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Notes on the Italian experience in the preservation of historic centres. Milestones 1950-1990’s..

Daniele Pini, University of Ferrara

1. The post-war Italian planning experience in the preservation of the historic cities is quite peculiar and is worth to be considered for some approaches and methods which have characterized the theories and the practice of urban conservation. In particular, two aspects deserve to be mentioned: • The concern for the urban fabric - not only the “monumental” complexes or the “listed” buildings of the “higher” architecture but also the “vernacular” or “minor” expressions of the residential pattern -, whose historical, morphological and typological layering represents a heritage value in itself; The integration of measures and bylaws (detailed planning codes and building regulations) for the protection of the architectural heritage in the local planning tools, thus making conservation a relevant component of the urban policies carried out by the municipalities and (since the late 70’s) the regional governments.

By this means, in most of the Italian cities the morphological complexity and the functional vitality of the historic fabrics have been more or less assured through years and guaranteed a central and proactive role in the wider urban area. So far, since the post war reconstruction and throughout the development of the country into an industrial and post-industrial economy, the preserved “historic centres” have been the proper cores and sometimes the drivers of an impressive urban transformation, responding to new emerging social and cultural needs whilst keeping their heritage values and significance. The complexity of Italian experience emerges from the theories and practices which succeeded one another from the 50’s till the 80’s at least, through a rich cultural and political debate which has been fed by not only by relevant academic researches and studies but most of all by cultural associations, professional personalities, municipal policies and plans. 2. New approaches to the conservation and planning issues of “Historic Centres” turned up in the 50’s, going definitely far beyond the usual concerns for the criteria of monuments restoration or the “stylistic” integration of new buildings in historic settings. On the one hand, with different methodologies and operational outcomes though, some seminal researches on the process of constitution of the urban fabric represented a fundamental contribution to widen the scope of the conservation in the most important Italian historic cities , giving evidence to the close but changing relationship of the urban structure to the site and the environmental characteristics, the multiplicity of historical layers that interact in the urban morphology, the variety and diversity of its structural elements including the public spaces and technical infrastructures, the relevance of the so called “vernacular” or “minor” architecture with its richness of constructive elements. Thus, as for Venice, Egle Trincanato publishes in 1948a book called “Venezia Minore” 1, which shows

Trincanato, Egle Renata “Venezia Minore”, Edizioni del Milione, Milano, 1948


As a matter of fact. to be preserved and enhanced through very accurate planning tools. It sets the principle that the importance of the Historic Centres do not lay only in their “cultural heritage value” but also in the “economic value” of their housing stock and the central role of their functions. The evidence of a severe disease. the plan is based on an extremely detailed surveys which addressed the physical structures as well as the households. editor of “Urbanistica” . in 1959. storia urbana di Venezia” 2. Roma 1960. It is worth mention to this regard the pioneering and long lasting work that Giovanni Astengo. giving evidence to the extraordinary range of typologies and resulting urban morphologies and spaces.the very influential review of the Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica . These studies represent the mile stone of an entire school of “Urban Analysis” based on the so-called “typological approach”. In particular. with an exceeding building density. developing a method that identifies those constants that control the building transformations through times. to reach “modern” standards of living. the Saverio Muratori’s book “Studi per un operante. In few years. with building bylaws aimed at controlling the transformations of the urban fabric through prescriptions for each individual building. Thus the plan consist in a very detailed land use zoning complemented by the identification of specific interventions. 3. Italian cities were in fact overcrowded. which was later developed by other influential followers. 1959.through an accurate architectural survey the fundamental contribution to the shaping of the city in all the ages of the non-representative residential and utilitarian buildings. 3 -2- . poor services. based on clear and stringent (though somewhat conventional) conservation criteria. the “Detailed Plan” became a tool to enforce the conservation of the whole fabric of 2 A first Version (“Il Quadro generale dalle origini agli sviluppi”) issued in “Palladio” n°3-4. the pre-war city become just a part of a new larger and fast growing urban area.started in the mid 50’s for the “detailed plan” plan of the historic centre Assisi – a small medieval city Umbria with the headquarter of the Franciscan Order and an important place of pilgrimages. The plan addressed the preservation of the architectural heritage values of the monumental complexes in parallel with the rehabilitation of the historic urban fabric taking in consideration the socio-economic condition of the resident population. Most of all. in the aftermath of the Second World War the physical reconstruction of the stricken cities started together with the development of new urban expansions to accommodate the rushing immigration from the countryside to the cities and from the rural South to the industrialising North. weak infrastructural system and severe hygienic conditions. Few years later. these architectural studies showed new insights into urban history and strongly contributed to the growing awareness of the heritage values of historic cities. led academic and professional circles to be drawn up into a social perspective in the field of architecture and urban planning. bringing an even wider outlook on historic centres. which required not only interventions of building reconstruction but also infrastructural improvement and upgraded housing conditions. hence the true essence of the different typologies 3. Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato. the Volume was instead published in Rome in 1960 by l’Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato This book is complemented by the book of one of his pupil Paolo Maretto: “L’Edilizia Gotica Veneziana”. and is finalised not only at the widespread protection and enhancement of the historic architectural features but also at the definition of the conservation and/or transformation interventions to improve the living conditions of the resident population. whilst forming an invaluable information base for a developing urban planning practice. presents a detailed reconstruction of the historic physical development of the urban fabric carried out through an analysis of the plans and structural elements. On the other hand.

