The European Route of Historic Gardens is now officially a European itinerary certified by the Council of Europe, which has highlighted the historic, artistic and social value of the member gardens, as well as the transnational value that reflects the identity of European countries and regions over the centuries, as well as their common goal of creating a better life and landscape. Currently there are only 40 Cultural Routes certified by the Council of Europe, such as the St. James Way, the Route of the Vikings, the European Mozart Ways, or the Impressionisms Route.
This initiative emerged in 2016 out of a promotion of the City Council of Lloret de Mar (and its Santa Clotilde Gardens) with the collaboration of the City of Aranjuez and the Cultural Heritage and Tourism laboratory of the University of Barcelona, which put forth the idea of joining emblematic parks and gardens so as to raise awareness of them and share common experiences and innovation.
As far as numbers are concerned, these parks welcome over 14 million visitors each year, 1.5 million of whom take part in the more that 500 activities that are organised there (events and research, educational, cultural and social activities). An annual revenue of more than 60 million euros is generated by these parks and gardens.
“The Cultural Routes programme, launched by the Council of Europe in 1987, demonstrates in a visible way, by means of a journey through space and time, how the heritage of the different countries and cultures of Europe represent a share cultural heritage. The Cultural Routes put into practice the fundamental values of Council of Europe: human rights, cultural democracy, cultural diversity and identity, dialogue, mutual exchange and enrichments across boundaries and centuries. As of 2020, there are 40 certified Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe (www.coe.int/routes)”.
Goals of the association
The European Route of Historic Gardens is a non-profit organisation whose objective is to assemble as many managing entities of Europe’s Historic Gardens as possible, with the aim of promoting quality cultural tourist facilities as well as contributing to the regions where these gardens are located.
The gardens belonging to this network are:
What is a historic garden?
The Charter of Florence of 1981, adopted by ICOMOS in 1982, defines a historic garden as “an architectural and horticultural composition of interest to the public from the historical or artistic point of view. As such, it is to be considered as a monument. The historic garden is an architectural composition whose constituents are primarily vegetal and therefore living, which means that they are perishable and renewable. Thus, its appearance reflects the perpetual balance between the cycle of the seasons, the growth and decay of nature and the desire of the artist and craftsman to keep it permanently unchanged”.
Historic gardens tend to have been started as an initiative of a large private fortune of a member of the bourgeoisie, or perhaps a person of nobility who created them as a personal project. With the passage of time, most of these parks and gardens have become public entities or opened their gates to visitors. Today, it is common for most to host educational activities or musical events (concerts and festivals) and remain a source of research and inspiration for the creation of other gardens.
They act as a magnet for tourist activity in the areas where they are located, and offer, in times like these, a completely safe cultural and nature-based leisure option to be enjoyed outdoors, away from the crowds.
Joint conservation projects
One of the main goals of the association includes sharing and developing joint research and innovation projects to create a global knowledge bank. The projects promoted by the gardens themselves are a good example of this, such as the Olmos Life project, where Aranjuez (Spain) is planting 3,000 elms vaccinated against Dutch Elm Disease, an experiment that can later be exported to other European parks.
The most notable projects are those promoted by the association or by its member gardens in collaboration with the association and which are transnational in nature. In this group, it is worth highlighting the Citri et Aurea project, developed through the collaboration between the Boboli Historic Gardens in Florence and the Gardens of the Museum of King Jan III’s Palace in Wilanow, in the area of historic collections of citrus trees. Another example is the one being developed between 11 member gardens to analyse the impact that COVID-19 pandemic has had and will have in the coming years in the conservation of the gardens and monuments they contain, as well as identifying the challenges they will have to face in terms of managing these spaces.
The European Route of Historic Gardens has been a “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” since October 28th, 2020.