Selecting the site on which to build a new marina is a matter of considerably more dedication and attention than deciding where to raise any other infrastructure
by Paolo Viola*
A good rule for planning the development of tourist harbours on Italy’s coasts – and not only – is the one that was established twenty years ago by the Region of Liguria with its TPCM or “Territorial Action Plan for Coastal Management”, which essentially declared that there would be no new harbours but only adaptations, regenerations and expansions of the existing harbours… An excellent plan, that, however, has been largely disregarded, considering that since then new ports have been built, but there have been no expansions nor any other significant interventions on existing ones. However, the case of the region of Liguria is highly particular due to the remarkable number of existing small-scale marinas and docks, as shown in the box attached to the TPCM itself (see figure 1).
Figure 1 – Overview of projects implemented in the Ligurian tourist harbour system.
The map clearly shows that the longest distance from one harbour to the next is the 24.8 miles of coastline in front of Cinque Terre, from Sestri Levante to Porto Venere, followed by 11.4 miles without marinas between Savona and Finale. Every other distance is less than 10 miles with an average of around 5.
A similar situation to the one in Liguria can be found in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia but, if we move to central and southern Italy, the density of harbours and marinas becomes considerably lower (the average distance between marinas in Calabria is 26.5 miles, in Molise and Basilicata between 18 and 201). Therefore, if nautical tourism in these regions is to be developed, we need to imagine a much richer and more dynamic coastal planning.
1 From Gian Marco Ugolini’s report “Infrastrutture portuali e turismo nautico” (Port infrastructure and nautical tourism) published by GEOTEMA, the official body of AGeI, Associazione dei Geografi Italiani.
The problem is obviously the market, which is much livelier in northern Italy compared to the South of the country, due to the strong craving for the sea experienced by many inhabitants in Val Padana and the regions close to the Alps. As opposed to the inhabitants of southern regions who always have a beach at hand. We can thus presume that in Italy’s southern regions, the desirable development of boating should be targeted more at shipowners who live far away – and who typically have large boats – rather than at traditional local tourism.
Planning new harbours in areas not yet disrupted by human activity is not surprisingly looked upon with suspicion by anyone who cares about defending the natural condition of the coast, which, regardless of its intrinsic beauty, is still a very frail place from the point of view of the environment and the landscape. Supporting this special concern for the environment, Marguerite Yourcenar, in her famous “Memoirs of Hadrian”, has the old emperor says that “…the beauty of a bay bore fruit with the opening of harbours…”, that is to say, that the harbour must blend into the landscape and the contours of the territory naturally and with particular grace.
MARGUERITE YOURCENAR, IN HER “MEMOIRS OF HADRIAN”, HAS THE OLD EMPEROR SAY THAT “…THE BEAUTY OF A BAY BORE FRUIT WITH THE OPENING OF HARBOURS…”, THAT IS TO SAY THAT THE HARBOUR MUST BLEND IN WITH THE LANDSCAPE AND THE CONTOURS OF THE TERRITORY NATURALLY AND WITH PARTICULAR GRACE.
In light of these considerations, it is obvious that choosing the site on which a new harbour is to be built is a matter of significantly more dedication and attention than deciding where to raise any other infrastructure. However, these necessary remarks should not be discouraging because, as is well known, Italy – from Ventimiglia to Marsala, from Trieste to Otranto – is a jetty of more than a thousand kilometres, located at the heart of one of the most beautiful and navigated seas in the world, and it is destined to become an international hub for pleasure boating. New harbours need to be built, specially equipped for maxi, super, mega and giga yachts, that is to say, for ships measuring 24 metres and above, up to over 100 metres, which today, in Italy, cannot find a place or accommodation, nor can they find equipped marinas to be used as a fixed base to visit this country, to perform the necessary maintenance and repairs or to winter the crews.
We must hope, therefore, that the new Government’s decision to create an “Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sea Policies” will quickly lead to a development plan for Italian harbours, not only commercial ones, but also, and above all, tourist harbours, bearing in mind that a high-quality marina, which means a marina equipped with adequate services for both people and boats, will generate unimaginable benefits for the territory that hosts it, in terms of employment, related economic activities, and cultural and social growth.
Paolo Viola (Naples, 1936) is an engineer and urban planner specialising in harbour design, head of the “Marina & Waterfront” area at WiP Architetti s.r.l.
(Harbours – Marinas, where? – Barchemagazine.com – April 2023)