Thursday, January 07, 2010

Bologna to restore its Medieval Canals

City officials in Bologna are planning to restore its medieval canals, which were paved over 50 years ago, to make the Italian city more attractive.

Mayor Flavio Delbono announced the project Tuesday, with the first objective to be a 50-metre strech in the historic centre, the Italian news agency ANSA reported. A small stretch of that canal remains above ground.

"This is a major plan of our city's historic centre," he said. "I hope the reopening of the canal can be considered in a calm fashion, in order to create a comfortable and attractive place in this striking stretch of Bologna."

Bologna's canals date to the late Middle Ages and were dug between the 12th and 16th centuries. Five canals still survive, although mostly underground, including the Navile, which carried shipping traffic from Bologna to the Po River.

The first restoration project of the Reno Canal, scheduled to take 18 months, will tear up a road and parking lot to reveal not only the waterway, but an ancient Roman bridge too. The two banks of the canal would be connected by a footbridge, while cares would have the use of one side of the waterway.

Delbono said the canals, which helped make the city one of Europe's major industrial cities, can lure tourists as the canals of Strasbourg, France, Bruges, Belgium, and Birmingham, England, do now.

According to the mayor, the proposal has been raised on various occasions by different neighbourhood committees over the years and enjoys wide support.

"We are open to all ideas and proposals from everyone: the public, sector associations and various institutions." said Delbono. "We want to revitalize this important part of the city but we will study the plan carefully, to ensure there is not a drop in parking availability."

The waterways, which spanned the entire city, were gradually filled in or paved over from the 1950s onwards, as part of Bologna's rebuilding efforts after the end of the Second World War.