EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCE

STUDY VISIT AS EXCHANGE OF EXPERIENCE BETWEEN TWO HISTCAPE PARTNERS

 

In May 2014 two HISTCAPE partners, University of Ljubljana and Marche Region, carried out bilateral exchange of experience and knowledge in Italy. Study visit of University of Ljubljana in Marche Region turned out to be an extremely positive experiment, giving added value to both partners and beyond by offering an example of potential permanent cooperation between partners in future projects. This article describes background, objectives and results of the study visit. 

 

Idea and background of the study visit

 

Marche Region’s activity “PILOT ACTION ARCEVIA - Tacit knowledge, landscape resources and development policies pilot action” was chosen as one of good practice examples and pilot actions in the framework of the HISTCAPE project. 

 

Arcevia action stems from innovative idea on landscape-based development approach and foresees an extremely interesting methodological approach to attract and motivate local people to participate. Results of the Arcevia action will be embedded in Strategic Agenda of the Marche Regional Landscape Plan and the approach has therefore potential to be transferred to other Marche contexts, as well as beyond. The most important aspect of the action is that it is focused on participation of local people, what should be at the core of each landscape and rural areas based development strategy.

 

Arcevia pilot action team planning field work, May 2014 (photo: B. Vodopivec)

 

University of Ljubljana is particularly interested in social involvement aspect and thus estimated that Arcevia action is highly eligible to be learned from in terms of social participation methods and tools. 

 

Moreover, viability of exchange of experience between Italy and Slovenia also derives from history. Western part of Slovenian territory was strongly under Italian influence (the border with the eastern part of Slovenia, which was under German influence, run east of the Karst Mountain passes and along the Sava river basin), and experienced historical development related with Byzantine Istria on the one hand and Lombard Veneto on the other hand. Here, continuity of Roman settlements was preserved. Shared common cultural, social and to certain extend institutional and political development decisively formed western Slovenian towns and landscape. Renaissance architecture, for example, is one of the most prominent features of Slovenian coastal towns (Koper, Izola, Piran). Italian regions with rich heritage and distinctive landscapes share joint historical development with western Slovenian regions and can thus present a platform, which enables study of efficient heritage and landscape resources exploitation for regional development (tourism, for example).  

 

Therefore, at the HISTCAPE Porto meeting in March 2014 agreement on bilateral cooperation and exchange of experience between partners Marche Region and University of Ljubljana was reached and decided that it will take place as a study visit in Arcevia. Study visit took place from 5 till 11 May 2014 and it was attended by representative of University of Ljubljana from Slovenia and representatives of several Italian institutions:  Marche Region, IRS Milano, eco&eco Bologna, University of Ancona along with a number of local organizations representatives. In fact, University of Ljubljana joined field research work of the pilot action. 

 

Objectives of the study visit

Together University of Ljubljana and Marche Region defined objectives of the study visit, which were:

  • To learn about place-based planning of landscape and heritage based development;
  • To learn how to define specific values of a certain region/place/site (methods, involvement of people…);
  • To increase knowledge on the methodology of Arcevia pilot action;
  • To carry out and learn from comparative analyses of relevant sites;
  • To disseminate and exchange Slovenian experience and knowledge with Marche Region and vice versa.

 

Results and observations of the study visit

Marche Region has extremely varied landscape, which is surrounded by mountains on the one hand and on the other hand with wavy and colourful hills descends to the sea.  Arcevia area is exceptional due to the nine villages - castelli that have mostly retained their original image and together with the landscape that surrounds them form a completely unique area with typical views and atmosphere. 

 

Palazzo (photo B. Vodopivec) 

However, as Arcevia pilot action team highlighted, there are some severe problems to be addressed in order to foster the tourism and related development. Lack of systematic urban and spatial planning in the 60-ties and 70-ties has caused a number of new buildings which sometimes ruin the appearance of the castelli and landscape. At that time it was believed that industry will solve development problems of the region, emigration in particular, however that was not the case, so many deserted and deteriorated industrial and craft buildings can be seen. One of the biggest problems of the region remain deserted villages and constant depopulation of the area. Here one of the major challenges lies: how to foster tourism, based on the preserved traditional rural lifestyle and at the same time attract young people to stay and live in the area with all comfort that modern life demands.

 

Loretello: a landscape view with the sea on the horizon (photo B. Vodopivec)

 

To cope with this situation, Arcevia pilot action derives from innovative methodology which is to analyse the landscape, to extract the so called tacit knowledge and narratives (which are already there, among people, and embedded in the landscape) and then to work together with the local community to create regional development plan. During the study visit, tacit knowledge identification was the focus of the research activities. Methods, such as participant observation, non-structured interviews and life stories documentation were applied. Four days of intensive filed work, along with preparatory days, gave in-depth insight into the Arcevia action implementation.

 

Avacelli: local guide recounts history, legends and tradition of the village to Arcevia pilot action team and group of Ancona university students, May 2014 (photo B. Vodopivec)

 

Key factors which were observed during the study visit by University of Ljubljana and which were identified as key success elements to be transferred to other regions are:

 

 

  • Multidisciplinary team of experts, including local people as links between researchers and locals;
  • Detailed and profound knowledge of the field, gained in advance of the research (history, lifestyle, landscape etc.);
  • Methodological approach build upon what already exist embedded in the landscape and peoples’ knowledge (interviews, participant observation e.g.);
  • Foreseen involvement of different institutions, people from different positions, professions (local guides, farmers, wine producers, owners of restaurants, local politicians, officials etc.) and, above all, different generations (students, older people, young families etc.);
  • Motivation of key local elements to activate themselves beyond a single cooperation (Operazione Arcevia foundation, for example);
  • And, above all, respect for local people and equivalent attitude towards them.

Those points may seem self-evident, but if only one is not fully taken into account, the results of such approach might not be fully attained.

 

 

San Settimio: Colony of artists with the support of local foundation Operazione Arcevia and owners of the tourist and congress resort San Settimio invite visitors to experience different understanding and interpretation of the landscape through the art installation (photo B. Vodopivec)

 

Added value of the study visit for the HISTCAPE project and beyond

 

Finally, Marche Region and University of Ljubljana agree that study visit proved added value also to the project HISTCAPE, as well as to the future regional cooperation, offering a good practice example of bilateral joint cooperation of two partners, their exchange of knowledge, ideas, raising of their capacity, understanding and, finally, building of base for their potential future cooperation.