The need to recuperate and revalue Estremaduran cultural heritage was the motivation for the creation of a Project on heritage recuperation denominated "Via de la Plata - Estremadura" carried out by the Ministry of Culture of the Regional Government of Estremadura (Spain). Execution of the project commenced in 1998, co-financed by the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Regional Government of Estremadura for a total sum of 19.832.791 Euros. This was managed by the Alba Plata Management Office, which pertains to the General Directive of Cultural Heritage.
The principle objective of this Project in the Autonomous Region of Estremadura, has been the stimulation of our country's economic, tourist, environmental and social development of the region. This has been achieved by the recuperation of a lineal national heritage property which forms the backbone of the entire Estremaduran territory from North to South: the Roman Road called "Viacute;a de la Plata" (Silver Route).
The passing of travellers along the Viacute;a de la Plata throughout history has shaped this historic roadway, allowing the development of a series of constructions and elements which today serve as an aid to its conservation and use - constructions of which sufficient evidence remains today: milestones or kilometre stones on the roadway itself, properties which gave shelter to travellers, bridges which gave continuity in areas of fords and townships born under the protection of the roadway. All these elements provide valuable assistance in understanding the historical evolution of the roadway.
Together with the actions inherent in the recuperation of the Roman roadway, and with the objective of creating the territory-museum described by the cultural itinerary, all the above has had a favourable effect upon a series of actions which were implemented with the aim of restoring and rehabilitating a series of elements of heritage in the surrounding area; immovable resources which serve to reinforce and revitalise the roadway. These are, in total, a collection of thirty-two buildings of singular character, characterised by their historical significance and typological diversity: castles, hermitages, palaces, convents, industrial installations, traditional houses, public works and archaeological sites.
The rehabilitation of these buildings has enabled them to be put to new use in such a way that they combine their conservation and the realisation of the value of the heritage, from the perspective of the development of the region of Estremadura. These new uses serve both as an aid and as infrastructure to the Roman road itself, and they include: the restored heritage available to visitors, interpretation centres, hostels on the Viacute;a de la Plata, and the causeway itself in its condition as a passable route.
This approach has aimed to strengthen on the one hand historical values and on the other the knowledge of new opportunities which the route offers both economically and in terms of heritage and culture and, as it plays an important role as a connecting bridge between the distinct autonomous regions of the western Iberian peninsula through which the causeway passes, it makes possible the recuperation of long ago prominence and the continuity of inter-regional exchange which will guarantee the enrichment and revitalisation of this cultural itinerary.
At the moment, and since the project was finalised in 2004, the Alba Plata Management Office manages this Roman roadway and its associated resources as one unique product, as well as for its promotion and publicity at regional, national and international levels. Due to the great cultural and tourist interest awoken by the Viacute;a de la Plata, a cooperation agreement has been signed between the Spanish Government''s Ministry of Culture and the Regions of Andalusia, Estremadura, Castille - Leon, Asturias and Galicia, promising to work together on this cultural route.
Last year, in 2006, the Viacute;a de la Plata in Estremadura Project won first prize in the Cultural Landscape Category of the European Union Cultural Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2005.
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