The city of Viterbo (Lazio) wonderfully welcomed the international representatives of the European Association of Via Francigena Ways (EAVF) who held the General Assembly within a rich cultural programme.
Two intense days on the Via Francigena took place in Viterbo with great participation by institutional delegates, associations and universities of EAVF’s network. The EAVF General Assembly met again in presence after the event in Canterbury last 27 April: the Mayor of Canterbury (UK), Ben Fitter-Harding, was in the front row at the meeting in Viterbo, confirming the important role of ‘cultural bridge’ that the Via Francigena represents by uniting the four countries involved.
Also from northern Europe, representatives of the Bethune Agglomeration (Hauts-de-France, FR) were present, while from the opposite geographical pole, i.e. the Apulian section in southern Italy, there were representatives of the Puglia Region (Bari) and the Brindisi e le Antiche Strade Association (Brindisi). A long route of 3,200 km through England, France, Switzerland and Italy, which in Viterbo brought together people from all over the European axis of the Via Francigena.
The significant participation in the General Assembly of six vice-presidents is worth mentioning: Tricia Marshall (Municipality of Canterbury, UK), Gaëtan Tornay (Pays du Saint-Bernard, Orsières, CH), Francesco Ferrari (Municipality of Orio Litta, IT), Francesco Gazzetti (Region of Tuscany, IT), Silvio Marino (Region of Lazio, IT) and Aldo Patruno (Region of Puglia, IT).
The Assembly, led by President Massimo Tedeschi, began with greetings from the Mayor of the City of Viterbo Chiara Frontini.
Here are the main points on the agenda of the meeting:
- brainstorming on the new strategic plan 2023-2025 of the European Association of Via Francigena Ways, a document which will be created in a participatory way and shared with all members, institutions and associations;
- progress of the candidature as UNESCO World Heritage;
- main animation activities carried out in these ten months of 2022 along the entire route;
- the European Heritage Atlas project along the VF;
- the project to promote and develop the accessibility of the Via Francigena in Lazio, supported by the Lazio Region and implemented by EAVF in collaboration with local associations.
During the conversations between members, special attention was paid to the specifics of the route and to accommodation, with reference to the important topic of universal accessibility of the itinerary.
In this context, new members were welcomed, spanning from north to south: Municipalities of Amettes (Pas de Calais, Hautes-de-France, FR), Dampierre-sur-Salon (Haute-Saone, Burgundy-Franche-Comté, FR), Union of Communes Grand Pontarlier (Doubs, Burgundy-Franche-Comté, FR), Clées (Vaud, CH), Aigle (Vaud, CH), Massongex (Valais, CH), Sembrancher (Valais, CH), Fiorano Canavese (Turin, Piedmont, IT), Lessolo (Turin, Piedmont, IT), Castelforte (Latina, Lazio, IT). The total number of EAVF members increased to 216. Three new ‘friend’ associations also joined: Associazione Costiera di Calafuria APS (Livorno, Tuscany, IT), Sezione Club Alpino Italiano di Viterbo (Viterbo, Lazio, IT), Associazione Via Francigena in Tuscia.
Aside the Assembly, numerous cultural events were organised by Viterbo’s municipal administration:
- the inauguration of the Pilgrim’s Monument (with the signatures of hundreds of pilgrims from all over the world)
- the guided tour of the historic centre, the visit of the underground Viterbo and the Museum of the Knights Templar, and the visit to the botanical garden. In Piazza del Plebiscito, there was a performance by the flag-wavers and musicians of the Centro Storico committee.
Finally, the ‘I Love Francigena thermal by rurAllure‘ walk was organised on Saturday 15 October. A 6-km walk to discover the local section of the route, highlighting the thermal and cultural heritage that characterises Viterbo. The event, which was attended by 30 people, was realised as part of the European ‘rurAllure‘ project (Horizon 2020 programme) involving EAVF.
The next meeting of EAVF’s members is the General Assembly in Calais (Hauts-de-France, FR) in spring 2023.