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Abstract

A Sacred Mount is a historical holy site and former pilgrimage attraction. It is a devotional complex located on a mountain, and composed of a series of chapels and shrines in which scenes from the life of Christ, the Virgin Mary or the saints are represented through paintings and sculptures. In 2003 the Sacred Mounts of Piedmont and Lombardy were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List being considered as representative of something that can be understood, in part, through visitor interactions with the areas in which they are located (see Di Giovine, 2009:208).

The visitors to Sacred Mounts are: tourists for whom the journey is strictly for cultural purposes, pilgrims who visit the site and share a spiritual quest or religious devotion in order to obtain spiritual benefits and/or find the sources of their faith, and tourists who visit the sacred place on their way to other destinations by chance or out of curiosity (see Afferni et al., 2011).

Sacred Mounts are important destinations for religious tourism that can be defined as ‘local pilgrimage centres’, not because of their cultural and religious values, but because of visitors’ flows. However these holy places are not mass destinations, but their cultural, artistic and religious importance is well-known.

Based on exploratory investigation, this article describes the numbers and kinds of visitors to the Sacred Mounts of Piedmont and Lombardy and the projects of preservation being undertaken to maintain cultural and environmental values. The research, in particular, try to evaluate the experiences of networking and co-operation in the UNESCO site, with a focus on the 2015 Milan International Expo.

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