In Europe, hundreds of thousands of people set out each year from their homes –or from popular starting points– to make their way to major worship places and lesser-known ones. The pilgrimage routes have undoubtedly become a significant economic and political asset for Europe.

  • On the one hand, the thousands of travellers mobilise substantial resources around them, to the point that the economic impact of pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela alone was estimated to exceed 300 million euros in 2019. 
  • On the other hand, since many of the pilgrimage routes are transnational, they act as vehicles for cultural exchange and cross-border relationships. It is no surprise, then, that some routes have received (and are receiving) substantial support from regional, national and European institutions.

The rurallure project addresses one weak point hidden behind this depiction of success: the pilgrimage routes may be traversed by thousands, but their impact is almost exclusively perceived in the places located directly on the paths, rarely permeating into the surrounding rural areas. Thus, entire provinces and regions of a predominantly rural nature, which are facing significant economic and demographic challenges all over Europe become passive witnesses of the flows of pilgrims, whereas they could actually add much of content and value to the experiences.

The goal of rurallure is to overcome this situation through the allure of the cultural heritage found in the rural environment. The opportunity arises from the fact that pilgrimage is usually planned with some flexibility regarding dates, distances travelled in successive journeys, places to rest, etc. Many pilgrims are amenable to serendipitous findings, too. This makes pilgrimage largely different from other types of cultural and touristic experiences, thus opening possibilities of increasing the numbers of visitors to the least-known heritage sites by:

  • Assembling meaningful cultural experiences with resources found in the rural environment.
  • Mobilising transportation, accommodation and dining easily.
  • Offering the whole packs to the pilgrims through tailor-made means of promotion.

The project sets the goal of simplifying the task of thematically connecting the experiences offered in different rural locations. The intended effect is that some pilgrims decide to take a break or a detour, and spend some time in a nearby town or village. 

By designing, implementing and testing technological tools and promotional strategies, the project will seek to generalise that effect and, thereby, contribute to generate economic activity and also reinforcing a more diversified employment, to help preserve cultural heritage at risk (professions, customs, rural architecture, art and music, etc.) and to fight the rural exodus that is leading to a worrying spiral of loss of population and services.


The concept put forward by rurallure is that of a network of cultural institutions (museums, libraries, natural heritage sites, civil associations, …) that could benefit from the flows of people on nearby pilgrimage routes. 

Those institutions will work together towards the creation of multimedia contents that will be offered to the pilgrims before, during and after their travels, and towards the design of means of promotion suited to the specifics of the region. Their collaboration will be facilitated by a technological platform with specialised content management facilities, as well as mobile apps that will cohesively present the heritage of the regions traversed over several days or weeks, featuring functionalities for the following: 

  • To discover the most interesting resources and experiences for each individual or group.
  • To facilitate transportation to the towns and villages, if needed, and back to the main route.
  • To find suitable accommodation and dining possibilities in the rural environment.

rurallure does not directly seek to further promote or develop the pilgrimage routes, and that it does not deal with religious heritage. Instead, it seeks symbiosis with the pilgrimage routes, so that, on the one hand, the ongoing investment put into the pilgrimage routes leaves a mark also in the nearby rural areas, and, on the other, the pilgrims enjoy enriched experiences thanks to the cultural heritage of the rural environment (that they wouldn’t get to know otherwise).


The goals of rurallure, are the following:

  • To establish a network of institutions to work on the promotion of cultural venues and heritage sites from the rural environments of Europe, in the vicinity of pilgrimage routes.
  • To develop studies from historical, cultural, sociological and economic perspectives, to understand and exploit the opportunities linked to the promotion of rural heritage as an added value to enrich the pilgrimage experiences.
  • To analyse the role that urban cultural and touristic institutions can play in the network, deriving visitors to the nearby rural environment.
  • To assess the strategies and recommendations derived from the aforementioned studies in four pilots, conducted in regions of Europe traversed by different transnational pilgrimage routes, and focusing on different facets of Cultural Heritage relevant to regional development.
  • To create a comprehensive geolocative open database and an interactive map of European rural venues and heritage sites, in different levels of proximity to the main pilgrimage paths, and a directory of relevant stakeholders active in the promotion of culture and tourism: public authorities, tourism stakeholders, cultural and creative sectors, etc.
  • To exchange best practices and lessons learnt in the pilots all over Europe, by publishing reports on strategies and results, and by organising events to inform regional, national and international policymakers.
  • To define an agenda with key research and innovation challenges for the decade.
  • To develop mobile apps to offer the following functionalities to the pilgrims:
    • Discovery of cultural venues and heritage sites –found along the routes or reached by feasible detours– that may enrich their experience, considering their specific interests, preferences and needs.
    • Pilgrim guides exploiting the opportunity (neglected thus far) to cohesively present the heritage of the regions traversed over several days or weeks (rather than hours as it happens in classical museum visits), using mainly audio narrations to go along with the pilgrim as he/she walks or rides, and pointing to additional multimedia contents during the resting stops.
    • Recommendation and quick reservation of transport from/to selected rural locations and suitable accommodation and dining offers.
    • Social network spaces to keep contact with new friends and acquaintances made during the pilgrimage.
    • A multi-route pilgrim’s digital passport to certify the trips. 
  • To assemble and deploy a content management system as a backend for the mobile apps, offering features to innovate around the new possibilities created by digital media:
    • Collaboration among institutions to create, manage and curate a Cultural Heritage knowledge base that aggregates the digital cultural assets of the cultural venues and heritage sites of rural Europe, in connection to third-party resources on the Internet (e.g. Wikipedia and Europeana).
    • Co-creation and curation of contents and narratives for the pilgrim guides, to produce shared digital exhibitions in a cost-effective manner thanks to systematic reuse of content and structures.
    • Specific web positioning strategies, to have strong online presence during the stage when people are planning their trips.
    • Benchmarking and analysis of aggregated data to allow monitoring the effectiveness of the promotion and mobilisation mechanisms to achieve the intended effects.

Miguel Anxo López

FUN Technical Assistant for Heritage Management and Disseminations. Filmmaker and Writer he has studies on Cinema Direction and Laws. Guide to Novoneyra’s House Museum.

María González Borrajo

Responsible for Administrative task & management. Diploma in Social Work, specialized in Public administration and inclusion. More than 10 years of experience in management of various social care programs with different groups, developing and implementing projects of sociocultural social intervention.

Lía Pérez Domínguez

FUN Technician for Tourism Strategies and Internationalization. Phd in Journalism & Media and Postgraduate in Tourism Destination Marketing. More than 10 years of work experience in local tourism policies and strategies. Comms Officer for the European Cultural Route of Historic Thermal Towns (EHTTA) between 2016 and 2018 and certified SICTED Agent.

Cibrao Cabo

FUN Technician on Cultural Management. Phd in History and Postgraduate in Digitization of Cultural Heritage. Trained on Heritage Management, Museums and Archaeology he is responsible for the management of the FUN Archives and guide at Novoneyra’s House Museum.

Bruno Arias

FUN Junior Technical Assistant on Communications. Degree in Audiovisual Communications. Graphic design, audiovisual contents and DigitalMarketing tools.

Branca Novo Rey

FUN Arts Director and Member of FUN Board. Technician on Cultural Management. Phd on Art Education and Political Sciences and Master in Digital Publishing. Between 2015 and 2019 she was the Deputy Mayor of the City Council of Santiago de Compostela and Cultural Policies Councillor and since 2019 opposition councillor.

Ana Lombardero

FUN Technician on Sustainability and Environmental Awareness. PhD in Biology and MSC on Biodiversity and Conservation Biology. Experienced in Environmental Education (formal and non-formal, she has volunteered with organizations including the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology and the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC).

