The occurrence of natural disasters and their extraordinary impact on built heritage are the foundations of a research synergy started since 2008, between the Recovery and Maintenance Laboratory, University of Naples Federico II, and the Matsumura and Fujita Laboratory, Tokyo University. Broadening the idea of vulnerability to the relationship between buildings and environment, several Unesco sites are assumed as case studies. The scientific synergy flows into the promotion of a learning network among the actors of local management processes, rethinking procedures and priorities for mitigating the vulnerability of settlements. The originality of the outcomes can be traced in creating a dedicated community, able to acquire competence by doing. The learning network brings into play an active approach towards site's management, rethinking the dynamics of interaction between people and places, through the recovery of local sedimented cultures.