Paradoxes of the Italian historic centres between underutilisation and planning policies for sustainability

Paola Pellegrini*, Ezio Micelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The paper presents the analysis of the statistical data on population and real estate in 20 small-to-medium-sized cities in Northern Italy and shows a high rate of vacancy of housing and significant shrinkage of businesses and institutions in the historic centres, where urban heritage is concentrated. Given these findings, the paper analyses the official city plans of the cities with the worst underutilisation conditions, to understand how the plans have reacted to the decline of the centre. The result shows the extensive planning and regulation activity has very limitedly registered the phenomenon and failed to propose the empty inner cores as resources to reduce land consumption and recycle valuable assets in a circular economic vision. Combining the statistical data and the findings from the city plans, the paper concludes that Italian historic centres are living paradoxes-a collection of beauty, icon of well-being, model of sustainability, but abandoned-and therefore, the dense regulatory mechanisms that were necessary to conserve urban heritage during the decades of economic and demographic growth must be reframed to implement a circular economy and adapt to new requirements for living conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2614
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


  • City plan
  • Historic centre
  • Regulation
  • Sustainability
  • Urban heritage


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