Silvia Cavinato

Silvia has a Master’s degree in History of Arts and Conservation of Artistic Heritage, obtained at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. From 2009 to 2012 she worked at the Diocesan Pilgrimages Office with the task of organizing pilgrimages to the Middle East, managing the collection of books “Bible and the Holy Land”, organizing the international cultural event “Lymph of the Olive” and to coordinate volunteers. Since 2012 she has worked at the Girolomoni Cultural Foundation in the Marche Region, with administrative tasks, organization of events and editing of the magazine Mediterraneo Dossier dedicated to biology, religion and current affairs. Since 2019, she has worked for the Homo Viator – San Teobaldo Foundation where she has the task of managing pilgrimages, the communication of the Foundation and supporting the Romea Strata project.

Raimondo Sinibaldi

Raimondo Sinibaldi has been the Director and the legal representative of the Pilgrimage Office of the Diocese of Vicenza for ten years and the President and the legal representative of the Homo Viator Foundation, wanted by the Diocese of Vicenza. For thirty years he has accompanied groups of pilgrims in Biblical Lands and in significant places of pilgrimage, such as Rome, Santiago de Compostela, Częstochowa, Lourdes, etc. In particular, as far as the Holy Land (Israel-Palestine) is concerned, he has the official guide certification issued by the competent ecclesiastical authorities, having completed studies in the Theological Faculty of Vicenza and at the Jesuit Community in Jerusalem. He contributed to the ideation and promotion of the Romea Strata project.

Luisa dal Prà

Romea Strata coordinator. has a Bachelor’s Degree in “Forest and Environmental Sciences and Technologies”. She worked at the “Regional Forest Service” in Veneto Region managing the administration of projects, as Director of extinguishing forest fire department and teaching courses in the
environmental sector. Since 2015 she works at the Pilgrimage office (now Homo Viator Foundation) managing the Romea Strata project. She traced the route, georeferenced it and collaborated in the realization of European projects for the Office.

Aleksandra Grbic

Aleksandra has a Master’s Degree in Sociology and social research. After graduation, she also attended two advanced training courses in “Innovation in social enterprises”(2015) and in “Project Management”(2019). In her last experience she worked for 4 years in a social cooperative as Accessible travel and tourism manager where her main tasks were: implementation of new accessible tourism services; organisation of holidays option for users with disabilities; management of fundraising activity; participation in EU-funded projects; care and management of the PR and communication activities; start up and management of a new accomodation facility. Since October 2019 she has worked for Homo Viator San Teobaldo Foundation as a referent for EU projects related to Romea Strata and its implementation.

Myra Stals

rurAllure project officer for EAVF. Myra has a background in Italian Language and Culture, and has previously worked in the field of International Higher Education. She will be managing the rurAllure communication channels and contribute to the Thermal Heritage pilot. Myra has a great love for bike touring and the environment, and is the founder and president of environmental initiative Cycle 2 Recycle.

Luca Bruschi

EAVF director. Leading the EAVF since 2013, Luca has extended work experience in international organisations and public bodies. With a background in art history and tourism, he is a freelance journalist, consultant, and a hiking enthusiast. Among his publications there are numerous articles in Italian internet media and a book “Via Francigena – una Strada Europea”.

Elena Dubinina

European projects and International relations advisor. With her extended work experience in international organisations and academic background in cultural management, Elena oversees international relations and manages European projects of the EAVF. A travel enthusiast, she spends her free time backpacking all over the world.

Maria Laura Gasparini

Maria Laura Gasparini is a tourism professional with over 10 years of work experience in the travel and hospitality sector. She has a degree in Tourism Economics and Management from the University of Bologna and has specialised in the role of sustainability indicators as policy making tools. Her main research interests are sustainability monitoring, community-based tourism and regenerative tourism. She is currently Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Tourism, Bologna University, where she is contributing to the management of several EU funded projects, such as rurAllure and Fab Routes, focused on cultural routes and rural development.


