Alessio Innocenti Indipendent researcher,
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The relationship between culture and tourism has become a key element in every discussion related to the future of tourism. Cultural Tourism is perceived as a form of “good” and sustainable tourism, and its growth is recognised by experts and scholars. “Cultural Routes” of the Council of Europe are an example of cultural tourism developed in a sustainable form, but how can archaeologists be involved in this context? The aim of this paper is to analyse cultural tourism trends, underline the potentiality of Cultural Route program and describe the touristic demand related to Cultural Routes. Then, it will be illustrated the role of Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT) in the Cultural Routes context. Finally, it will be explained which role archaeology can play in the cultural routes field, and how archaeologists’ skills can be useful for the development of these projects.

Innocenti, A. 2018. Archaeology and Cultural Routes: a relationship to developArcheostorie. Journal of Public Archaeology. 2: pp. 75-88.

CC BY 4.0 © The author(s). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


During the last years, the relationship between culture and tourism has become a key element in every discussion related to the future of tourism. At present, it seems impossible to talk about sustainable tourism without thinking at the role of culture. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) underlines “culture has been increasingly employed as an aspect of the tourism product and destination imaging strategies, and tourism has been integrated into cultural development strategies as a means of supporting cultural heritage and cultural production” (OECD 2009, p. 20). Designating 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, the United Nations 70th General Assembly has confirmed this trend: tourism must have a primary role in the field of cultural values, diversity and heritage (UNWTO 2016). In the ‘UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme’ too the role of culture is central, with a focus area on the “Heritage Journeys” (UNESCO 2012); it conducted UNESCO to present the “World Heritage Journeys of Europe” project, whose aim is to integrate UNESCO recognized outstanding cultural heritage into a consumer-friendly platform and series of thematic routes, for sustainable tourism development across Europe (UNESCO 2016).

In this context, archaeology must play a key role: we could assert that every touristic plan involving cultural heritage should consider the role of the archaeologists. In fact, if we accept a recent proposal of typology for public archaeology (Moshenska 2017), we can understand that many cultural tourism projects, overall the ones related to cultural routes based on historical paths, could be considered as an archaeological work conducted by professionals, which includes forms of participation of local communities. Furthermore, cultural routes are able to present archaeological and other heritage resources to a wider public, helping us to improve the capacity of every archaeologist to deal with the public, but they also increase the responsibilities of the archaeologists towards the use of cultural heritage (Comer 2014; Gould 2017b; Grima 2016; Timothy & Boyd 2014).

The role of archaeology in this kind of touristic projects is becoming more and more important, because archaeologists are encouraged to contribute to development agendas and are involved in projects featuring local economic benefits, even if such projects usually require skills and perspectives which go outside archaeologists’ traditional education (Burtenshaw & Palmer 2014). At the same time, archaeologists must be able to offer their specific skills and knowledge to the tourism professionals, in order to promote innovative forms of sustainable tourism.

The aim of this paper is to suggest how archaeologists can give their contribution to the creation and development of Cultural Routes, which are complex cultural and touristic products, but are also useful tools for a sustainable economic development. Particular attention will be given to the “Cultural Routes” project, launched by the Council of Europe in 1987, and which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.

Cultural Routes are specific touristic products, which link individual sites together to promote a common heritage theme, and they can be different for their scale and for the aspects of the cultural heritage they are focused on (Timothy 2017). They have an important economic potential, because they bring income to the destinations and provide jobs for the local (Timothy & Boyd 2014), but always promoting sustainable form of tourism and development (COE 2011; Mansfeld 2015).

But first of all, as we have mentioned the relationship between culture and tourism, and Cultural Routes are part of cultural tourism context, we will try to understand what cultural tourism is and why is becoming increasingly important. Then, we will briefly see the situation of cultural routes in Italy, since they are included in the Italian Strategic Plan for Tourism (MiBACT 2016). In the end, we will analyse the role of archaeology in the cultural routes field.

Cultural Tourism: definitions and trends

It is a common idea that tourism connected to culture and heritage is a ‘good’ tourism, more sustainable and qualitative than the mass one; cultural tourism contributes a great deal to the economy and support of culture, attracts high spending visitors and does little damage to the environment or local culture (Richards 2003). For instance, a survey carried out in the city of Lucca about the ‘Via Francigena’ showed that 97.3% of local residents believe that the route had a positive environmental impact on the territory (Lemmi & Tangheroni 2015).

