Opening Conference for the 50th Anniversary of the European Cultural Convention
9-10 December 2004
Awards Ceremony for Five Cultural Routes
9 December 2004
“The Via Francigena” Route
Presentation by Mr Massimo TEDESCHI
Chair of the Association of Italian Municipalities of theVia Francigena
(To be checked against delivered speech)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My name is Massimo Tedeschi and I am the Chairman of the Italian association of municipalities located along the Via Francigena (according to Sigeric's itinerary). For 13 years (1991-2004) I was mayor of Fidenza, a small Italian village of 24 000 inhabitants located in the Parme province, in the Emilia-Romagna region, which is actually on the Via Francigena route. Since 27 October, I am a member of the Italian Parliament, in the Deputies Chamber.
This association, which has its seat in Fidenza, was founded in April 2001 by 30 municipalities and 4 provinces, belonging to 7 Italian regions (Valle d’Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardia, Emilia, Liguria, Toscana, Lazio), and has undergone constant growth ever since. It currently has 58 members.
The association's aim is to redevelop and promote the Via Francigena, an ancient pilgrims' way which was recognised as a European cultural route by the Council of Europe in 1994, and which has the great honour to be awarded today the certification of "Major Cultural Route of the Council of Europe". The Via Francigena, which runs from Canterbury to Rome, became a route beginning in the Middle Ages, followed not only by thousands of pilgrims seeking to atone for their sins in the capital of Christianity, but also by merchants, soldiers, royalty and people of every variety.
The Via Francigena thanks to the vast numbers of people using the route, criss-crossing four European countries, seeking various destinations, accordingly helped to unite the numerous cultures of Europe and to establish links between them.
In line with the values promoted by the Council of Europe, the association has set itself the objective of elaborating and developing a cultural tourism product which favours activities and locations connected with this route, while providing tangible benefits for the regions concerned.
In Italy interest in the Via Francigena has already been growing for some time, and this has led various local authorities to undertake further studies, research and projects. The large number of, albeit interesting, initiatives – composed of public entities (cities, city associations etc.) and private ones (associations, foundations etc.) – seeking to enhance the route's resources have been pursued in an isolated context, and it is now essential that synergies are created.
It is for that very reason that the coordination provided by the association of municipalities is politically active to make the Via Francigena a cultural route bringing together public and private initiatives (on the local, regional, national and European scales) by contributing to the emergence and the development of tangible opportunities for co-operation.
The association's efforts led a group of senators to bring a bill before the Italian Parliament on 3 February 2004 with the aim of safeguarding the Via Francigena and enhancing and promoting its cultural, environmental and tourism assets.
In its support and promotion role, vital to the development of the route, the association is aided by the Local Action Groups (LAGs) active in the regions concerned.
To make the results of the Via Francigena more broad-based, we have created links with a major Council of Europe cultural route, the one, in fact, which is responsible for the original impulse: the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim Routes. An additional example, I can note, within the framework of the European programme Leader+, the "Pilgrim Ways of Europe" which is carried out in collaboration with the Italian LAG Soprip and the Spanish LAG Portedemouros.
This project aims to enhance promotion and marketing efforts, including via the Internet, via a range of products (products typical of the areas concerned, handcrafted and cultural products), from the regional partners to the project.
To achieve this aim the LAGs have the task of extending the partnership to other regions either in its own country (Italy or Spain) or in other countries located on the routes concerned (Portugal, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland).
On 31 March 2003 in Paris, the association's European vocation led up to a “Declaration of Intent", carried out with the participation of the City of Canterbury (United Kingdom), the European Institute of Cultural Routes in Luxembourg and the European Cultural Centre of Saint Jean d’Angely (France). The overall objective is to set up an association of European municipalities located along the Via Francigena.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Council of Europe and the European Institute of Cultural Routes for their continual support in the Via Francigna's development, and I would like to assure them of our total cooperation in the future.