these are not simply the “setting” or the “context” of most celebrated architectural masterpieces but have intrinsic values that deserve a specific attention. De Carlo is keen on outlining the intimate relationship between the city and its territory. However. according to a climax of details from the “Piano Regolatore Generale”(the general plan covering the whole municipal territory. As for the historic centre. In the ‘60s and early 70s other plans became a milestone for the consolidation of the conservation planning practice. becoming a methodological and technical reference for the urban planning practice in Italy. the valorisation of all types of un-built open areas and the surrounding landscape. architectural evidence. urban planning for Historic Centres was managed with the tools defined in the law 1150 of 1942. The “Piano Particolareggiato” must have included the complete list of the concerned cadastral properties. The detailed study of the urban morphology gives evidence indeed of a parallel system made of open spaces dealing with the built up fabric and presenting heritage values to be preserved. however his research has the merit to add further attentions. and as a matter of facts they were rarely a proactive tool of conservation and regeneration. and was susceptible of private owners’ oppositions and could be subdivided in “comparti” with specific functions or architectural qualities. Hence the surveys and analyses experienced by Astengo in Assisi are integrated by De Carlo.the historic city not as a separate task but as a matter of urban policy. Like Astengo he believes the historic Centre is a cultural heritage that must be protected as historical. with different approaches depending on the specific urban conditions and the evolution of the legislative framework..). the surveys and historical analyses these tools required has allowed reaching a very deep knowledge of the urban fabric and its architecture. in particular to the spatial structure of the urban fabric and its “historic” landscape but also to the new relationships to be established with the peripheries and the scattered settlements in the countryside. but also owing to the planners personality as much as to the local political situation. in the 4 A deepening is needed to explain the Italian urban planning tools drawn up in those years: before the regions fully undertook their legislative power in 1972. squares. 4. despite their operational limits. etc. These tools had the great limit to be nothing but a heavy burden of bylaws binding public and private interventions. in many cities. esthetical. to be set in the wider framework of the “Piano Regolatore Generale” 4. and a failure because of the unattainable authority assigned to the public. which represent the “landmarks” of both the urban fabric and the landscape. -3- . political and academic activities. The work that Astengo begun in Assisi was continued and disseminated in the studies he performed for many other cities (notably Bergamo and Genova) and most of all through his institutional. This relationship makes indeed significant the monuments. The Piano Regolatore and the detailed plans for the historic centre and the new expansions of Urbino marked indeed a new step forward in the widening of the scope of conservation of Historic Centres as a component of the larger settlement pattern. the planning tools and the urban design proposals are based on a widespread and accurate protection of the historic architectural features – the “higher” and the “vernacular” ones – but are also deeply focused on the enhancement of the public spaces ( streets. elevations and sections of all the proposed public and private building interventions in scale 1:200). An important example is represented by the studies for Urbino – an hill town in the Marche. On the other hand. but soon it was discovered unable to match the opinions of the numerous owner involved. including urban and rural areas) to the “Piano Particolareggiato Esecutivo” (a detailed plan for the strategic expansion or renewal areas) and the “Piano di Comparto” (a more detailed plan for specific areas – blocks or complexes – identified by the “piano particolareggiato”). which witness to one of the most important Renaissance centres in Italy carried out by Giancarlo De Carlo between 1958 and 1964. well beyond the conventional documentation required for the “listing” of a monument. It was believed that the “Piano di comparto” was a successful response for quality architectural issues (in fact it included the definition of the plans.