But there are also less optimistic views of this phenomenon: tourism can have negative impacts on the cultural heritage, such as a physical impact (damaging of monuments), an environmental one (increasing of pollution and waste), even a cultural one (commercialisation of culture, loss of cultural identity) (Coccosis 2009; Comer 2014). It means that cultural tourism is not a good tourism itself, but it must be always developed in a sustainable form, to avoid the negative impacts cited above and to guard against the falsification and degradation of culture and heritage, in the way they are promoted to tourists (UNWTO 2005). Sustainability, tourism and culture are three concepts that cannot be divided. So, what does it mean ‘cultural tourism’? Is it possible to develop it in a sustainable form?

Defining cultural tourism is not an easy task, because of the complex meaning of the term ‘culture’ itself (Richards 2003). The UNWTO gives two different definitions: according to the so-called ‘narrow’ one, “Cultural tourism includes movements of persons for essentially cultural motivations such as study tours, performing arts and other cultural tours, travel to festivals and other cultural events, visit to sites and monuments, travel to study nature, folklore or art or pilgrimages” (Richards 2003, p. 7).

ICOMOS defines it as “that form of tourism that focuses on the culture, and cultural environments including landscapes of the destination, the values and lifestyles, heritage, visual and performing arts, industries, traditions and leisure pursuits of the local population or host community” (ICOMOS 1999, p. 22). ATLAS describes it as “the movement of persons to cultural attractions away from their normal place of residence, with the intention to gather new information and experiences to satisfy their cultural needs” (ATLAS 2005; Richards 2003, p. 6). So, it is possible to say that for cultural tourists the consumption of culture is one of the most important aspects of tourism activity. Furthermore, cultural tourism includes experiencing local culture, traditions and lifestyle, participation in arts-related activities, and visits to museums, monuments and heritage sites.

Because of the complexity of its definition, it also difficult to measure and evaluate cultural tourism. If we consider the proportion of international tourists undertaking some kind of cultural activity, the proportion of international trips accounted for by cultural tourists was 40% in 2004, according to UNWTO (Richards 2014; UNWTO 2004). Applying the same methodology, in 2013 there should have been over 430 million cultural trips out of the total flow of 1087 million international tourist trips (Richards 2014; UNWTO 2014). Another interesting figure is that during the global crisis of 2008, tourism in the European Art Cities decreased only of 5%, while tourism in holyday resorts decreased of 20% (Bonetti, Simoni & Cercola 2014).

The growth of cultural tourism is due to the investments that many countries have made in this field, because of its more qualitative perception, and because of the positive benefits it can produce. But the touristic demand is changed too, with more highly educated tourists who are interested in cultural holydays (Richards 2007; Richards 2014). Cultural tourists are also interested in what is called ‘creative tourism’: as it has been noticed for the cultural tourists who visit Art cities, they don’t want only to visit the city, they want to live and experience it, they want to be in contact with local people and live as they do and create their own touristic experience (Frey 2009).

It means that tourists are becoming more and more ‘temporary citizens’, and they are starting to make their mark on local culture (Richards 2011). Furthermore, OECD suggests that the relationship between the creative economy and tourism will become increasingly important, because the creative industries will help to develop the ‘content’ of cultural tourism (OECD 2014).

A sustainable form of Cultural Tourism: the “Cultural Routes” programme

If we sum up all the definitions and the trends that we have seen above, we can easily understand that ‘Cultural Routes’ of the Council of Europe can be the touristic product which suits perfectly the cultural tourists’ demand, as the same UNWTO recognised (UNWTO 2015). The programme started in 1987, and in 2010 13 members of the Council of Europe signed the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes, confirmed in 2013 by Resolution CM/Res(2013)66 (COE 2013a), together with the Resolution CM/Res(2013)67 (COE 2013b) revising the rules for the award of the “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” certification (Berti 2015a). At present, the certified Cultural Routes are 33, and they are very different from one another. But what is a ‘Cultural Route’?

According to the Council of Europe, it is a “cultural, educational heritage and tourism co-operation project aiming at the development and promotion of an itinerary or a series of itineraries based on a historic route, a cultural concept, figure or phenomenon with a transnational importance and significance for the understanding and respect of common European values” (COE 2013a).

