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Pan-European Cultural Routes: A journey through Europe's shared cultural heritage

European Commission - MEMO/12/425   07/06/2012

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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 7 June 2012

Pan-European Cultural Routes: A journey through Europe's shared cultural heritage

Europe offers a wide variety of cultural tourism itineraries that, crossing several regions or countries, provide a living example of the rich and impressive European common heritage. With the promotion of cultural itineraries, the European Commission aims to raise awareness on the need for a new kind of tourism, which is respectful of the environment, of the natural and cultural heritage and of the local traditions. To European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani will highlight the Commission’s achievements and efforts to promote cultural tourism and cultural itineraries at the Crossroads of Europe conference, part of the first European festival on cultural routes. It debuts this year in Pavia, Italy (6-10 June) as the first in a series to be hosted at the intersection of different European cultural routes.

The European Commission is implementing a number of activities to support transnational tourism products based on specific themes which still have great potential for growth. In particular, it is intended to encourage the integration of SMEs into the tourism sector and to create opportunities for cooperation with tour operators, etc. The Commission has already co-financed several interesting and innovative projects of cooperation and promotion of transnational thematic tourism products via two calls for proposals amounting to 1, 2 mio from the 2011 budget. In 2012, a similar call for project proposals has been published for an amount of € 1,2 mio. The Commission is also closely cooperating with the Council of Europe on cultural routes through a several-year joint management. Last but not least, the Commission undertook the organisation of the first European festival dedicated to cultural routes in the EU.

On the occasion of the conference ‘Cultural and Religious Routes’ in Pavia today, European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship highlighted: "The concept of cultural routes will be an important step in keeping Europe’s tourism industry at the forefront of innovative solutions and growth of SMEs in the sector. Today's tourists want to explore other and others' cultures. Europe can offer sustainable and high-quality tourism – in any season -, playing on its comparative advantages: the diversity of its countryside and extraordinary cultural wealth."

The idea for holding the event originated in the municipality of Pavia which lies at the intersection of no less than five cultural routes. The five routes which cross Pavia include: Via Francigena, Saint Martin de Tours, The Cluniac Sites, Saint Augustine and the route of the sites of the Chaise-Dieu.

Pan-European cultural routes invite tourists to discover the common history and culture of European territories. The thematic richness and geographical scope of itineraries make them an important asset for European tourism in terms both of their cultural and symbolic significance. At the same time, the Cultural Routes programme has revealed the enormous potential for the development of grassroots cultural tourism initiatives.

More than 20 trans-national itineraries received certification from the Council of Europe1. There are many more if we consider also the innumerable regional and local trails that can connect to those transnational ones. The below selection offers just a taste of the many rich and intriguing cultural routes on offer, several of which profited from Commission support under different calls for project proposals:

  • Iron Curtain Trail: The European cycling route "Iron Curtain Trail" invites people to retrace this important part of Europe's history. For almost half a century, Europe was divided into East and West by the "Iron Curtain", a border stretching from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. More than 7000 km of routes through 20 countries, along the length of the former border of the Warsaw Pact, combine European culture, history and sustainable tourism. In 2005, the "Iron Curtain Trail" has been recognised by the European Parliament as a model project for sustainable tourism, as an example of soft mobility and a symbol of the reunification of Europe. For more information:
    http://www.ironcurtaintrail.eu/en/index.html

  • "Odissea": The Odyssea project is a platform which connects the main harbours of the Mediterranean providing information and services of the ports in the network, but also tourism services and site to visit in the neighbourhoods. For more information: http://www.odyssea.eu/odyssea2010/index.php

  • The Phoenician Route: The Phoenician Route links up the main maritime routes travelled by Phoenicians from the 12th century. Through these routes, the Phoenicians gave rise to a great civilization, contributing to the creation of a Mediterranean cultural koine` ("community"). This Itinerary passes through 18 countries of 3 continents and through over 80 towns of Phoenician origin, with the aim to promote the Mediterranean cultural and the historical heritage. For more information: www.phoeniciansroute.eu

  • The route of the Olive tree: Based around the theme of the olive tree, a unifying element for the Mediterranean area and symbol of peace, friendship and wellbeing, the Olive Tree Route is a "bridge" between the olive oil producing countries: from Messina to Greece and the Mediterranean area. For more information: http://www.olivetreeroute.gr/

  • The Via Francigena: The "Via Francigena" is an historical pilgrimage route, from Canterbury to Rome, taken by thousands of pilgrims during past centuries. The route follows the path that Sigeric, Archbishop of Canterbury, took to get to Rome in order to meet Pope John XV and receive the investiture pallium. For more information: www.associazioneviafrancigena.com

  • Saint Martin of Tours: St. Martin of Tours is known worldwide for having shared his cloak with a beggar. His gesture is the universal symbol of sharing. The cultural itinerary dedicated to St. Martin of Tours (more than 450 km of paths including Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and Luxembourg) links up the European towns and cities which shared in Saint's life. For more information: www.saintmartindetours.eu

  • The Al-Andalus Route: "Al-Andalus" is the name to the territory occupied by the Muslim empire in Southern Spain from the early 8th to the late 15th century. These routes, which include the cities of Almeria, Malaga, Cadiz, Seville, Cordoba, Jaen and Granada, aim at contributing to the debate on the historical importance of interreligious dialogue in forging European civilisation. For more information: www.legadoandalusi.es

  • The Saint James' Ways: The Way of St James, the pilgrimage to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (in north-western of Spain) where the apostle Saint James the Great is said to be laid to rest, is a collection of more than 100 medieval pilgrimage routes which cover all Europe. The Santiago routes are a symbol of the cultural cooperation in Europe. For more information: www.chemin-compostelle.com

  • Transromanica - The Romanesque Routes of European Heritage:  A journey along the Romanesque Routes of European Heritage means travelling back into medieval times. Transromanica guides you to castles, cathedrals and monasteries built between the 10th and 12th century. For more information: http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/culture/routes/transromanica_en.asp

  • The European Thermal Route: The cultural route starts in Greece and crosses Europe, passing also through Baden-Baden, Bath, Budapest, Karlovy Vary, Spa and Vichy. For more information:
    http://www.culture-routes.lu/php/fo_index.php?lng=en&dest=bd_pa_det&rub=91

  • St. Olav Ways: The St. Olav Ways consists of a network of more than 5000 km in Scandinavia that interconnects many places related to St. Olav. Churches, monasteries and chapels are a part of the St. Olav Roads. For more information: http://www.culture-routes.ro/en/itineraries/the-route-of-saint-olav-ways.html

For more information

European Commission supported projects

Council of Europe programme of European Cultural Routes

"Discover Europe"

The Silk Road Programme


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