubs, Aube, Cabbalr and the FFR were present at the event. The meeting was organised by the Haute-Saône at the instigation of its president Yves Krattinger and took place in Champlitte, the municipality hosting the headquarters of the European Association of the Via Francigena ways in France since 2017. 

After initial greetings by Mayor Patrice Colinet and an introduction by President Krattinger, who opened the proceedings, speakers included Martine Gautheron, EAVF Vice-president, Jacques Chevin, EAVF manager for the development of the VF in France, Didier Depauw and Christophe Bolot, respectively Councillor and Director of the Communauté d’Agglomération Béthune-Bruay, Artois-Lys Romane, and finally Jean-Jacques Sombsthay, Vice-president of the Haute-Saône.  

The French departments, on the initiative of the Haute-Saône department and in cooperation with EAVF, have started to work on the structure of a permanent ‘Route Committee’ (following the example of the ‘Voie Bleue’ cycle route) aimed at coordinating activities to develop and animate the route from Calais to Jougne. Among the objectives are also those of improving hospitality for pilgrims, producing the new FFR guidebook, reinforcing signposting and maintenance, investing in the promotion of the Route in view of 2024 which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the European certification of the Via Francigena. Without forgetting the UNESCO heritage and candidacy.  

During the meeting, Director Luca Bruschi and European Projects Manager Elena Dubinina also intervened for EAVF.