Antonello Scorcu

Antonello Scorcu is a UNIBO Economic policy and Cultural Economist. His research interests in cultural economics are focussed on pricing and quality evaluation of fine art items. He served as a Director of the Bachelor Degree in Economics and Management of Tourist Services (2001-06) and of the Bachelor Degree in Economics, Markets and Tourist Systems (2006-09). Co-founder of the European Workshop on Applied Cultural Economics he has been a member of its Scientific Committee in 2001-17. Former Director of the UNIBO School for Higher studies in tourism, he is currently member of CAST, the UNIBO Center for tourism study. Among the publications in the field, “Cultural tourism and temporary art exhibitions in Italy: a panel data analysis”, in Statistical Method and Applications, 2011, with F. Di Lascio, S. Giannerini and G. Candela; “Seaside tourism and eco-labels: The economic impact of Blue Flags”, in Tourism Management, 2015, with C. Capacci and L. Vici and “On the relationship between reserve prices and low estimates in art auctions”, in Journal of Cultural Economics, 2018, with M. Castellani and P. Pattitoni.

Patrizia Battilani

Patrizia Battilani is a UNIBO Economic Historian. Her research focuses on cultural heritage valorisation, public history and economic history. She has been visiting scholar at the University of Sidney (2013) and Glasgow (2018 and 2019). She served as director of the Bachelor degree in Tourism Economics (2012-2016). She has experience on participating and managing national and international projects as Head of CAST, the UNIBO Center for tourism study. She is responsible for the UNIBO Unit of the Interreg Italy-Croatia project Recolor (Reviving and EnhanCing artwOrks and Landscapes Of the adRiatic). Between 2018 and 2019 she coordinated a transnational research on dissonant heritage focusing on the European cultural route ATRIUM. Her last publications include How to cope with dissonant heritage: a way towards sustainable tourism development in Journal of Sustainable tourism (2018) with A. Mariotti and C. Bernini.

Fiorella Dallari

Fiorella Dallari has been a Professor of Alma Mater (PAM) since 1 November 2018, former associate professor of Political and Economic Geography since 2004 at the Rimini Campus of the Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna in the Department for Life Quality Studies. In 1972 she began his research activity in the Faculty of Economics and from 1980 on didactic activity in the geographic field (disciplinary sector M-GGR / 02), with a 1st level national qualification (2012). In the field of research, she deals with tourism geography, economic-political geography and regional geography. Currently his research topics are: Local and sustainable development; Heritage and sustainable tourism; Pilgrimages, cultural itineraries and tourist routes; cooperation and sustainable tourism; Heritage, social participation and citizenship; UNESCO Heritage and Religious Heritage.

Fiorella is also founding-editor of “AlmaTourism, Journal of Tourism, Culture and Territorial Development”, a scientific journal of the University of Bologna. Engaged in national and international research projects, she collaborates with UNESCO (UNITWIN Network “Culture, Tourism, Development”; UNESCO Italian Chairs “Territory, Sustainability, Tourism” – TEST, of which she is responsible for tourism; Mediterranean Unesco Chairs – MUNCH), ICOMOS (International Scientific Committee on Places of Religion and Ritual – PRERICO member and coordinator of the Prerico National Committee). For nearly twenty years she has collaborated and collaborates with some itineraries recognized by the Council of Europe (in particular, she is president of European Association of the Vie Francigene, the Via Romea Germanica and the Romea Strata Scientific Committees).
Author of over 150 publications, she received the Vallega prize for research on cultural-historical itineraries (2008).

Alessia Mariotti

Alessia Mariotti was the head of the Center for Advanced Studies in Tourism (Rimini Campus) between 2014 and 2018 and is Associate professor in Economic Geography. Her main research interest are: cultural heritage, culture and local identity in a regional development perspective, participatory processes in local tourism development,
territorial partnership strategies and territorial promotion policies for sustainable tourism development, management plans and monitoring indicators for World Heritage sites, cultural routes and cultural itineraries. She teaches Tourism Systems and Cultural Routes, Geography
of Sustainable Tourism, Cultural Geography of Tourism, Local Development and Cultural Routes, Cultural Geography of Local Development, Tourism and Sport Geography. She is a member of the PhD doctoral committee in “ARCHITECTURE, DESIGN, PLANNING” – University of CAMERINO and Responsible for the University of Bologna of UNESCO/UNITWIN Network
“Culture, Tourism, Development”.

Person Name

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