Long-distance walking routes: defining multi-layered and multi-actor social and spatial practices to protect the environment, enhance local identities and foster socio-economic development.
Giulia MOTTA ZANIN, Politecnico di Bari, Italy
Daniele VETTORATO, EURAC Research, Italy
Camilla ARIANI, Associazione Culturale FuoriVia, Italy
Radouan Andrea MOUNECIF, Sorbonne Université, France
The interest in promoting long distance walking routes (LDWR) and providing the necessary infrastructure has increased in the last few years. LDWR promotion may emphasize the spiritual dimensions of following an ancient pilgrimage trail or of walking through nature. But LDWR may also pivot around literary or gastronomic themes, in so doing intersecting common cultural tourism themes. Moreover, these low carbon footprint and slow-speed LDWR require to be experienced first-hand, stressing the physical benefits of outdoor activity. Along these lines, local, national and transnational policies are under implementation, seeking to exploit LDWR also as a tool to promote lesser known, isolated and remote regions. Safety perceptions (also related to Covid-19) add further impetus to the promotion of LDWR. Therefore, they became not just an infrastructure exercise but an interesting model of place-making strategy, augmenting imaginaries, affordances and attractiveness of rural regions. They are co-designed and co-implemented by a wide range of stakeholders, cutting across diverse domains (public, private, spiritual, etc.) and countries, and emerge as a multi-layered and multi-actor social and spatial practice. As such, LDWR planning might be subject to frictions, conflicts and inclusion and exclusion patterns. Besides discussing the advocacy of LDWR development, this contribution addresses -also through the learning-by-walking experience of FuoriVia Association and IUAV University of Venice- the need to critically increase the number of walkers and (post)pandemic leisure mobilities without affecting fragile environments and communities. It moreover discusses how to mobilize principles of cultural identity, social cohesion and economic development; and how to connect social and spatial representations
Keywords: Learning by walking|Multi-actor planning|Slow tourism|Sustainability of remote areas|Cultural and social identities