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Immaterial Cultural Heritage

Stefania Pennacchio
April 22, 2021
Two ways to approach Siracusa
April 22, 2021
Ph. © Vittoria Gallo

Intangible cultural heritage and local community:

A new understanding of travelling and living our post-pandemic daily life in the Val di Noto

In our times we observe how our daily routine and the ways we spend time and use space are changing profoundly.
This approach is also mirrored in tourism. Our idea of travelling is being modified and a different way of enjoying the places we visit has emerged, in the sense that we place more importance on the emotions that the destinations provoke and the unique experiences that they offer, we stay away more and more from mass tourism models, preferring to enhance proximity travelling.
This being the wider context, it is necessary to develop new connections between travellers and destinations through emotional and experiential tourism models, soft mobility, promotion of local territories and osmosis between local communities - in their role of custodians and interpreters - and cultural heritage.
These things considered, the area of Syracuse is unique in its interconnection between History and Nature, places and traditional knowledge, and traditions and productions.
There is a profound link between the architectures of different historical time periods - from ancient Greek to late Baroque - and landscape, food and wine produce and craftsmanship - which are safeguarded by a sensitive and welcoming community. This makes the larger area of Syracuse a unique experience of enjoyment of an open-air museum, which is also the driving force of a new idea of socio-economic development based on culture.
Ph. © Antonio Gerbino
Consequently, cultural, tangible and intangible heritage are the catalysts for the empowerment and development of local communities, which need to think of them as ‘common goods’ to be shared, adopted and placed at the centre of key participatory and sharing practices capable of identifying new forms of protection and enhancement, new styles and codes for conservation, in addition to a new role for travellers. Together and next to local communities, they are asked to participate in those processes of changing cultural heritage acting as ‘temporary citizens’.
This new paradigm leads travellers to become proactive interpreters in rethinking places and customs by sharing with them a vision as has been sketched in the Faro Convention. It reads: “Cultural heritage is a group of resources inherited from the past which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time …”
Ph. © Vittoria Gallo
Ph. © Vittoria Gallo
This concept of heritage goes beyond both the national dimension, which is the idea that modernity has had of heritage so far, and the distinction between tangible and intangible heritage. This new concept states that the rights relating to cultural heritage are inherent in the right to participation in cultural life, being at the same time an individual and collective responsibility which poses the conservation of the cultural heritage and its sustainable use at the service of human development, quality of life, construction of a peaceful and democratic society, and in the processes of sustainable development and the promotion of cultural diversity. It is a new perspective on safeguarding and fostering cultural heritage based on the participatory principles developed during the 1970s, which, in the new globalised and technological scenario of this new millennium, encourage citizens to develop new and necessary ways to use it.

Ph. © A. Campisi
Ph. © A. Campisi

Ultimately it is a way to enjoy an emotional narrative of local excellences through an intimate journey inside the identity of the area of Syracuse by encountering the food and wine produce, which make it emblematic of the Mediterranean Diet (UNESCO Intangible Heritage List), artisanal knowledge of dry-stone wall builders (The Register of the Intangible Heritages of Sicily), the tradition of Sicilian Puppets (UNESCO Intangible Heritage), the transmission of rural knowledge at the House Museum of ‘Antonino Uccello’ (The Register of the Intangible Heritages of Sicily), the earliest and amazing prototype of an Eco-Museum, the popular genius of Giufa’ (a thousand-year old popular character originating from the Persian tradition, who has spread and put down roots in many areas from China to Spain and has regained popularity in the Val di Noto). The list of specialities is endless and also includes religious and lay celebrations and festivals to keep old customs alive with innovative interpretations.
Marzo 2021


He covers managerial positions in complex projects at a Euro-Mediterranean level. He is a public relations officer with the main Euromed networks, member of the board and general manager of the Regional Office for Europe and the Mediterranean of ICCN, the global network of cities safeguarding the intangible heritage, an NGO recognised by UNESCO. Since 2018, he has been the project manager of ‘Mediterranean Diet - When brands meet people’, a project to enhance the Mediterranean diet, which is in the world list of intangible heritage.
Translation: Maria Concetta Spinosa