Rural landscape and cultural routes: a multicriteria spatial classification method tested on an Italian case study
KeywordsClustering, environmental and cultural heritage, global information system, landscape classification, Via Francigena.
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AbstractEurope is characterised by a rich net of itineraries that during the Middle Ages were taken by pilgrims head toward the holy places of Christianity. In Italy the main pilgrimage route is the <em>Via Francigena</em> (t<em>he road that comes from France</em>), which starts from Canterbury and arrives in Rome, running through Europe for about 1800 km. Municipalities and local associations are focused on purposes and actions aimed at the promotion of those routes, rich in history and spirituality. Also for the European Union the enhancement of those itineraries, nowadays used both by pilgrims and tourists, is crucial, as shown by the various projects aimed at the identification of tools for the development of sustainable cultural tourism. It is important to understand how landscape, that according to the European Landscape Convention reflects the <em>sense of places</em> and represents the image of their history, has evolved along those roads, and to analyse the relationships between the built and natural environments, since they maintain a remarkable symbolic connection between places and peoples over time and history. This study focuses on the Italian section of the <em>Via Francigena</em> that crosses the Emilia-Romagna region, in the province of Piacenza. A land classification method is proposed, with the aim to take into account different indicators: land zoning provided by regional laws, elements of relevant historical and natural value, urban elements, type of agriculture. The analyses are carried out on suitable buffers around the path, thus allowing to create landscape profiles. As nature is a key element for the spirituality character of these pilgrimage routes, the classification process takes into account both protected and other valuable natural elements, besides agricultural activities. The outcomes can be useful to define tools aimed to help pilgrims and tourists to understand the surrounding places along their walk, as well as to lend support to rural and urban planning and integrated local development and landscape enhancement projects.