Pierluigi Peracchini – Il Miglio Blu

An interview with the Mayor of La Spezia, Pierluigi Peracchini, on the role of the Ligurian capital in the Levante region and its potential for the national nautical industry

by Olimpia De Casa

We are moving towards beauty and environmental sustainability, making the most of what Mother Nature has given us and the talents that have come before us. These are the words chosen by the Mayor of La Spezia, Pierluigi Peracchini, to sum up the efforts of the Municipality to bring more dignity, splendour and attractiveness to an area that has built its history, productivity, soul and raison d’être on the sea and for the sea. This city, the second largest and most important in the region, does not “simply” overlook the sea, but is an industrial, entrepreneurial and social fabric forged by the laws of a strip of land unique in its morphology and diversity.

Miglio Blu

The world’s leading nautical companies are concentrated in an area of just over one nautical mile between the Molo Pagliari and the Muggiano in La Spezia. The most prestigious yachting and mega yacht brands build their yachts and mega yachts here: Cantieri Sanlorenzo, Cantieri Riva – Ferretti Group, Cantieri Baglietto, Fincantieri, Perini Navi, Antonini Navi, Cantieri Navali La Spezia, Navale Michelini and Porto Lotti, one of the most attractive tourist ports in the Mediterranean.

Pierluigi Peracchini

A territory on the edge of the Ligurian Levante, which has built its international reputation on tourism – think of the Cinque Terre, the Bay of Poets and the stretch of the Ligurian Sea from Porto Venere to Punta Bianca – but also a province (which Peracchini himself will preside over from 2019) where all the different aspects of the maritime industry coexist. Sometimes complementary, sometimes antagonistic. The hostility of the people of La Spezia some time ago towards the thousands of military personnel transferred here is well known (at least to those who, like me, were born in La Spezia and lived there for some time), but there is no doubt that the (beautiful) transformation of the capital has made a positive contribution to changing this mindset too. As the offspring of a very closed culture, where the tight embrace of the Apennines has prevailed over the gaze beyond the horizon suggested by the open sea for many years, it now seems to have found the right balance of opportunities and stimuli to open up to the “post-provincial” world. Today, the Navy bases, the commercial port (the second biggest in Italy, handling around 3.5 million containers a year), the tourist ports (Porto Mirabello to the west and Porto Lotti to the east), visited by major cruise lines, and the headquarters and construction plants of Italy’s most important shipyards are all working together to build a new and growing attraction.

With the wellbeing of residents and, above all, with the foresight of a local government that has been willing and able to invest in beauty and talent. A capitalisation and sustainable planning project that has incorporated historical, architectural and cultural heritage, infrastructure, roads and mobility, green and industrial areas, community services and public spaces. Works, partly completed and partly in the pipeline, which, thanks also to the involvement of the private sector, are proving to be fundamental in establishing an ever higher quality of life.

The support and opportunity apparatus developed within the district of the Blue Mile (Miglio Blu) district is heading in this direction. «A project that was my idea», explains the mayor. Which was? To link some of the world’s leading yachting companies, operating along the mile between Fossa Maestra and Muggiano, to the city’s university campus, which offers world-class courses in mechanical engineering, naval architecture and yacht design, as well as mechatronics and business law, to 1,200 students from all over Italy and even abroad. A natural link, right? A direct outlet, given the local contiguity between academic courses and the availability of highly specialised jobs, but also a valuable opportunity for businesses in the sector, furthered by the agreement signed with the Liguria Region to provide the Blue Mile with around 3 million in vocational training so that superyacht maintenance, which represents an equally significant economic asset, can also be carried out here.

Growth, technology and innovation are the keywords that define the philosophy of the Blue Mile, a strategic project aimed at creating an internationally recognised nautical district, in recognition of the more than 3,000 companies and 13,000 employees of the blue economy that make the La Spezia area a specialised centre for pleasure boating, yacht building, refitting and repair, and tourist ports.

Italy’s biggest shipyards operate on the Blue Mile, from Sanlorenzo to Baglietto, from Riva to The Italian Sea Group, from Fincantieri to Cantieri Navali di La Spezia, but also Antonini Navi, which has opened up to yachting from oil platforms, and Porto Lotti, one of the most attractive marinas in the Mediterranean, recently chosen by Pininfarina for its first Design Boutique on the sea inaugurated in partnership with architect Fulvio De Simoni. The aim is to make the Blue Mile a leading district that can combine yacht design, construction and delivery with an equally high level of service throughout the yacht’s life cycle, bringing all those units that currently undergo maintenance in France, Turkey or Tunisia to the area. It is partly with this in mind that the project also plans to construct crew accommodation. A prospect that inevitably brings with it new infrastructures for yachting and the associated industry. I imagine that the strategic location is not everything.