Cultural Routes are complex cultural products, which can have an important economic impact on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMESs), as a study launched by European Commission and Council of Europe has proved: in fact, cultural routes encourage widespread community participation in cultural activities, raising awareness of a common cultural heritage, and they are also a source for innovation, creativity, small business generation (tourism SMEs), and cultural tourism products and services development (COE 2011). In 2010, European Commission too underlined the role of the cross-border routes in the field of tourism sector (European Commission 2010), while the positive impact of cultural routes on local economic development has been underlined in different cases, for instance the global impact of the Way of St. James in Spain and the Via Lauretana in the Marche region, in Italy, (Cerquetti et al. 2015) or the Via Francigena in Tuscany, even if only with estimating methods (Conti et al. 2015).

But one of the purpose of the Council of Europe is to promote sustainable development, through the promotion of community-based development projects, focusing on enhanced heritage management, and the creation of job opportunities related to cultural and touristic sector (Mansfeld 2015). Involving the local communities is a fundamental aspect of sustainable development: the aim is to maximise the benefit, while minimising the negative socio-cultural, economic, and environmental impact. Council of Europe suggests different levels of community engagement and centrality in a cultural route project from the planning to the operative phase (Figure 1).

Data suggest that local communities are interested in joining these cultural projects: for instance, the Hansa Route, started in 1980 with a small number of cities involved, includes today 185 towns and cities from 16 different countries, or the Via Francigena, that in 2001 counted on 34 municipalities and provincial administrations in seven different Italian regions, involves now more than one hundred towns, cities and regions from 4 different European countries.

An example of how a cultural route can help to develop less-know touristic destinations is the case of Monteriggioni, an Italian town along the Via Francigena, in the Tuscany Region. After years of investments to secure the safety of the route, as well as to enhance the promotion of tourism and hospitality, in 2015 about 29,000 extra tourists visited the province of Siena, while there were 167,000 more overnight stays (Senesi 2017). In Monteriggioni itself there was a +13.09% (55,319) increase in arrivals, with +18.15% (157,498) in presences, and there was an important increase in places where the accommodation is provided for pilgrims: 1300 pilgrims in 2013, compared to 3000 in 2014 and over 4000 in 2015 (Senesi 2017).

But who are the tourists attracted by Cultural Routes?

Figure 1. Change of levels of community engagement and centrality in Cultural Routes planning, development and operation (from Mansfeld 2015, p. 76, fig. 9).

Tourists and Cultural Routes

Let us analyse two of the most successful European Cultural Routes: the ‘Santiago De Compostela Pilgrim Routes’ and the ‘Via Francigena’ (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Number of travellers on the Santiago Route in the last two years. The figures are based on the number of ‘Compostelas’ delivered (data from Oficina del Pelegrino 2016).

Both the routes follow a historical path: Santiago de Compostela was the destination of the journey undertaken by several pilgrims from all over Europe during the Middle Ages to visit the tomb of St. James, and we know there were several different paths in France and Spain that the pilgrims could choose; Via Francigena was itself a route of pilgrimage during the medieval period, that started from Canterbury and crossed France, to reach one of the most important city of the Christian Europe: Rome (Oursel 2001; Birch 2000a; Webb 2002).

The French section of the Route of St. James was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1998, while the Spanish section was integrated in 2015.  Between the motivations of this decision, there is the importance of the cultural heritage sites included in the project: churches, hospitals, hostels, monasteries, bridges, and other structures, built during the Middle Ages to fill the needs of pilgrims (Grabow 2015; UNESCO 2015).

The Italian sector of the Via Francigena is candidate to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, and this route too connects many cultural heritage sites: cities, little towns, castles, churches and archaeological sites (Innocenti 2017; Ortenberg 1990).

Figure 3. Estimated travellers on Via Francigena in the last two years.

If we analyse the figures related to these routes, we can see that the 2016 was a record year for both the itineraries: 277,854 travellers walked the Santiago Route, with an increase of 5.8% compared to 2015 (Oficina del Peregrino 2016; Figure 3), while 30,000 travellers have been estimated for the Via Francigena, with an increase of 30% compared to 2015 (Dallari & Mariotti 2017; Figure 4).

