In addition to cities and metropolises, the European territory is made up of many small settlements, custodians of a vast material and immaterial heritage, very often of great historical, cultural and environmental value. In recent decades, these realities have undergone a significant demographic decline induced by the new requirements of contemporary life: the lack of job opportunities, inadequate infrastructure, and poor essential services have encouraged the population to move to the cities, starting a process of social, cultural and economic marginalisation of rural areas. However, the current environmental crisis and the problems of urban densification are encouraging the birth of a “new perspective” that considers the enhancement of inland areas and small towns as a possible driver for the sustainable development of territories and the definition of a new city-countryside relationship. Therefore, recovering inland areas is becoming an increasingly important necessity, which is leading to the drafting of many plans and interventions aimed at reversing the demographic decline trend. Among the most representative projects, two European strategies are based on the Ecovillage and Smart Villages models. Both models emphasise the role of local communities in deciding what action should be carried out to valorise small towns. However, the modalities and nature of the interventions and their methodological approach are substantially different. In view of the above, and starting from the analysis of some emblematic case studies, the paper investigates the peculiarities of the Ecovillage and Smart Villages models, with the aim of highlighting their main criticalities and potentials. From the comparison between the two strategies, a new model for the recovery and valorisation of small towns is proposed, which is called BioVillage 4.0.
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