The project

The opportunity to valorise the Torres Way came in early 2016, when the Intermunicipal Community of Tâmega e Sousa (CIM-TS) included this Jacobean itinerary in its group of applications to the ERDF European programme - Operational Programme for the North Region - Norte 2020 (Cultural Heritage Actions).

The project for the cultural and touristic valorisation of the Torres Way brought together five intermunicipal communities in the northern region of Portugal (Douro, Tâmega e Sousa, Ave, Cávado, and Alto Minho) - which established a protocol, signed in Penafiel on 24 March 2016 - and established an intervention area of 234 kilometres, between Ponte do Abade (Sernancelhe) and the international bridge over the Minho River (Valença do Minho), which covers fifteen municipalities: Sernancelhe, Moimenta da Beira, Tarouca, Lamego, Peso da Régua, Mesão Frio, Baião, Amarante, Felgueiras, Guimarães, Braga, Vila Verde, Ponte de Lima, Paredes de Coura and Valença do Minho.

The project, which has a national contribution of 15%, was approved in January 2017 and completed in 2021. Despite its regional incidence being limited to the municipalities that make up the northern region of the country, the work then carried out benefits the whole of the Torres Way, especially in terms of promotion and valorisation. In fact, there was no physical intervention in the itinerary covered by the municipalities of Aguiar da Beira, Trancoso, Pinhel and Almeida, just as there was no application for qualification actions in the Spanish regions the Way passes through (Galicia and Castile and León). However, the valorisation actions privileged the entire itinerary, from Salamanca to Santiago de Compostela, thus also covering the sections that are part of the Portuguese Central Way (starting from Ponte de Lima).

The joint and coordinated work of the five promoting intermunicipal communities was not only intended to promote the pilgrimage aspect of the Torres Way, but also to take advantage of the existence of this itinerary to generate regional and local, cultural and tourist added values. It was conceived as an anchor-project, in dialogue with other operations already implemented or to be implemented in the field, and transversal from a perspective of regional development that enhances the cultural singularities of the various territories.

The programme was structured around three lines of action. It started with the study and diagnosis of the itinerary in the intermunicipal intervention area, in order to substantiate the authenticity of the route recognised by Luis Quintales, identify opportunities for landscape and heritage qualification, assess the need for signalling and safety interventions for pilgrims. With the support of the Espaço Jacobeus and Via Lusitana pilgrims' associations and of the municipalities, which provided a technician to accompany the team, a diagnosis report was drawn up to guide the Way's future qualification and promotion work.

The installation of signs was the most visible part of the work programme. Following the criteria internationally defined by the Jacobean Plan, this axis intended to provide the Torres Way with homogeneous signalling, relegating the traditional yellow arrows painted on walls, posts and fences to second place, making time erase them. This was not a complete renovation of the existing Jacobean signalling, but rather a reinforcement of the sections already signalled and the placement of milestones and panels on the new sections associated to the way, as occurred in the municipalities of Baião, Lamego or Guimarães (mentioned below). On the other hand, some sections were already equipped with specific standardised signs, in municipalities such as Braga and Amarante - where the respective municipalities had already promoted this intervention - or in the historic centre of Guimarães - a World Heritage site. Because it represents, on a local scale, a necessary change in the landscape, the placement of signs was accompanied by information and awareness-raising sessions for local populations, moments that were used to lay the foundations for an aggregating and protective attachment to the way in these areas.

Regarding promotion, the Torres Way has its own website (caminhodetorres.pt), a brochure and guidebook (in Portuguese, Spanish and English), a pocket map (in five languages) and a wide range of merchandising aimed at pilgrims, the target group of the whole programme and the reason for the existence of this route and for the public investment that has now been made.

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