Figure 4. The growth of travellers on the Santiago Route in the last ten years. The figures are based on the number of ‘Compostelas’ delivered (data from Oficina del Pelegrino 2016).

However, we must underline that numbers about the travellers are not easy to collect. The figures given from the Oficina del Peregrino of Santiago are based on the number of Compostelas: these are certificates issued by the Chapter of Santiago Cathedral, which certifies that a person has made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It is necessary to show an officially stamped document, and complete a minimum of 100 kilometres on foot, or 200 kilometres by bicycle to obtain it (Gusmán Correa et al. 2017). In the last ten years a total amount of 2,131,155 Compostelas have been delivered (Figure 5). For the Via Francigena, the number of travellers is estimated, but recently new methodologies have been used to collect data about tourists: for instance, in Tuscany the application of camera trapping, the same used in the faunal field, along the Francigena allowed to obtain several information about the number of tourists and their profile (Bambi & Iacobelli 2017). 

Figure 5. Travellers on Santiago Route in 2016: a) gender; b) means of transport c) age-classes (data from Oficina del Pelegrino 2016).

Who are the tourists who decide to walk along these historical routes? Reading the data collected by the Oficina del Pelegrino of Santiago in the 2016, we can see that the 51.84% of the travellers are men, 48.16% are women, and 91.42% of all of them went to Santiago on foot, 8.40 % by bicycle (Figure 6). More than a half of the walkers have a median age that ranges from 30 to 60 years (55.12%), 27.16% of them are under-thirties, while 17.72% are over-sixties.

Figure 6. Travellers on Santiago Route in 2016: motivation of the journey (data from Oficina del Pelegrino 2016).

One important element is the reason why the travellers made the journey: 47.74% of them did it for religious and cultural reasons, 44.26 % only for religious motives, 8% only for cultural reasons (Figure 7). One last figure is interesting: 55.29% of the walkers are not Spanish, and Italy is the most represented country, with 8.62% of Italian tourists.

Figure 7. Travellers on Via Francigena in 2014: a) gender; b) means of transport (data from TCI 2015).

In 2015, the Study Department of Touring Club of Italy and European Association of Vie Francigene carried out a survey about the tourist flows on the Via Francigena (TCI 2015). It shows that 65% of the tourists are men, 35% are women, and 75% of them walked the path, while 24% went by bike (Figure 8). The motivation of the journey was for most of them the cultural one (22%), followed by the desire of experimenting new forms of tourism (17%), and escaping the daily routine (13%) (Figure 7). A very interesting figure is the percentage of the ‘religious’ motivations: 10% of tourists made the journey for religious reasons, and only 4% for spiritual ones.

Figure 8. Travellers on Via Francigena in 2014: motivation of the journey (data from TCI 2015).

A more recent survey carried out along the Via Francigena in Tuscany gives us other useful data (Bambi & Iacobelli 2017): 15% of the tourists are under-thirties, 47,5% have a median age that ranges from 31 to 60 years, 23.3% are over-sixties, and more than a half of the walkers are Italians (60%). The motivations of the journey are: natural and environmental (26.09%), personal-spiritual research (20.76%), cultural (18.42%), religious (12%).

We can sum up all the data we have seen, trying to define the user’s profile of the tourists who travel along these historical routes. First of all, there is balance between genders, with men that prevail with 50-60%. Then, the tourists prefer to walk along the routes, even if in the case of the Via Francigena some of them prefer to go by bike (24%, while only 8.4% for Santiago). The medium age of most of the walkers covers a range from 30 to 60 years (55% Santiago, 47.5% Via Francigena), while there is a difference between the two routes for the other age classes: the under-thirties are 27.16% in the case of Santiago, 15% for Via Francigena; over-sixties are 17.72% for Santiago, 23.3% for Via Francigena. Santiago attracts international tourists, while at present on the Via Francigena most of the tourists are Italian. Furthermore, there is a tendency to travel in spring and summer months, even if there are some tourists during the autumn and winter months (Figure 9).

Figure 9. Seasonality of tourists on Santiago Route and Via Francigena in 2014. The peak is in August for both of them, but on Santiago Route tourists are better divided during the year.