Pierluigi Peracchini, Mayor of La Spezia, and Silvio Pietro Angori, CEO of Pininfarina.

THE AREA OF LA SPEZIA IS SITUATED ON THE EDGE OF THE LIGURIAN LEVANTE, AN INTERNATIONALLY RENOWNED TOURIST DESTINATION THANKS TO THE CINQUE TERRE, THE POETS’ BAY AND THE STRETCH OF THE LIGURIAN SEA THAT STRETCHES FROM PORTO VENERE TO PUNTA BIANCA.

We have the priceless good fortune of being forty minutes from Pisa International Airport and half an hour from Viareggio or Portofino. Having said that, there is no doubt that the Blue Mile project is not only about image but also a project of great economic, productive and social significance. Having begun life with my first election (in 2017, ed.), it has brought together the aforementioned businesses, while naturally also involving all the trade associations, as well as the Region and the University, to give organicity to a project that has also become relevant for the city. We have therefore embarked on a path of redevelopment that has already led to the cabling of the entire municipal area with ultrafast broadband, the construction of car parks, pavements and trolleybus lines to serve the Blue Mile and the start of work on a blue, LED-lit cycle path for safe use even at night. The first stretch, which will reach Ruffino, will be completed by the end of the year, while the second will continue to Fincantieri. These are necessary interventions considering that around 13,000 people work on the Blue Mile, taking it right to the top spot for this sector in Italy.

The next question has to be about research, development and innovation. What is the city administration doing? We’ve signed an agreement with Faros, a Cassa Depositi e Prestiti Blue Economy accelerator, which offers innovative start-ups a boost by allowing them to take advantage of dedicated financing. This is an opportunity that we have embraced to further strengthen the network of companies that operate, and will be able to operate, on the Blue Mile.

THE BLUE MILE PROJECT WAS LAUNCHED TO PROMOTE THE CREATION OF A NAUTICAL DISTRICT OF INTERNATIONAL IMPORTANCE IN LA SPEZIA, BASED ON THE CITY’S HISTORIC MARITIME VOCATION AND ITS STRONG LEADERSHIP IN THE PLEASURE BOATING SECTOR.

What’s your next project? To bring even more infrastructure to the district. On this note, we have granted the Casermette area, which until fifteen years ago was state property belonging to the military, to a consortium to build new sites to serve the mid-range yachting industry. This 15-million investment will create another 400 jobs in the Pagliari dock area. We are currently awaiting the executive plans, which should be with us in a matter of weeks. Parliament has also decided to establish the Italian diving district in that same area, where Mariperman, the CSSN (Naval Support and Experimentation Centre, ed.) and the NATO research centre are also based. It will be inaugurated as soon as the administrative process, which has already seen the allocation of 2.5 million, is completed.

THE TERMINAL MARITIME STATION WILL BE DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO THE NEW TROLLEYBUS LINE AND THE MARITIME RAILWAY STATION, WHICH WILL PROVIDE ACCESS TO MIGLIARINA STATION, WHERE A NEW TRACK FOR THE CINQUE TERRE EXPRESS IS PLANNED.

Will La Spezia’s profile also change in the eyes of those arriving at the city by sea? It has already partly changed. After 133 years, we have inaugurated ‘Aspettando il waterfront’ (Waiting for the waterfront), the first glimpse of the future Calata Paita, which has been cleared of containers in the meantime. In November we will start work on the new MSC, Royal Caribbean and Costa Crociere Terminal maritime station. It was only with Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) that construction work on two gyms, a middle school, a kindergarten and a swimming pool could begin. It will become a place to live all year round, a sports and community centre where you can spend quality leisure time. The terminal will be directly connected to the new trolleybus line and the maritime railway station, which will provide access to Migliarina station, where a new track for the Cinque Terre Express is planned. Work is already underway to restore the outdoor area that will accommodate tourist coaches and new parking spaces for cruise passengers, yachtspeople and holidaymakers. This work, aimed at bringing the Cinque Terre Express as far as Luni, meets the need to guarantee an integrated and sustainable tourist offer in a city that, in the last five years alone, has seen the opening of more than 2,200 guesthouses and B&Bs, including luxury ones. Over the next decade, these projects will significantly change the usability, international competitiveness and attractiveness of the area as a whole.

(Pierluigi Peracchini – Il Miglio Blu – Barchemagazine.com – December 2023)