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[ Contents ]

The Heritage as a Resource

 

Heritage at the heart of the development of
Barbagia-Baronie [Sardinia, Italy]:
winning back the interior

 

The tourist development of the coast tends to weaken the
inland economy of Sardinia. The development of its natural,
cultural and historic heritage could help reverse this trend by
attracting holiday-makers to the interior and by providing the
coast with local quality products. That is the strategy of the
Barbagia-Baronie LEADER group.

 

Luciano Decandia never tires of pacing up and down the beach of la Cinta, four kilometers of white sand stretching between the turquoise waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and a lagoon where hundreds of pink flamingos live; opposite is the island of Tavolara, a gigantic grey block, a piece of Sardinia that seems to defy Rome which is situated 150 nautical miles in a straight line from the island.

As an architect, Luciano is fully benefiting from the development witnessed these past few years by the town which overlooks the beach, San Teodoro, his native village. "2 500 inhabitants in the winter but as many as 60 000 people in August and some 7 000 homes built in the past 15 years to meet demand..."

Northeast Sardinia has become a fashionable destination since a consortium founded by the Aga Khan began developing the "Costa Smeralda" in 1961, building from scratch several very first-rate holiday centres. Fortunately, there are no towers here disfiguring the landscape: luxury tourism does not go well with concrete. The tourist development which is now affecting the villages located south of the "Emerald Coast" has also spared the coastal environment. Some of the inhabitants keep an eye out for trouble: Luciano is member of the board of directors of the Istituto delle Civiltà del Mare (ICIMAR), an association created in 1989 by some thirty residents concerned with the sustainable development of San Teodoro and its surrounding area. In addition to its publications, conferences and the close links that it maintains with a number of establishments devoted to the study and defence of aquatic and island environments, the association (300 members) is in charge of the creation of a marine nature reserve like the six that already exist in Europe. "The project is nearing completion," says Salvatore Brandanu, president of the ICIMAR, "and LEADER has had its role to play in this."The Community initiative has provided ECU 223 000 to build a "Sea Museum" at the entrance of the beach, and already it is being used as the "Marine Reserve Centre".

"It is the last project that we did under LEADER I," explains Gino Dau, director of the local action group. "It was not planned in the beginning. The devaluation of the lira in 1995 increased the value of our budget in ECUs, generating a surplus of 447 million lira."
So we asked the different municipalities (*) to propose an action that could be carried out quickly. San Teodoro had a project that was ready: to create a 'Centre for Marine Life' comprising a museum, a library, an auditorium, conference rooms and an aquarium."A vast modern building in the form of a prism was therefore built between May and October 1996. It belongs to the municipality but is being managed by the ICIMAR. Construction of the aquarium began in October 1997 under LEADER II.

 

Itinerant tourism

This complex is the second collective infrastructure of importance financed by LEADER in San Teodoro: in 1994, the Community Initiative already helped open a tourist office in an old building in the village centre, an office that is also used for exhibitions, as a point of sale for all the products of the LEADER area and as the local antenna for the LAG. The only coastal town of the LEADER II area, San Teodoro, is in a way a bridgehead for all of Barbagia. Called the "land of the Barbarians" by the Romans who never truly succeeded in controlling it, Sardinia is a very heterogeneous territory that can be divided into three areas: the coastal area which continues to expand; an intermediate area of hills whose population remains stable, because those who work commute daily to the coast; the mountain area (average altitude: 1000 m) which continues to lose population to the benefit of the coast.

President Giosué Ligios describes the strategy of the LAG: "in terms of creating infrastructures, we give priority to the mountain area where urgent intervention is needed, but the three areas must have a domino effect: the coast has a pool of potential visitors for the interior. The interior is a supplier of local products of all kinds for the coast. The 'real' Sardinia is there, with its landscapes, its historic vestiges, its traditions, its specific know-how. By taking advantage of this heritage, we are trying to develop an itinerant tourism and create new activities in the most remote villages."

With a population that has gone from 900 to 300 in less than twenty years, Osidda is considered one of the most threatened villages of the LEADER area. If distance and emigration are for the most part responsible for this decline, they have on the other hand enabled the village to escape the cement mixers: Osidda has retained a certain architectural harmony, an asset that the local action group has been able to turn to good account. Through LEADER, which covered 75% of the costs of the operation (ECU 250 000), 13 neglected buildings of character were completely restored in the centre of the village. In addition to the 60 beds created, this group of buildings has a restaurant, an exhibition area and a point of sale for local products. Nine owners have formed a cooperative to ensure the collective management and promotion of their accommodation. In this way, they participated in the International Tourism Fair in Milan. The first tourists came in summer 1997, but a major challenge remained to be met: the organisation of holiday activities. Road and walking itineraries have therefore been designed to connect certain natural and historic sites to the village.

 

Nuraghi

Archeological heritage is a major asset for Barbagia: Sardinia is the country of the "nuraghi", structures from the bronze age in the form of truncated cones made of rectangular stones assembled without mortar. About 7 000 nuraghi have been counted on the island, and their density is particularly high in the LEADER area which also has "tombs of giants", great nuragic burial places.