But data about motivations are the most interesting: in fact, both the itineraries have an important religious meaning, because of their historical nature of route of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. If for the medieval pilgrim the religious motivation was the most important one (Birch 2000b; Oursel 2001), for the modern tourist it is not the main reason of the journey. The figures are clear: 44.26% of the tourists go to Santiago only for religious motivations, the others go there for religious and cultural reasons, and 8% of them only for the cultural ones. Via Francigena reflects the same trend: 10% of tourists made the journey for religious reasons, while 22% did it for cultural motivations. Data about the Tuscan sector of Via Francigena indicate that the natural and environmental motivations are important too (26%).

So, the travellers are strongly interested in the cultural and environmental aspects of the journey, and the decision of doing it on foot indicates that they are ready to try alternative forms of tourism, in this case linked to soft mobility and sustainable development.

Cultural Routes in Italy: the role of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT)

We have seen that Cultural Routes are complex cultural product, so the role of public institutions is necessary to permit their full development. As a case study, we can analyse the role of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism (MiBACT) in the field of sustainable tourism, especially in some Cultural Routes projects. In fact, according to the analysis of the Council of Europe Cultural Routes crossings, Italy is the third country in percentage (Khovanova‑Rubicondo 2015), and 5 routes have an Italian coordination: ‘Via Francigena’, ‘Iter Vitis’ related to the historical tradition of production of wine, ‘ATRIUM’ dedicated to the architecture of Europe’s totalitarian regimes of the XXth century, ‘The Phoenicians’ Route’ and the ‘European Route of Historic Thermal Towns’.

In 2016 MiBACT announced ‘The Year of the Paths’ (‘Anno dei Cammini‘), to promote cultural itineraries and slow tourism. This project is part of a more complex plan, the Strategic Plan for Tourism (PST). The PST contains the strategies for developing tourism in Italy until the 2022, and one of its main point is the importance of developing sustainable tourism, “not only in strictly environmental terms, but also with regard to economic development, soft mobility, economic and territorial sustainability, use of heritage” (MiBACT 2016, p. 46).

During the ‘The Year of the Paths’ a technical board on cultural itineraries (with specific attention to the ones with a walkable path) was established, and it was coordinated by the MiBACT office dedicated to tourism, the Directorate-General for Tourism (DG-Tourism). Local authorities, organisations and other stakeholders are members of the board, together with different MiBACT professionals (architects, experts in digital and slow tourism, archaeologists), in order to plan shared touristic strategies.

This technical board (‘Path Committee’) is an experimental form of management for touristic and cultural projects, and it is based on the cooperation between the central government and the governments of Italian regions. If we consider that Cultural Routes are transregional and transnational projects, we can understand the importance of this kind of organisation.

The central government is represented by the DG-Tourism, and its role is to coordinate the technical board. In fact, every decision must be approved by all the members of the table, especially the local authorities, because in Italy only the regions have the right to manage touristic strategies (Tubertini 2007). But this could be the opportunity for the members of the board to exchange ideas, proposals and methodologies, thanks to the different skills of the actors involved.

The first result of the work conducted by the technical board is the launch of a digital atlas of the cultural routes in Italy (Atlas of Paths through Italy), where are presented 39 cultural routes which respond to precise quality criteria, selected by the Path Committee.

This is the only the first step for the development and promotion of cultural routes in Italy. Considering only the projects related to cultural itineraries, the Italian government will invest 60 million euros in the next years to develop some important routes, like the ’Via Appia’, the ’Via Francigena’ and the routes referred to St. Francis and St. Benedict. Two other technical boards have been established for the Via Francigena and for the St. Francis and St. Benedict ways; these could be interesting experiments of governance, which can have a model in the Council of Saint James, the entity responsible of the Santiago de Compostela route management in Spain (Sánchez-Carretero 2013). It is a good model of cooperation, with the central government that cooperate with the regional ones, respecting the local autonomies (MECD 2017).

