Rural Tourism Driving Regional Development in Tuscany. The Renaissance of the Countryside
After the crisis of the traditional agricultural system in the 50’s, starting from the 80’s rural tourism is driving the renaissance of Tuscan countryside. The empty spaces of rural areas, which characterise the agricultural landscape, show a new set of functions developed by and for the tourist field. The Tuscany Region was the first Italian region to recognize the new trend of the integrated rural development so that in 1985 it stated the first regional law on agritourism. In this context Tuscany is the one of the first Italian and European regions committed to the development of rural areas. This paper recognizes the leading role of Tuscany in the development of rural areas and tourism and shows the relationships between tourism and local sustainable development in rural areas through a case study. In the first part there is a historical analysis of the evolution of the tourism in rural areas, of the strengths of the Tuscan model in this field, and of the relationship between identity and local resources for the sustainable development of tourism (the topic of rural tourism may be analyzed from a local development point of view). In the second part there is the introduction of a case study developed in a rural area characterized by the “typical” Tuscan landscape, the presence of art cities, and a high-quality supply of services and products such as food and wine. The analysis is based on quantitative and qualitative methodologies that helped us outline the network of tourist centres and study tourism in rural Tuscany. Then there is an analysis of competition capacities and potentialities of the local area to understand if and how these depend more or less on the network structure or on local resources. At the end the paper underlines the strengths and weaknesses of rural tourism in Tuscany, one of the leading region of the European project NECSTOUR, and outlines possible future regional policies in support of the sector.
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