Important vestiges from the lower nuragic period (2000 B.C.) have recently been uncovered not far from Osidda: Su Romanzesu corresponds to a vast village built around a sacred well, flanked by terraces on several levels.. Aware of the value of this site which was not at all exploited, the local action group decided in 1994 to develop it, first by setting up a reception centre. After a prolonged and patient effort to convince the owners of the land covered by the site, the LAG finally found developers for the project: Arcangelo Demurtas, veterinarian-cattle farmer, and his wife Meloni Fellucia, teacher.

The project concept clearly sums up the importance given by the LEADER group to heritage sites and historic continuity: the project could have been limited to the construction of a light modern building; instead, it was decided to build a traditional Sardinian farm out of granite. The result is entirely surprising: built between September 1995 and February 1996, the different buildings of the Nuragic Centre of Su Romanzesu truly seem to be one hundred years old. There is a café-restaurant, an amphitheatre used for educational purposes and a small museum of rural life containing a number of tools and artisan objects given or lent by the people living in the surrounding area. Operational since January 1997, the Centre has already received 3 000 visitors in 10 months.

"Without the help from LEADER which provided ECU 220 000, covering 60% of the costs of the investment, we would never have taken the leap," admits Arcangelo. "Three things motivated us: we wanted our five children to be able to earn their living here; we wanted to broaden their horizons by having all kinds of visitors; and we wanted to contribute to the economic development of our village... In the second case, we got off to a very good start: at Easter time, we had the visit of Eric Clapton who came to Sardinia to tape a record with the 'Tenores di Bitti'!"

 

Terra Pintada

With its 3 838 inhabitants, Bitti is the largest town in the area. Here too, LEADER has helped finance several projects involving the development of heritage sites. In addition to creating a museum of rural life on a rather large scale (ten rooms reproducing traditional interiors), the LAG supported the efforts of three young ceramists to set up shop in an old mill that had been abandoned since 1982. Here, everything brings together past and present with taste: the pottery work produced by the "Terra Pintada" enterprise judiciously reconciles tradition and modernity, and the old machinery of the mill has been converted into display shelfs and other conveniences, giving the shop-workroom a postmodern atmosphere. "We cheat a little with tradition,"jokes Giulia Carzedda, one of the three partners of Terra Pintada. "Pottery is a common activity in most of the villages of Barbagia but not in Bitti. Because we already had the mill, our first idea was to turn it into a hotel. We went to find the LEADER group to see if we could benefit from any financial assistance. Very quickly it became apparent that the project should focus on this activity which corresponded much more to the place and to our aspirations and skills: two of us have degrees in fine arts, and all three of us are in love with pottery."

LEADER provided ECU 50 000 to rehabilitate the building, buy a high-performance electric kiln and print promotional material. The young business, however, is still very fragile, like the other initiatives supported in Barbagia-Baronie: "our clientele is still very local, there are still not enough tourists, we have to go and 'sell ourselves' on the coast and on the mainland...,"say many of the entrepreneurs there.

 

Links

Gino Dau sums up the work accomplished but also the efforts that must still be made: "we now have a good supply in terms of infrastructures, accommodation, craft products, etc. We have increased or consolidated the skills of the operators by devoting a large share of our budget – ECU 270 000, LEADER I and LEADER II combined – to training. In collaboration with the authorities of the various towns and certain public promotional organisations such as "Pro-Loco" (tourism) and ISOLA (Sardinian Institute of Crafts), we have introduced mechanisms for the promotion and marketing of mountain products: points of sale, creation of a consortium comprising 22 tourist operators, publication and distribution of promotional material, organised tours beginning in San Teodoro and Nuoro... But a big effort still has to be made to 'win back the interior', increase tourist flows from the coast, economically 'irrigate' the hinterland."

"An amplification of LEADER I", to use the words of the LAG team, LEADER II puts more emphasis on the links between the actions carried out or implemented: the creation of thematic itineraries incorporating sites of tourist interest, accommodation and visits of farmer producers (cheeses, "carasau" bread, medicinal plants, etc.) is more than ever a priority. In this respect, the Barbagia-Baronie LAG also plans to participate more in the LEADER Network in order to take advantage of the know-how of other local groups in this specific area: "the Sardinians are cautious and discrete people," notes Giosué Ligios, "we first had to make our own way here, all by ourselves, to convince our fellow citizens that our course of action was the right one. Now that we can boast several achievements, we are prepared to convey and enrich our experience."


(*) The LEADER I area comprised 15 municipalities.
With LEADER II, this area was split into two. The current
Barbagia-Baronie area comprises 7 municipalities, all
located in the interior except for San Teodoro.


LEADER Barbagia-Baronie

Surface Area: 779 km2
Population: 14 092 inhabitants
LEADER II financing: ECU 2 595 000
    EU and other public funds:
ECU 2 183 000
    Private:
ECU 412 000


GAL Barbagia-Baronie
Via Brigata Sassari 55
I-08100 Nuoro (NU)
Phone: +39 784 39 477 – Fax: +39 784 39 476

 

source: LEADER Magazine No.17 - Spring, 1998


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