Furthermore, this year MiBACT, the Ministry of Infrastructures and Transport (MIT) and Agenzia del Demanio (the Italian Public Property Agency) promoted the project “Paths and Trials” (Cammini e Percorsi), in order to upgrade, renovate and reuse public buildings located along cycling/walking trails and historical-religious itineraries. 103 buildings are interested by the project, and the ‘public consultation’, that ended last June, registered a remarkable interest, with the participation of almost 25,000 applicants between Italians and foreigners. The TCI (2017) report sketches out some interesting figures: answering the question about the activities to do on a cultural itinerary, most of the Italian applicants chose ‘visit places of natural interest’  (13,075), ‘tasting of typical local products’ (12,420), ‘visit places of historical-artistic interest’ (11,725); the foreigners chose ‘visit places of historical-artistic interest’ (3,868), ‘visit places of natural interest’ (3,622), ‘tasting of typical local products’ (3,543).

Archaeology and Cultural Routes

After all the data and trends we have cited, we can affirm that there is a great interest about the projects related to the Cultural Routes, both from the tourists and the experts point of view. But which role can archaeology play in this context? Let us analyse some aspects of the issue (Figure 10).

Figure 10. Concept map: how archaeologist’s skills can be used in a Cultural Route project.

First of all, we have to underline the connection between archaeology and cultural routes. As we have seen above, a cultural route links individual sites together to promote a common heritage theme, and this is possible in two different ways: we can have routes that follow a historical path (e.g. the Via Francigena and the Way of St. James, that we have mentioned above), or routes that are networks of different sites, without physical connections (the Phoenicians’ Route, the Viking Routes, The Romanesque Routes of European Heritage, the European Route of Megalithic Culture, etc.). In both cases, the main element of the routes are the cultural heritage sites, which are involved in projects launched by local authorities, associations of volunteer or public institutions, in order to communicate and promote them both to the local people and the foreign tourists. Even if at present it is more common to refer to this kind of projects with terms like ‘cultural resource management’, ‘heritage management’ or ‘archaeological resource management’ (Carman 2015; Neumann & Sanford 2010; Willems 2009), it is possible to consider them as public archaeology too (Moshenska 2017).

So, the cultural heritage sites are essential for the creation and the development of a cultural route. But the theme that connects them is fundamental too, and we can find other connections with the archaeological world if we analyse the five main steps identified by the Council of Europe to start a cultural route project (Berti 2015c); two of them are particularly interesting for an archaeologist: ‘Defining a theme’ and ‘Identifying heritage elements’. For the first one, the Council of Europe presents a list of criteria to respect (COE 2013b), but the initiators of the project have also to answer to some key questions, such as:

  • what is the story they want to tell travellers and citizens of Europe?
  • how is the chosen theme manifested in the different countries involved in the project?
  • how does the theme allow a better understanding of European history and present-day Europe?

The theme is the reason why some elements of the cultural heritage are connected, and it must tell a story able to narrate the past and the future of our continent. This is exactly what an archaeologist does (or should do?) in his everyday job: from the archaeological site to the whole landscape, the aim of the archaeological research is to discover something lost about our past, something that can help us to understand our modern time.

So, thanks to the cultural routes, we can present to a broader audience the results of historical and archaeological researches. But they are touristic products too, which means that archaeologists are also called to satisfy the needs of modern tourists. It is a challenge, because archaeologists must prove their capacity to balance the needs of the scientific research with the tourists’ ones.

The second point, “Identifying heritage elements”, suits perfectly the skills of an archaeologist. In fact, “following the theme of the route, the initiators of the project have to re-discover and identify the elements of tangible and intangible heritage linked with it and essential to explain it” (Berti 2015c, p. 37). Who better than an archaeologist can do it? Let us think at a concrete case, like ‘Via Francigena’: an archaeologist can identify the landmarks along the route (archaeological sites, churches, castles and historical towns) linked to the theme of the itinerary, and he can explain why the road changed the characters of a territory, why some cities arose (it is the case of Siena and Viterbo) while others declined (for instance the Roman city of Luni). Therefore, an archaeologist is able to indicate the elements of the cultural heritage useful to the tourists and the citizens to understand the historical transformation, or permanence, of a territory.

This is true in a broader sense, not only in the cultural route case, because “the heritage resources about which archaeologists are expert are the substance of tourism development programs, and they often are of vital interest to localities and national populations as their economic lives become integrated into the global milieu” (Gould 2017, p. 10).