and clearly foster a sensible development related both with the outstanding heritage of an important history and the reality of an impoverished and decaying socio-economic context characterised by the decrease in population.not merely copying the historic Centre. who designed all of the most relevant university interventions in the Historic Centre and in the outskirts ensuring a very high architectural quality through a genuine contemporary language both to the “adaptive reuse” of the historic buildings and the new settlements in the outskirts. whilst organising the new expansions and upgrading some emerging suburban areas. At the same time. but this was not the case for most of the small and medium size cities in Italy where historic cities suffered from decay and abandon. not only respecting its heritage but also learning from it to design the new city. The University. the plan do not propose the “freezing” of the historic fabric. if not for those cities listed by the Minister of Public Works which was also in charge for their approval. the decay of agriculture. the implementation of the Plan was largely influenced by the same De Carlo. The Piano Regolatore was thus intended as a tool to foster an economic development based on local resources and De Carlo looked at the presence of a small University to promote Urbino as an “academic city”. became the main actor of a new urban development which attributed new functions to the Historic Centre. in accordance with the Municipality. Urbino has thus become an internationally recognised case to show the contribution that contemporary architecture can give to the conservation and revitalisation of historic centres. by “visual-analyses” that search the perceptive links among the public spaces and the “landmarks” within the city and in relation with the surrounding territory. On the other hand. The “piani regolatori” were at that time not compulsory. and other related phenomena of abandon. which were accurately designed to comply with the site and the above mentioned system of visual relationships. from specific and sometimes exceptional situations. Both the plans of Assisi and Urbino. they are a source of inspiration and a conceptual reference for the new interventions. new settlements were proposed in the surroundings to create students housing and facilities for research activities and conferences. that could be hardly exploited as residences or reinstated in their original functions. 5.preparation of the plan for Urbino. This strategy was initially based on the rehabilitation and reuse of several abandoned or underutilised buildings and architectural complexes of larger dimensions and peculiar typological characteristics. as well as the plans of other important historic cities. -4- . were issued indeed until the end of the 60’s. taking advantage of the outstanding cultural and environmental features of the historic centre and the surrounding landscape. thus to meet new growing social needs and lifestyles. like convents or palatial structures. On the other hand. The two municipalities decided to undertake such a heavy and long planning process because they had received state funds allocated with special laws for the restoration of their monuments and stop their physical decay. rather assimilating its inner principles and transforming them. At the same time. but also in the morphological and typological features . the Historic Centre became the starting point for considerations on the modalities of development of the future city. In De Carlo’s plan for Urbino. These relationships define a spatial framework to protect the historic centre while delimiting the possible domains for urban expansions and transformations. Herein urban development areas are not only defined in their localisation and size.

