Alpine forts the focus of renewed development

The forts dotted around the mountainous French-Italian border region offer a wealth of diversity in terms of architecture, culture and history. To ensure the survival of these imposing structures for visitors and locals alike, the project ‘Sentinels of the Alps, renovation and development of fortified heritage in the Franco-Italian Alps’ has put in place a strategic plan, which includes a quality charter and database of forts throughout the region.

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Wonderful scenery surrounds alpine forts Wonderful scenery surrounds alpine forts

"This project aimed to bring to the fore a common heritage: fortifications located in the border region of the Alps, and also to increase knowledge about fortified heritage and facilitate its restoration. More than 40 sites are now participating in the cross-border network and are together developing cultural and tourism projects."
Muriel FAURE, former project manager of Sentinelles des Alpes (Mission Développement Prospective)

Military strategies, architectural genius, cultural identity and shared histories are part of the fortifications’ stories. The structures offer enormous tourism potential for the region which is why an action plan bringing together French and Italians is transforming the region and its monuments into fascinating visitor attractions. The project also draws inspiration from various frameworks, including the Charter of Venice and the Alpine Convention.

Linking the past and present

Built atop rocky promontories, these buildings provide a source for understanding how local cultures and identities have formed over time. The forts also act as a linking mechanism for new co-operation between France and Italy. The project has resulted in a network of people from both the public and private sector, and from both countries, training them, organising seminars and promoting further networking across borders to help managers stay abreast of modern methods for site preservation and cultural tourism.

Mapping out the way forward

For local residents, a long-term plan is vital for both preserving the buildings and ensuring economic benefits through tourism. Key activities include diversifying the tourism and cultural activities and opportunities, boosting cooperation between local villages and districts, developing and conveying an image of the Alpine region by highlighting its unique features, drafting a quality charter, including an inventory of sites and database of forts, and organising ongoing activities for the networks involved, including seminars, training and forums such as the 1st International Forum on Alpine Fortifications in May 2009.

A comprehensive website ‘Sentinelles des Alpes - Sentinelle delle Alpi’ also serves as a vital tool for connecting people and providing them with useful information including maps, downloads, thematic searches and charter principles. In doing so, the story of the alpine region will continue to be told for generations to come.

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