Archaeological site of Venosa in Basilicata, Italy

Expanding on the legacy of Matera European Capital of Culture 2019: The “Queen of Roads” and the Cultural Bradanica Routes as cornerstones of Venosa’s candidacy to Italian Capital of Culture 2021. Matera was ranked first European Capital of Culture (ECoC) in terms of impact on the tourism growth rate since the beginning of the candidacy. In 2019, tourists increased 44% in the city, and 34% in the wider Basilicata region, leading to a total of 865,000 nights spent during the ECoC year. With the overarching payoff of “Matera  Open Future”, the ideation and production of the cultural programme was strongly focused on inclusiveness and citizens participation: an estimated 18,000 citizens were directly involved, with over 70% of the cultural programme focussed on co-creation activities. For a region of less than 600,000 inhabitants, suffering from depopulation, brain drain, isolation and remoteness, these figures had a significant impact on both the internal and the external perception of the region. This is the result of a decade running-up towards the nomination (2004-2014), combined with relevant quadruple helix stakeholders and national authorities, who evolved the initial cultural mapping exercises towards more consistent, integrated and strategic approaches to urban and regional development. Matera’s bid was successful in transforming concrete territorial challenges into cultural, economic and touristic opportunities. Following the ECoC nomination, the growth rate of tourist accommodations increased 47.23% but the focus was set on “green”, slow and distributed forms of hospitality, which were attentive to social inclusion, as well as sustainability. These topics have a strong connection with the promotion of circular economic models of development. Be.CULTOUR will enhance two unique itineraries:

  1. i) the Roman Ancient Appian Road “Regina Viarum”, a project promoted by MIBACT (Italian Ministry for Culture and Tourism) and aimed at connecting and enhancing the consular road built from 312 BC onwards; and
  2. ii) the “Bradanica Cultural Road”, an itinerary characterized by cities with important artistic and historic heritage, combining traces preserved in the castles of Federico II of Svevia, in museums, archaeological areas and in the ancient neighbourhoods of Sassi.

The city of Venosa itself, is plunged in vineyards and hiking trails at the crossroad of the “Queen of Roads” and the Cultural Bradanica Route. The area of the Mount Vulture and the city of Venosa has been selected as the pilot area, particularly suited for the development of a cultural touristic offer that embraces localization at the crossing point of natural, historic and artistic itineraries: The Roman Ancient Appian Way – Regina Viarum, and the Bradanica Cultural Road. The Appian Road, listed as UNESCO world heritage, was Rome’s first road and Europe’s first ‘highway’. It was 350 miles long and linked Rome with strategic ports in Southern Italy, where ships would sail to Greece and the East. Each place is linked to poetry, music and science recalling the figures of the Latin poet Horace, the madrigalist Gesualdo da Venosa or Pythagoras. The Archaeological Park of Venosa (included as a pilot heritage site) has adopted INVENTUM, a 3D augmented reality application that allows visitors to discover the characters and historical character of the place.

Be.CULTOUR challenge:

In order to strengthen the legacy of the 2019 ECoC, and intensify the connections with the wider regional area beyond the urban boundaries, the Region of Basilicata has set forth the candidacy of the city of Venosa for the title of Italian Capital of Culture in 2021. The objective is to contribute to smart and sustainable development of rural areas, improve the management and valorisation of cultural heritage, and build a sustainable cultural tourism economy in the inner parts of Basilicata. A circular approach to cultural tourism will enable the region to reduce over-consumption of resources, tackle tourism seasonality and diminish pressure and risks to local culture and identity. These specific challenges are linked to the concentration of tourism in one site (Matera), the abandonment and depopulation of rural areas and the limited accessibility of remote areas.

Pandemic Impacts:

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact in the tourism of Basilicata. Tourism arrivals were halved during the 2020 season, causing a major hit to the local economy. The whole region faced a decrease of -55% in arrivals and -51% in overnight stays. The Vulture area faced a drop of -45% in arrivals and -47% in overnight stays. Matera faced a decrease of -59% in arrivals and -65% in overnight stays. Overall, the total number of beds and accommodations available was slightly decreased at regional level, but slightly increased in the Vulture area and Matera. A lesson learnt from the very short 2020 tourism season is that inland and green areas attract more travellers than in the past, due to lower population density and safety provided in remote areas.

Innovation Areas:  Contemporary (meanings of) Heritage; Augmented Tourism.

Key Stakeholders: Regional government president, Tourism institutions, Municipality of Venosa, Basilicata Creativa.