In the settlement network of Italian small towns (the so-called “borghi”, with a population ceiling lower than 5000 inhabitants), not lacking in discontinuities and patches, a “common thread” is increasingly noticeable, which allows to look optimistically beyond several weaknesses (economy depending on a relatively unprofitable or declining agriculture, social and economic stasis, demographic decline and consequent contraction of public and private services, hydrogeological instability, etc.): we are talking of the firm, pigheaded determination of an increasing number of local communities to become sustainable and responsible realities, get involved, and undertake a process of “hot authentication” of their milieu. Since 2013, such resilient attitude is at the heart of the National Strategy for Inner Areas (SNAI, Strategia Nazionale per le Aree Interne) aimed at promoting coordinated, multi-scalar projects of self-enhancement; in April 2019, the above innovative form of territorial planning was selected by the European Parliament as a model for the 2021–2027 programming period of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).This paper reviews the original and creative bottom-up enhancement process being implemented in several towns of the “Monti Dauni” sub-region, a pilot marginal area identified by Apulian regional authorities within the SNAI. In these small towns, local players aim at maximizing the opportunities of sustainable, experiential tourism by offering an uncontaminated environment, ancient knowledge, genuine flavours and deep emotions to all visitors who wish to achieve a deeper knowledge of the territorial identity instead of being mere spectators, by adopting an active and engaged attitude
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