Fingers crossed for Bologna’s recovery plans

18 February 2021

Italy will receive the second largest chunk of the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility with 20% of the total, and its allocation has triggered a crisis at national level. As Italy is scrambling to put together a new national government and get back on track to submit its recovery plan, Bologna has big plans that depend on it.

The city submitted comprehensive project proposals for € 2,235.9 million covering areas such as mobility infrastructure, culture, digitalisation, innovation and competitiveness, education and research, and sustainability.

Bologna is a national transport and logistic hub, and its railway station represents the heart of urban mobility. However, its imposing structure and the tracks that connect it to the rest of Italy, ironically, have kept the historic centre divided from the city suburbs, especially the multi-ethnic Bolognina district.

The national recovery plan will be a chance for Bologna to connect its districts as the city’s main project will focus on the regeneration of the area around the central train station. The project will create more interaction between the centre and the periphery, reducing differences between each area, both through improvements in the infrastructure and by creating spaces where people can exchange and create together.

Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna

“Community and integration must represent the symbol of our rebirth,” says Virginio Merola, Mayor of Bologna. “This is the only way we will overcome the division that the pandemic has forced upon us.”

On a mezzanine floor above the tracks, a ‘pole of democratic memory’ will see the light. The pole will bring together activities from various cultural, national and international centres. It will house the archives of the main cultural institutions of the city, a museum with exhibition spaces, a centre for analysis and cultural production, and a community library.

“Knowledge is the founding element of our city,” says Matteo Lepore, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Civic Imagination. “Culture, science and the sharing of ideas must drive decisions on how to face the challenges of the future.”

Culture will spill into the 40,000 m2 of disused spaces surrounding the station. Newly connected, the Bolognina district will see the birth of the Technopole, a research and innovation space that will host, among other things, the headquarters of the data centre of the European Centre for Medium-Term Weather Forecasts. Within the work of the Technopole, the city will promote science and scientific knowledge with, and for, its residents.

“We want to bring our citizens closer to the world of research,” says Lepore. “We want them to develop their digital skills and be prepared for the challenges of the future, especially our younger generation.”

Bologna’s big plans could not be complete without including a strategy for its ‘Prati di Caprara’ urban forest. Extending over 47 hectares, this urban forest is nature’s way to reclaim the area. The former military area will become Bologna’s green lung after decades of neglect. Today, the woods have a significant impact in reducing atmospheric pollution and boast an important biodiversity, however they are closed to the public due to military waste such as munitions on its surface.

“We want to make this important natural heritage finally accessible to our residents,” says Lepore. The project will enhance a strategic area for the city’s green transition and make a huge green space accessible to citizens.

Bologna is counting on the Recovery and Resilience Plans to achieve its vision. The city, together with the 13 other Italian metropolitan cities, has submitted its projects to the National Association of Municipalities (ANCI), who coordinated the collection of proposals to be funded under the Italian National Recovery and Resilience Facility. What will happen next is still unclear.

“It’s now out of our hands, but we hope we did enough to have our voices heard,” says Lepore. With a general cloud of incertitude hovering over Italy’s contribution to the recovery plans, Italian cities cross their fingers hoping the new government will listen to them.

#TalkWithCities – Europe’s recovery will start in cities, and they’re ready to invest in new infrastructure, culture, research and sustainable mobility. The EU is prepared to distribute funds for this recovery to member states, but 70% of cities surveyed by Eurocities believe the national consultation process has been insufficient as it has failed to adequately involve cities. Find out why Europe’s leaders must talk with cities.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer