The European Association of the Via Francigena ways is always delighted with the research conducted along the Via Francigena by scholars and researchers. Asia Fossi, a recent graduate in Local Development from the University of Padova, is specialised in sustainable tourism, particularly in rural tourism and territorial development via cultural heritage recovery. Having worked on tourism promotion in a Portuguese development agency, she contributed to important projects focused on cultural routes as a driving force for territorial development. This experience led her to write her thesis on Cultural Routes as a form of sustainable tourism in rural areas, highlighting the case study of the Via Francigena as a best practice in the evolving panorama of European routes.
The analysis of cultural itineraries as a tool of development and valorization of rural territories is an increasing trend, justified by a growing awareness of sustainable practices of tourists and tourism operators and a need for a new kind of tourism, related to experience and uniqueness. In this framework, this thesis aims at investigating how the recovering of historical cultural itineraries, such as the Via Francigena, can foster the economic, social, and environmental development of rural marginal areas of Europe. In order to respond to this research question, the work examines the practical implementations of interventions and investments along the Via Francigena itinerary. The elaborate gives a particular focus to the work carried out by the Tuscany Region in Italy, and how these interventions are supported by the European Union policies within the framework of a place-based and community-led local development. Thanks to the analysis of statistical and qualitative data, the thesis outlines the growth in tourism flows and in the private sector related to tourism that rural areas have experienced since the development of the Via Francigena as a tourism product. It therefore identifies the work of the Tuscany Region as a best practice to be followed in order to create a form of sustainable development of tourism on the local territorial capital, on cooperation and network and on multilevel governance. In the perspective of a post-Covid19 tourism reality the thesis, also points out how this kind of tourism might be the most suitable for the restart and recovery of the sector relaunching a tourism model based on slowness, experiences, nature, and rurality.