New visions for inner peripheries: culture-led regeneration practices to counterbalance social, cultural and environmental decline


  • Adriana Galderisi Università della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli
  • Chiara Pisano Università di Roma La Sapienza
  • Giada Limongi Università della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli




All over Europe, rural and inner areas suffer increasing marginalization: shrinking processes due to a long-term decline phase driven by changes in production, job opportunities, and innovation, lead residents to move towards urban areas, looking for better living conditions. The abandonment of entire villages and the ‘deagrarianisation’ of these territories induces the loss of a significant social capital, in terms of local cultures and traditions, but also of traditional agro-silvo-pastoral practices that have for long contributed to ensure a biocultural diversity, preserving species and habitats, protecting watersheds, and improving soil health and water quality (Agnoletti and Santoro, 2022).

The depopulation of rural areas represents an important threat to the survival of their relevant environmental and cultural heritage and a key challenge to achieve a more balanced and sustainable development. Since the early Nineties, international documents on sustainable development have underlined the disparities among urban and rural areas and the importance of promoting sustainable rural development to ensure an economic, social, and environmental viability of both regions and cities.

Nevertheless, to reduce territorial and socio-economic imbalances it is important not only to overcome current ‘urban-centric’ development model but, also, to shift the focus from the marginality to the relevant potentialities of rural areas and inner peripheries, especially in terms of cultural and natural capital.

This contribution focuses on the role of culture in the promotion of regeneration practices in rural areas to overcome “the historical separation between city and countryside as places of production and the transmission of culture and cultural heritage” (Francioni, 2024). The dichotomy between urban and rural areas widens, indeed, not only the socio-economic, but also the cultural gap between citizens. While the concentration of cultural hubs in cities contributes to shape a concept of cultural services capable of attracting young and lively population, rural areas are perceived as bucolic places where living appears unattractive and impractical or a living museum, alternative to frenetic urban life. The cultural dimension of inner areas is often addressed with territorial marketing operations mainly tailored to urban tourism. Adapting urban cultural models makes these territories highly exposed to the risk of trivialization and flattening of local identities. Instead, encouraging a contemporary cultural production based on memories, identities, and traditions allows to complete socio-economic development strategies and provide alternatives to conventional urban growth models. It is worth noting that preserving rural living identities represents a priority for future sustainability of urban and territorial development too, due to the role of rural areas in counterbalancing the already tangible and future effects of the growth models pursued for decades.

In detail, the contribution proposes a critical review of best practices, selected within Italian and European networks that bring together culture-led regeneration experiences, to understand if and at what extent current culture-led regeneration practices in inner and rural areas may contribute to generate new "cultural fields", based on new forms of narration that look at the specificities of territories, their historical landscapes and local production, on new relationships between memory and contemporaneity and on new synergies between institutions and inhabitants, with effective participatory governance and community engagement.

The critical review of the selected best practices will represent a starting point for identifying: the most relevant themes on which culture-led regeneration are currently framed; the main features of the involved territories, and the relationships among themes and places.

Author Biographies

  • Chiara Pisano, Università di Roma La Sapienza

    PhD Student, Università di Roma La Sapienza



  • Giada Limongi, Università della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli

    Department of Architecture and Industrial Design


Agnoletti M, Santoro A (2022) ‘Agricoltural heritage systems and agrobiodiversity’. Biodiversity and Conservation. 31, pp. 2231–2241. Availabe at: (Accessed 7/01/2024)

Francioni F. (2024) ‘The Urban-Rural Divide and the Contribution of Cultural Heritage to Sustainable Development’, in L. Pineschi Cultural Heritage, Sustainable Development and Human Rights, London: Routledge.