thus the historic centres were usually studied separately with a “Piano Particolareggiato”. D. and the typological analysis was adopted as a useful tool to achieve an In 1967-68. C. as an issue of urban policy. motors. based on the expected 10 years demographic increment. In this perspective the preservation of the Historic Centre is outlined as an alternative of the consumer’s capitalist society. Pierluigi Cervellati. In 1969. followed by similar experiences in other important cities of the region Emilia Romagna. 6. The studies on the historic centre of Bologna. the Plan of Bologna was consistent with a more global vision of the urban vision aiming at containing and limiting the urban sprawl 6 with a complete recover of the housing potentials of the existing urban areas. in order to ensure a more balanced (we would say today “sustainable”) development. the Law 1150/1942 was integrated by decrees which set the criteria for the definition of the “homogeneous zones” to be applied by the “Piani Regolatori”: A. C and D zones. This logic differentiate greatly the “A” zones from the rest. F. The preparation and enforcement of a Piano Regolatore with a clear identification of the “zones A” to be submitted to protection measures became mandatory for every municipality. On the other hand.agriculture. 6 5 -5- .Massachusetts Institute of Technology (The limits to growth. The conservation of the historic centres was thus set in a new perspective. including a more widespread protection of the historic settlements.The changes and reforms that occurred in the legislative framework since the 60’s5 entailed the diffusion of an established planning practice all over the country and progressively provided the tools for a more effective control of the territorial and urban transformations. denouncing the link between increments of population. where still fundamental functions of the actual urban life were concentrated. not only to the listed buildings or some isolated outstanding “spots”. adopting and revising the “typological analysis” methodologies of the Muratori’s school.developing areas to be completed. 1972). and the proposed rehabilitation is aimed at hindering an overall decay and enhance. where a neo-Malthusian vision of development was exposed. the original residential function thus avoiding any further commercial “tertiarisation”. In the mid ‘60’s the historian and planner Leonardo Benevolo started a series of systematic surveys on the urban fabrics of Bologna. The reuse of the historic fabric building stock was then considered as a fundamental issue to pursue a public policy of controlled urban development. so to ensure a minimum of 18 square meters/inhabitant. edited by a group of scientist at the MIT . At the ground of this idea to contain the urban sprawl there are probably some theories developed in those years concerning the critic to the growth of human being on the planet and their consumptions. E. and was the first step toward the diffusion of an increasing awareness that a conservation policy should be extended to the whole fabric of the historic residential expansions.larger equipment and facilities of public interest. was connected with land use “standards” for new public services to be provided in the B. with strong demographic importance. This zoning. as much as possible. B. the historic centre included. relating to their functional role in the larger context of the city and the region. became counsellor to urban planning in the municipality of Bologna and showed great administrative skills in urban management drawing up the new “Piano Regolatore” of Bologna with a comprehensive “detailed plan” for the historic centre – one of the largest in Italy.areas for industrial and economic activities.corresponding to the Historic Centre and other historic settlements. Ferrara and other cities. even the smaller. One of the concerns was to allow for a “proactive” conservation to fit the new functional needs but also to keep a certain popular and working-class character. represented another fundamental milestone in Italian and probably European conservation planning. consumptions and the likeable deplete of planet’s resources. In this new framework new diffused planning experiences were carried out also as a response to the need of controlling urban sprawl and transformations in inner cities. one of his pupils.

the PEEP (a sectoral social housing plan) of the Municipality identified several “comparti” of intervention.865/71 that allows the Municipality to expropriate lands to attain up to the 70% of the housing need calculated on the fore coming 10 years and the draw up to this purpose specific plans (PEEP – Piani per l’ Edilizia Economico Popolare) which have the same legal and administrative value of the “Piani Particolareggiati”. if not impossible. So far. counting for about 1500 dwellings. it was complemented by a substantial and effective effort to increase the cultural activities and the presence of the University through the “reuse” of the so called big “containers” – larger buildings with peculiar typological characteristics. Besides. and the extent of its implementation. This analysis is based on systematic surveys of urban fabrics and single properties (referring to the existing cadastral system). Here. the Bologna experience remains quite peculiar because of the planning strategy. rather than to the reading of the urban morphology or the system of public open spaces. the forthcoming limits of this approach can be found in a rather ordinary architectural quality of some housing rehabilitation interventions and most of all in the difficult. however.optimal operational understanding of the historic fabric’s capacity and to plan its reuse for housing and related functions. where the public bodies could easily purchase the land at a very low cost. but also public facilities and services). sustainability of the whole project which was largely relied on public resources. renovation and even reconstruction of the different building components of the historic fabric. in the most dilapidated or decayed areas that showed a potential for housing reuse and/or renewal and reconstruction. -6- . and the L. in the city centre. such as convents. The rehabilitation of the historic centre was indeed undertaken in the early 70’s through the application of a recent and innovative legislation for social housing7 and the use of the funds available to this purpose. Between the end of the 70’s and the beginning of the 80’s all the regions produced laws on urban planning providing the legal framework to enforce specific regulations concerning the 7 In particular the L. In this context. with the intention to extrapolate constants and variations of typologies. The typological analysis carried out by Cervellati and the municipal offices in Bologna was paralleled and further developed in many other historic centres. The innovation of Bologna municipality was the use of these tools to intervene in the historic centre.167/62 which allows the Municipality to expropriate lands for subsidised or public social housing. in the studies of Benevolo for Brescia or Caniggia (another pupil of Muratori) for Como. The typological analysis became then a fundamental tool for the draw up of “Piano Particolareggiato” and for the implementation of the interventions in the different “comparti” (corresponding to urban blocks). based on the direct public intervention. i. and it was finalised to the drafting of norms ruling the functions and the uses of the buildings (mainly residential. and soon became a typical approach in the preparation and the of the “detailed plans” for the historic centres in Italy. barracks and obsolete industrial structures. particularly the working class. 7. thus implementing a public policy aiming at keeping the resident population. thus to create a sort of reference catalogue for the interventions of rehabilitation. This urban strategy giving priority to social housing was indeed a very strong ideological statement and an important political standpoint that was adopted by many important local administrations in the country. these legal and financial tools were normally used to build new mass housing schemes in the far periphery. On the other hand. trying to avoid its complete transformation and conversion for commercial and business activities.e.