Nowadays, we know that the archaeologist is a more complex professional, who can work also in the field of management and communication (Aitchison 2015; Bonacchi 2014; Dal Maso & Ripanti 2015; Neumann, & Sanford 2010; Richardson 2013); from this point of view, we can notice that in a cultural route project is possible to find other job opportunities for archaeologists.

Management of a cultural route project is a complex task: in fact, there are several actors involved, internal and external stakeholders, and a manager must be able to collaborate with all of them. Academics and professionals are an important part of the project too, from its start to its development, but they must be coordinated, in order to reach the common objectives, which are the respect of the Council of Europe standards, and the creation of an innovative and sustainable cultural project. The external stakeholders are fundamental too: if we want to ensure the cultural and sustainable economic development of the territories involved, a manager must have contacts with their local authorities and their business network, to share a common vision of sustainable development. The real problem is that often the management skills are not included in the academic path of many archaeology courses at university (Carman 2015).

Communication is another key factor of success for a cultural route: it is necessary to link the contemporary ways of communicating the cultural heritage with the ones related to the touristic promotion. Archaeologists are called to elaborate new strategies of communication of the cultural heritage, e.g. through internet and the social media, remembering that a cultural route is a great opportunity to discover the less-known cultural heritage (Bonacchi 2014; Richardson 2013). As we told above, a route must tell a story, and the improvement of narration of a theme can contribute to the development of an itinerary. Sometimes it is an underrated element of the project, and the theme becomes only a title useful to unify different points on a map. On the contrary, storytelling techniques are becoming increasingly important in cultural tourism market (Richards 2014).

We do not have to forget that the topographical and archaeological skills are essential for the cultural routes projects, especially for the ones based on historical paths. For instance, ‘Via Appia’ was one of the most important Roman road, while the ‘Via Francigena’ and the St. James Way were two important routes of pilgrimage, as we have seen above. In these cases, archaeologists can be involved in the projects in order to define the historical path of the routes, through a topographical study of the territory. This could be an opportunity for them to use their topographical methodology not only in the field of scientific research, but also in the touristic one.

The nature of the routes implicates different approaches though. For instance, ‘Via Appia’, ‘Via Francigena’ and the ‘Way of St. James’ are historical paths, but there are important differences between them. While the first one is a Roman road, with important archaeological remains and sources which allow us to reconstruct the path in a more confident way, ‘Via Francigena’ and ‘St James way’ are medieval routes, and it means that we have less archaeological landmarks and a lot of sources with different information about the path. The topographical methodology is the same, but the approaches to the route must be different (Innocenti 2017).

The job opportunities we have mentioned above are related both to new cultural routes projects and to the existing ones. For instance, in Italy there are several projects of cultural itineraries in progress, even if not certified by the Council of Europe. In the last few years, experiences like the ‘St. Francis way’ or the ‘The Way of St. Benedict’ had a great success, and some of them, e.g. ‘Via Romea Germanica’, follow an historical route. Many of these itineraries are promoted by local authorities, cultural associations, volunteers and trekking enthusiasts; archaeologists should try to join these projects, offering their professional support, even if we have to notice that, at present, some important projects in southern Italy are managed by archaeologists (e.g The Magna Via Francigena in Sicily and the Via Traiana in Campania and Puglia regions).

The first step can be the analysis of the single itinerary, especially of its theme and of the territory it crosses. It is important to understand if the theme is well developed, if there can be other elements of the cultural heritage to add to the itinerary and, in the case of historical routes, if the path is correctly defined. A very useful tool can be the creation of a GIS project related to the route: inserting the information about the path, the element of cultural heritage and so on, it will be possible a better comprehension of territory, and the planning of the itinerary will be easier. In a GIS project will be also possible to add all the information about the touristic infrastructures, helping the planning not only from a historical point of view, but also from a touristic one.


Culture and tourism are two elements which can guarantee a sustainable economic development, and Cultural Routes programme is one of the most interesting tool to reach important results, in a long-term strategy.

Archaeology can play an important role in this context: archaeologists’ skills and knowledge are a fundamental resource for Cultural Routes programme and for all cultural tourism projects in general. At the same time, these projects could help to develop new forms of management and communication of the archaeological sites, which could be included in these innovative projects of touristic promotion. But archaeologists must be able to reconsider their role and accept the challenge of working in the field of cultural tourism. This could open unexpected and interesting perspectives for the future of archaeology.

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