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It’s well known that the meaning of heritage is hardly attributable to a simple and unambiguous definition. With all its multiple meanings the term heritage still refers to what concerns the past and what we inherit from it, being it material or immaterial (Herbert 1995, Timothy and Boyd 2003). A broad and inclusive definition to which others could be associated defines heritage as "what contemporary society chooses to inherit and pass on" (Ashworth and Tunbridge 1996) or as "any kind of exchange or inter-relation" (Graham 2000). Some authors tend to define heritage as sense of past, meaning by that the awareness that a community has of its own past, or the ability to identify human signs in landscape giving them a historical perspective (Walsh 1992). Starting from this recognition, the awareness of preserving and enhancing those signs, generating what is called sense of place, may be developed. Therefore, for our purpose, heritage can be understood both as sense of past and sense of place. For those who deal with architecture, the recognition of the sense of past and sense of place lies also in the ability to read/interpret/enhance the relations of belonging of a specific asset, or system of assets, to a specific environment.

The assets and relations with the contexts in which they are located should be clearly preserved to convey them to future generations, but, at the same time, they should be used, or better, lived in the present. The issue of preservation in architectural design is hence inevitably intertwined with the complex topic of use and heritage enhancement, both in relation to the life of residents and the presence of visitors from other places, countries, or continents. There is a wide literature on the tourist phenomenon, its economic impact and the social advantages and disadvantages that it can provide to a given territory. The presence of tourism in areas characterised by the presence of heritage assets can be interpreted in two opposite ways: as a factor contributing to the heritage conservation and enhancement or, by contrast, as a factor capable to introduce elements of degradation or disturbance to its fruition. Even with respect to the dual connotation that tourism can assume, the schools of architecture should start to test design approaches that are appropriate to the specific nature of a theme which requires the ability to: dialogue with other disciplines, from transport engineering to tourism economy; interact with multiple figures, from conservation institutions to tour operators; respond to the different and often conflicting needs expressed by citizens and tourists.