Ambassador Stories: HeRe_Lab, a joint heritage research lab for the management of the Historic Centre of Florence

29 June 2023 Edward Hinkle
Melanie Fiol, Comune di FirenzeOverview Florence from Bardini Garden
© Melanie Fiol, Comune di Firenze

Ambassador Stories is an ongoing series of articles dedicated to highlighting the work of the 2023 PANORAMA Ambassador Cohort. This article highlights the work of PANORAMA Ambassador, Carlo Francini. To learn more about the 2023 Ambassador Cohort, click here.


Having risen to economic and cultural prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Historic Centre of Florence remains a symbol of the Italian Renaissance. In 1982, the centre was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its 600 year history of influencing fine arts and architecture which spread from Italy across Europe. The preservation of the centre in a sustainable manner is vitally important to not only help prepare the city for the impacts of climate change, but also to protect the city’s deep connection with its history.


The Heritage Research Lab (HeRe_Lab) is a joint research laboratory between the University of Florence and the World Heritage and Relations with UNESCO Office of the Municipality of Florence. The lab was established in 2015 and is dedicated to contribute to the sustainable development of the city through actions and solutions in harmony with the protection, conservation, and enhancement of the Historic Centre of Florence. In May 2021, the new resolution to renew the laboratory agreement between the Department of Architecture’s Communication Lab from the University of Florence and the Municipality of Florence was signed.


Since September 2021, the HeRe_Lab has been highlighted as a solution from the PANORAMA Nature-Culture and PANORAMA Cities communities. Synergizing with PANORAMA, HeRe_Lab shares the common goal of improving the sustainability of heritage places and cities and preparing them for the impact of climate change, with a focus on preserving the Historic Centre of Florence. Considered a good practice within the World Heritage system both on a national and international level, HeRe_Lab creates and implements initiatives in line with the World Heritage Convention and the Management Plan of the Historic Centre of Florence with its dedicated and multidisciplinary team.


Photo from the Monitoring of the Management Plan of the World Heritage “Historic Centre of Florence” event.


Over the course of the last year, HeRe_Lab has grown and now consists of 6 research fellows and the collaboration of 5 departments of the University of Florence. Thanks to the multidisciplinary team of World Heritage specialists, architects, urban planners, art historians, economists, geomatics professionals and developers, the Lab is able to face complex issues, analyze interactions between different fields of study and identify shared solutions for the conscious and sustainable management of the tangible and intangible assets of World Heritage sites.


HeRe_Lab is also involved in further developing management plans for heritage sites in Tuscany and Bergamo, as well as other projects across Florence such as the Firenze Greenway, Firenze Forma Continua, and was part of the Organizing Committee of the International Conference “1972-2022. World Heritage in transition. About management, protection and sustainability”. The Firenze Greenway project is also a published PANORAMA Solution that aims to merge three existing itineraries passing through gardens and monuments belonging to different institutions and two World Heritage sites (‘Historic Centre of Florence’ and ‘Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany’). This unique journey constitutes a long-term solution to offer alternative routes centred on 'slow tourism', boosting sustainability, the rediscovery of green urban areas, and the well-being of visitors.






Read more about HeRe_Lab by reading their full solution here.


About the author

Carlo Francini has been the site manager of the UNESCO World Heritage site 'Historic Centre of Florence' since 2005, as well as the head of the Florence World Heritage and relations with UNESCO office. In his long-standing career in heritage management, Carlo has served crucial roles, acting as a key mediator between private local actors and international bodies. Since 2009 he has been the scientific coordinator of the Italian World Heritage Association, coordinating the HeRe_Lab, and is now a member of  2023 PANORAMA Ambassador Cohort. To learn more about their PANORAMA Solutions, follow the links below.