The "Via Francigena Cultural Route of the Council of Europe", as a very successful resource for sustainable cultural tourism development in Lazio Region, Italy.
"Via Francigena" (VF) is a "Cultural Route of the Council of Europe", certified in 1994. In 990 AD, Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, travelled to Rome to meet Pope John XV and receive the investiture pallium. Along the way, he recorded the 79 stages of the journey in his diary. Thanks to this document, it has been possible to reconstitute the then shortest route between Canterbury and Rome, which can now be followed by all travellers. The ancient route that in medieval times connected Canterbury to Rome has been discovered by modern wayfarers, who set off on a surprising and enchanting route. Since 2001 the European association of vie Francigene coordinates the development and promotion of an itinerary that runs across Italy and Europe, retracing the history of our continent.
When travelling on the Via Francigena Cultural Route (CR), we realise that the pilgrim way has influenced the fabric of the villages. The route often runs along the main street and is bordered by the most important churches and the most beautiful buildings. Archaeological sites and religious buildings abound on the Via Francigena and, most importantly, many of the masterpieces of Romanesque architecture stand beside the route, which goes to show its importance for religious and artistic development in medieval times.
The official end of the VF CR is at the Vatican in Rome. Lazio Region Agenzia de Turismo has promoted the VF CR, attracting pilgrims along the route towards Rome, thus creating jobs.
Membership of Lazio Region in the European Association of Via Francigena (EAVF): Lazio Region is an active member of EAVF, undertaking marketing of the VF CR in international tourism fairs.
Municipalities along the VF CR are also members of EAVF providing specific services within their territory.
Evidence of success
Travellers can rediscover this 1800 km journey through England, France, Switzerland and Italy along the paths followed by the pilgrims, en route to Rome. This route is a way of rediscovering the land, the history and the people at the slow pace, allowing contemplation, of those who travel on foot. A rhythm that gives the modern pilgrim a better understanding of the landscape, of history and of the nations of the past and present.
Lazio Region has succeeded in the tourism marketing of VF CR.
Some parts of the VF CR need maintenance and repairs, on a regular basis and following adverse weather conditions.
Signposting (brown signs) of the route is needed and to be maintained properly over time.
Changed in political control of some Municipality has changed the policy towards the CR.
Potential for learning or transfer
The active role of Lazio Region Agenzia de Turismo (AdT) in the marketing of VFCR provides a very good paradigm of a destination authority working with a CR of the Council of Europe (CoE), for growth and jobs. The active participation of Lazio Region AdT in marketing the CR, including at international tourism exhibitions such as World Travel Market (WTM) in London and ITB in Berlin, has demonstrated that visitors and pilgrims can be attracted to a CR of CoE. The local authorities along the route also provide local services on accommodation and catering of CR users, with associated employment generation and local economic development. In some cases villages and small towns have had their economies redeveloped thanks to the VF CR visitors and pilgrims.
The close relationship that goes beyond the mere membership of the a CR of CoE, as in the case of Lazio Region and its stakeholders Municipalities/NGOs, forms an excellent practice for potential transfer to other EU destination regions.