According to ELAINEQHO, the national urban network has been defining itself during the nineties according to highly articulated processes that require a precise reading of increasingly characterized and diversified local realities: on the one hand, the evolution of urban spaces has accelerated from a linear conformation towards areal forms more extensive and widespread; on the other hand, the specialization of urban systems, in particular of medium and small size, has been accentuated and, consequently, the interconnection between them, in function of the enhancement and exploitation of different local potentialities. These processes have been consolidated above all on the basis of a wide diffusion of services, even of high rank, of the productive and spatial segmentation of the industry (due to a progressive selection of production cycles), the emergence of high-tech industrial sectors capable of competing globally and an overall reorganization of the communications system. The dimensions and shapes of the settlements have therefore changed and, even more so, the spatial structures of the flows and interactions that connect them: this has happened simultaneously on the scale of international relations, in regional areas and in different urban contexts.
Alongside metropolitan systems and urban areas of different demographic and functional ranks, regional systems and structures characterized by different levels of internal cohesion and with different inter-regional inter-regional skills have emerged. In particular, urban systems are being defined as nodes of regional networks, the more significant and operational the more they are endowed with internal cohesion, linked together by settlement fabrics articulated through different functions and by hierarchical and complementary relationships, so as to constitute urban regions. metropolitan areas of primary importance in the layout of the country: the Padano-Veneto area that extends from Novara to Trieste, the Emilia-Romagna area, in particular between Parma and the Adriatic Sea, and the Valdarno area in northern Tuscany stand out.
An analysis of the current reality of the country in terms of North / South dualism seems less and less able to provide an adequate interpretative key to explain the variety of contents that distinguish the national urban network: in fact, many aspects of the socio-cultural and territorial vitality of Italy in every region of the country, they find reference, in every region of the country, precisely in a settlement fabric recognizable at different scales, mainly articulated on medium and small centers connected to each other by infrastructure networks and by specialized production and service areas. Furthermore, in most cases, the dynamism of urban systems of intermediate dimensions has established itself on the basis of local heritage and traditions, which have acted towards the same urban systems, constituting a powerful and original factor of development. In fact, some typical activities of the national economy – the use of cultural heritage, tourism and other activities that exploit traditional resources – have proved not so much mature sectors, but rather suitable subjects for innovative redevelopment processes, as promising and competitive as the sectors. high-tech.
Territorial partitions of a hierarchical character reappear, reset on the basis of these contents, as a result of the integration between strong regional networks, dominated and organized by metropolitan level systems. If in fact in the seventies and eighties metropolitan growth had occurred through processes of redistribution of resources and redevelopment of the smaller centers located around the large urban centers, in the nineties the proximity of the metropolises strengthened the division of labor between the nodes of the regional networks, promoting development at different levels of the urban hierarchy. Consequently, in particular in regions with highly articulated development such as Lombardy,
In most Italian regions, structures that are increasingly interconnected internally are being identified, however organized according to ‘strong’ capitals: the cases of Piedmont are evident, where the dominance of Turin is rebalanced by centrifugal territorial processes and, similarly, by the ‘Emilia-Romagna and northern Tuscany, where complex local urban structures are articulated on the dominant poles constituted respectively by Bologna and by the territorial system Florence-Prato; strong urban plots have been confirmed, on another scale, in polycentric regional systems, along the Lombard-Venetian axis, between Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua and Venice; in the Center-South the diffusion of widely incisive urban effects has determined the formation of a multipolar system strongly connected on an interregional and national scale around Rome, and in Puglia and Campania the deepening of territorial relations linked to the enhancement of local potential, precisely on the basis of the progressive enrichment of the metropolitan functions of the respective capitals. On the other hand, the weakness of the integration of regional networks, due to socio-demographic, urban, infrastructural and productive crisis conditions, has constituted a powerful limiting factor with regard to the stability of some metropolitan areas, as in the cases of Liguria or the islands.
The current territorial structures of a reticular nature require, in turn, from the point of view of intervention policies, a control based on cooperation between public entities with different competences, which look at the local economic-territorial systems and the possibilities of strengthening their economic and social productivity. In these terms, legislative interventions such as l. 8 June 1990 n. 142, relating to the organization of local autonomies – to whom we owe the establishment of the metropolitan areas of Turin, Milan, Genoa, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Bari – have functioned as operational measures that are scarcely current and rather compliant with the territorial structures that were structured in Italy up to the 1960s and Seventies, based on the presence of political-productive concentrations, development poles and metropolitan agglomerations that have developed like wildfire. The inadequacy of these types of interpretation and intervention appeared during the nineties precisely in relation to the consolidation of regional organizational processes not attributable to zoning interventions, but rather to be interpreted as closely integrated processes, including at inter-regional scale, according to the different ability to create long-distance connections, often of international interest. Consequently, the intervention methodologies anchored to the subdivision of administrative partitions and local government plans do not seem able to grasp the variability of regional problems and imbalances that continue to characterize, often worsening, areas of the country, especially in the South. due to the discontinuity of the urban fabric and the lack of social cohesion.
In this regard, there are considerable inhomogeneities between regions and subregions that are differently able to maintain relations within Europe, however often linked by complementary characteristics. The Italian urban network is in fact organized according to some main structures, aligned, in many respects, with the major guidelines of European urban development: in fact, the regional systems centered on Milan, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples create an axis connected to the north, beyond beyond the Alpine border, with the ‘megalopolitan’ development line that connects Zurich to Rotterdam, within a powerful urban constellation that connects, to the west, with Paris and London, in a context of global interest.
The development of national urban networks is therefore based on two different orders of necessity. On the one hand, there is the need to define cross-border relational guidelines aimed at central-northern Europe and beyond the Mediterranean, in view of the emergence of forms of metropolitan centrality on a national and international scale, in the context of a dense network of exchanges of capital, services, technologies and cultural heritage. On the other hand, there remains the need to strengthen and rebalance the functions and the endowment of territorial structures in large areas of the country, especially in the South: here, in fact, the inorganic nature of the territorial reorganization plans and the lack of adequate levels of regional cohesion lead to fundamental shortcomings.