47/78) that fixes very detailed and stringent criteria as for the regulatory content of the urban planning tools. like the Veneto. maintenance. The “central” location and the functional role of the historic city added to the high environmental quality. Several regional legislations. through the definition of the types of interventions that can be admitted for each individual building. made the national provisions much more stringent and effective as for the methodology and the technical contents of the planning of the historic centres through the “Piano Regolatore” 8. In particular. the one with higher percentage of house owners: in 2000 the 72% of households where living in the house they owned -7- . it deserves to mention the diffusion of the house ownership 11 also amongst the low and medium income classes. an increased welfare and new emerging lifestyles. In the ‘80s these planning tools were consistent with a widespread awareness of the importance of the historic centres. renewal and reconstruction. which makes redounding the study of a “piano particolareggiato” covering the whole historic centre. the Piano Regolatore has to fix the “categories of intervention” for each building included in the Zone A. Moreover.or in some exceptions also the mezzanine. urban redevelopment.e. to make it attractive for small scale and high range commercial and business activities. In most of the Regions. i. the “piano regolatore” must identify and delimit all the historic settlements in the territory of the “commune”. Besides. the severe land use limits initially imposed to non-residential uses by the municipal planning tools 10 made the built surfaces available in the Historic Centres a rare asset. The earliest and probably most systematic regional law is probably the one of Emilia Romagna (LR. These changes occurred in a context of widespread and profound transformation of the Italian society. To this purpose. restoration and rehabilitation. not only as a cultural heritage but also as a social issue and. characterised by a diffused industrial development. it defines the fundamental “categories of intervention” to be applied. In some regions. an economic asset. and classifies all the buildings within these “Zones A” according to the “categories of intervention” established by the law. attesting on the national law 457/1978 9 and the Emilia-Romagna’s experience. 9 The law is called “Piano Decennale per l’Edilizia Residenziale Pubblica” because it provides the management and financial tools for a the-years social housing policy. For example there was the limit to use the ground floors . hence a very expensive one. the Regional governments were given the political and administrative responsibilities in the field of urban planning. To this purpose. among European countries. these included an extremely detailed and wide range of possible interventions – 16 “categories” from the “philological restoration” to the simple “demolition” – and had to be justified by a survey form with all the information and a plan of the building. the increased number of students population entailed an additional demand of housing for rent progressively replacing the local resident population. enhanced by several financial and credit tools but also fostered by the smaller municipalities surrounding the larger and medium size cities. but it also defines general rules for the recovery of the existing housing stock and urban heritage and gives the Regions relevant autonomous powers for their implementation. for commerce 10 11 Italy is probably. in most of the historic centres of the wealthiest regions. On the other hand. most of all. in the “university cities”. Moreover. particularly in the North. the urban fabric and the heritage buildings begun to be protected not only by the legal and planning framework. whilst its cultural significance begun to become a magnet for tourism and all sort of cultural events. referring to the most relevant experiences on historic centres. The local policies initiated from the ‘70s entailed a slow but inevitable process of physical conservation that consolidated the principle of the “reuse” not only for the public interventions but also for the private investments. in particular. the average size of the households has dramatically dropped down since the ’60s and at 8 In 1975. but also by the “common sense” that soon realised that demolition and reconstruction were neither an useful nor a desirable investment anymore. the municipal urban plans definitely became the fundamental tool to preserve the historic centre.

