Meeting with

Historic villages and sustainable tourism


Rocca Calascio (AQ)

A national plan for Italy’s historic villages. The aim is to promote and manage Italy’s incredible heritage of ancient villages, which are hotbeds of history, art, culture and tradition. It’s all about developing and protecting this vast cultural legacy, which faces extinction unless efforts and investments are made to revitalise the socioeconomic fabric of these tiny towns by creating jobs and attracting new inhabitants.

“This is a unique opportunity to redevelop our rural villages and their hidden artistic treasures, and more importantly to transform a lost heritage into a legacy for everyone.”

Dario Franceschini, ex-Minister of Culture

Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) was published by the national government in order to illustrate to the European Commission how the country intends to invest the funds from the Next Generation EU programme. The plan has  three main pillars: digitisation and innovation, the ecological transition, and social inclusion. It also has six missions: digitisation, innovation, competitiveness, culture and tourism, the green revolution and the ecological transition, infrastructure for sustainable mobility, education and research, cohesion and inclusion, and health. The “Attrattività dei Borghi” component is specifically aimed at redeveloping small historic centres, thanks to total funding of over one billion euros, and is part of the first mission.

Tourism is the key to the vault, the lever for rebuilding economic and social growth in less-known areas, which may be off the beaten track, but are equally worthy of attention. Some corners of Italy aren't reached by the major motorways, logistics networks or 4.0 services - but that’s precisely why they hold such extraordinary wealth, set in unique, unspoilt surroundings. Boosting tourism to regenerate many small villages: redeveloping these small urban areas is a way to revitalise a sustainable form of tourism with the potential to unlock a new kind of cultural, historic, artistic and traditional legacy.


Rionero in Vulture (PZ)

Initially, the plan will involve projects to recover the historic assets and redevelop public spaces, for example by removing the architectural barriers and upgrading the urban environment, then providing the cultural amenities that will attract tourists. Incentives will then be provided for new cultural itineraries (this might include themed activities and historic attractions) as well as guided tours. Lastly, financial support will be provided to encourage cultural and creative activities, and to promote tourism, commerce, the agrifood industry and artisanal businesses in order to kick-start the village economies and promote locally-sourced produce, traditions and crafts.  The projects will see the inclusion of new amenities, infrastructure and services in the field of culture, tourism, social engagement and research. Possibilities include schools, academies teaching art or cultural trades,  “diffused hotels”, artists’ residences, research centres, university campuses and care homes, as potential venues for cultural programmes, as well as residences for work-from-home families and digital nomads..

The “Villages Plan” is also a landmark opportunity for the memorandum of understanding between ANCI, Borghi più belli d’Italia, Legambiente, Unione Nazionale Pro Loco d’Italia and the Italian Touring Club: a working group which has been working for many years to promote village tourism and culture. The working group has produced a “Village Charter”. It contains a series of plans and strategies which have been widely adopted by the governments of Italy’s regions and autonomous provinces to examine applications from local authorities and select pilot schemes for “Linea A”, the front line of the NRRP investments.


Gerace (RC)


Borgo Castello (GO)

The role of ANCI is not a simple one. We can give indications, help to circulate, interpret and simplify the information - but the decisions and the responsibility for validating the projects lie with the Ministry.
We offer support and expertise during the difficult, complex implementation of the first phase of the project.
Small municipalities lack resources and personnel, who often have to split their time between different districts. Often, the available funding is insufficient to cover the advance payments needed to launch the project. These are critically important issues.
The timing of the announcement and closure of the call for applications has drastically limited the possibility of accepting all the applications and fully understanding the requirements, conditions and steps to be followed, and the procedures are time-limited and binding”.

We asked Vincenzo Santoro what he sees as the driver behind this regeneration aimed at repopulating and revitalising Italy's small villages, and for his view on the conditions that will make the plan a success.


Pietrabbondante (IS)

Trentino-Alto Adige

Stelvio (BZ)

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N° 11


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