Vicenza is the capital of its province, and is located at the northern slopes of the Monti Berici, along the Bacchiglione river, approximately 60 km west of Venice and 200 km east of Milan. The city has an active and lively industrial sector, which is especially famous for jewelry and clothing factories. The Gold Exposition is world-famous and takes place in Vicenza twice a year (January and September). Vicenza is also renowned for its food and wine traditions.

Cultural tourism products, motivations and existing gap

The serial World Heritage property “The City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas in the Veneto” was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994 and 1996. The property initially comprised only the city of Vicenza with its 23 buildings attributed to the famous architect Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), as well as three villas extra muros. 21 villas located in several provinces were later included in the property extension of 1996.

Founded in the 2nd century BC in northern Italy, Vicenza prospered under Venetian rule from the early 15th to the end of the 18th century. The work of Palladio, based on a detailed study of classical architecture, gives the city its unique appearance. The palazzi were fitted into the urban texture of the medieval city, creating picturesque ensembles and continuous street facades in which the Gothic style combines with Palladio’s articulated classicism.

Currently, the town’s potential has not been realised. In particular, its inclusion in Unesco’s World Heritage List has not been totally exploited. This is also due to a “distance” between residents and the site, which translates into an awareness gap. Besides, the different “heritages” of the city (cultural, artistic, industrial, food and wine) are not well connected.

Cultural tourism strategies

Many important steps have been taken in the last years to make Vicenza look beyond the confines of a small-scale destination site, caught between the powerful attractiveness of two authentic giants such as Verona and Venice, particularly driven by cultural tourism through the leverage of the World Heritage Listing.

Lab goals

Further leverage has to be provided in order to foster Vicenza’s outstanding artistic and architectural values, acting at the same time on the growth of the heritage and tradition awareness among the citizens. The local community should be engaged in a change of perspective, replacing the view of the World Heritage site as excluding residents with an understanding of the opportunity and inclusivity it represents.

Related to this point is the development of a feeling of pride and ‘stewardship’ among residents, tourist operators and local business, in order to include them in the deployment of a competitive and sustainable marketing strategy.

The goals is therefore to increase Vicenza’s tourism appeal while at the same time acting on the immaterial values that the town represents for its inhabitants.

Suggested activities and innovations being developed

Specific activities in this Lab relate to:

  • Carrying out a cultural mapping analysis to identify gaps in the tourist offer;
  • Integrating the ordinary visiting routes with new products such as river cruises; visits to the most outstanding industrial sites; routes connecting the town centre with some of the villas of the circuit;
  • Developing a learning and education programme for schools and citizens, centered on the city’s history, traditions, cultural, architectural, artistic and industrial heritages;
  • Offering visiting opportunities to heritage sites for citizens in order to encourage their sense of belonging to the community;
  • Arranging a new system of tourists sites signposting, which is currently lacking in town;
  • Offering a specific learning process for taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, shopkeepers who are the first “town ambassadors” for visitors and tourists when they arrive in town.

Through these activities, the innovations that are being developed are:

  • To develop Vicenza as a destination that preserves and enhances  the residents’s core values and traditions;
  • To strengthen the sense of identity and pride of the citizens in their historic city;
  • To create and foster synergies among tourism operations, conservation, research, and heritage management;
  • To increasing knowledge and conservation awareness among the tourism businesses and to promote their participation in the governance of the World Heritage site;
  • To collect relevant data about tourism in Vicenza, supporting strategic management.

Potential stakeholders

The list of stakeholders includes the tourism sector, conservation specialists, cultural associations, trade associations and other groups or individuals involved in economic, community, environmental management, and heritage protection activities, owners of the villas, and superintendencies.