the number of the “city users”. In general. with obvious and natural updating By the half of the ‘90s with the law L. As a matter of facts. despite the initial purposes. whilst new issues are created by the functional changes that progressively become the focus of the planning action 13. In this framework. Thus traffic and the related problems of pollution.e. whilst the physical setting. in the smaller communes of the surroundings. culture and tourism. these processes entailed an important decrease of the population of the inner areas in most of the cities.493/’93 and the related subsequent regional laws. the quest for housing ownership was largely satisfied by the increasing sprawl of a disordered “diffused urbanisation”. with severe reactions to every attempt to limit the motorized access to the historic Centres and promote pedestrian areas. They are not ordinary urban planning tools. such as industrial dismissed areas or obsolete buildings for public utilities. congestion and parking availability are amongst the major issues being debated. for different reasons. leisure. soon followed by large areas of the historic centre. all over Italy. i. however. To this purpose. thanks to the implementation of the conservation planning tools. and rapidly loose low and medium income population. In the ‘80s and ‘90s. new legal and planning tools have been developed for urban regeneration. is not simply “preserved” but often increasingly enhanced (the required private intervention on properties is ever-growing demanding). is worth to mention several experiences carried out since the late ‘60s. by young couples and singles.e. as a consequence of the ageing of the population but also of new lifestyles that generated a new housing demand. 12 13 For example in Ferrara the plan today is the Plan of 1975.the turn of the century barely reached 2 persons by family. the PRU do not concern directly the historic Centre but may have nonetheless great influence on them. where low density residential developments provided affordable housing due to the low cost of the land. In this framework. An irreversible phase of commercial conversion and population altering has thus started that will last until today. especially young families that were more and more attracted by the housing market opportunities of the new “diffused” suburban areas. It is clear. i. But a large part of the population that now lives in the suburban areas still works or have access to services in the historic centre. rather Programs promoted by the municipalities in association with private investors. most of the Historic Centres have definitely lost the majority of its population in favour of the suburbs and surrounding small-size-municipalities and is mostly inhabited by an elderly and wealthy population (that can afford the interventions and materials requested by the norms) of house owners or by temporary residents. since they can provide facilities and services to improve accessibility or promote processes of functional conversion and reuse. the Historic Centre was any more competitive in terms of real estate for affordable housing. Several pioneering experiences14. where the central road was made pedestrian-only. the “Programmi di Riqualificazione urbana” (PRU) that mainly address the recovery and renewal as well as the functional conversion of the ever-growing dismissed areas. 8. often located on the boundaries of the historic city. rather simply displaced on external zones. which is still the core for administrative functions and has an important role for commerce. These have often started with private initiatives later adjusted with municipal plans. that new opportunities of conversion and reuse may arise. The first experience was in Siena in 1967. Urban sprawl was not arrested or contained. most of them accessing the historic centre by car. Bologna firstly. whilst ensuring accessibility to work and services in the city centre mostly by private car. has increased dramatically. 14 -8- . The Plans providing the norms for the interventions in the Historic Centres are still enforced 12 and are no longer subject of discussion. to have public (regional or governmental) support in the implementation of infrastructures and services. more and more becoming an “identitarian” place for the sprawled settlements of the suburban areas. If the resident population decreases.

This view has also fostered the promotion of parallel initiatives like the constitution of municipal agencies to organise national level events: i. and several associations were able to promote activities of different kind. to be promoted through the conservation and rehabilitation of its architectural and urban heritage.e. history. The public administration draft a project called “Progetto Mura” that included the city-walls restoration. as in the 80ies (1987) deliberately invested in the “cultural industry” as “pull-factor” for the city economic. thus protecting also an agricultural landscape of relevant heritage value. museums. as well as to small-size commerce and handicraft. the restoration of an historic ramp designed by Francesco Di Giorgio Martini and the construction of a lift to reach directly the pedestrian historic area from the parking. -9- . the university development found a suitable ground in the context proposed by the Municipality’s conservation program. To this purpose. In turn. Ferrara is an interesting example. “Ferrara Pittura”. In this evolution there is a parallel ever-growing demand for cultural activities and events which find their location in the Historic Centres. “Culture”. was strategically chosen to induce development and employment. with the aim of creating a new “system of cultural facilities”. Paradoxically enough. The Progetto Mura showed that a good Plan is not enough: a vision and a program was needed to achieve the objectives of the conservation of the heritage values. 9. within a wider program of rehabilitation and reuse of some convents and buildings close to the walls. despite the ideological and political premises. and the Italian Historic Centres have become less and less affordable to low and middle income classes. art. Hence the rather naïf but clear concept of “culture industry”. This project was developed in the framework of the “Piano Regolatore” and aimed at connecting the natural protected area of river Po with the green areas of the city.e. both rampart and surrounding green areas. This add new conflicts and contradictions since it may favour a further evolution of the commerce within historic centres: the “corner shops” indeed have more and more difficulties to survive. promoting important art exhibitions in the restored palaces or “Ferrara Musica” in collaboration with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra established in Ferrara by Claudio Abbado in 1998. but also that for these reasons it makes the central areas even more valued for tertiary activities. these have to be linked to an overall perspective of economic development and functional strengthening of the city to become sustainable. to which the walls are part. and the physically preserved historic centre with its university appeared then to be the assets Ferrara had to invest in. largely owing to agriculture and a big chemical industry.have shown that pedestrianisation not only represents a fundamental contribution to the rehabilitation of the historic fabric and to the improvement of the environment. At the same time. the Plan of De Carlo proposed the recovery of a lower parking area underneath the “Borgo del Mercatale”. It aimed at the reconversion of the economic base of the city. since the ‘80s conservation has resulted in a real-estate valorisation. The Project was build on an attentive analysis of Ferrara economic disease (at that time it was the poorest Province of the Region) and initially implemented with FIO(Fondi Investimenti e Occupazione) funds designated for population employment. Perugia also is quite exemplificative: the historic centre (on top of a hill) has been made totally pedestrian-only and a large system of parking and moving staircases is organized to allow the access. In Urbino. i. not only because of the changing demand due to the decrease of the resident population and its new composition. but also because of the increasing rents which are affordable only for upper range activities. besides the so-called “cultural tourism” that already makes the “città d’arte” a first destination for both their tangible (architecture and cities) and intangible (traditions and culture) heritage.

not only in Venice or Florence. but has to be pursued as a process concerning a “system” creating the opportunity to develop new functions and give new impulses and perspectives to the city. . Whether the original objectives have been often missed. beyond the most celebrated monuments of outstanding “spots”. They are at the same time reasons of the radical change of the original socio-economic condition. 10. whose rehabilitation and regeneration necessarily implies a dynamic process creating constant opportunities and conflicts. Several experiences in Italy show that a preserved Historic Centre can attract high quality activities and became a reference point for the larger urban area and the region counting on its heritage. the program proved to be successful in increasing the environmental quality and liveability of the Historic Centre.Beyond the restoration of an important physical heritage. hence on the projected image of the city and its intrinsic potentials. other unplanned opportunities came out. This highlight the concept that a conservation policy can not limited to the physical intervention on an – or a series of – objects considered in itself. and basis of an urban physical conservation that in any case allows the “historic city” to be still the “centre” and the “core” of the city-life. research and service activities.tourism and culture have probably been the unplanned but unavoidable destiny of Italian cities that counted on a widespread preservation of the physical heritage features but has definitely entailed the irreversible loss of a rich social life. place and image. and sustainable since it the “cultural industry” continues to create economic opportunities through cultural tourism. It is more and more evident that the historic city represents a “heritage asset” in itself.10 - . Thanks to its new functions the historic city conserves the “identity” as a space. In many cases . thus representing a fundamental element of identification for the larger urban society and a driver for its development. just to mention two extreme situations .