top of page

Urban policies for culture

Urban policies in Naples for culture over the last decade can be mainly identified in three main areas:

(a) The preservation, promotion and enhancement of the historic centre and the cultural heritage of the city. In 1995, the historic centre of Naples was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1021 ha, UNESCO Buffer Zone ,1350 ha), according to criteria II (Naples is one of the oldest cities in Europe, whose modern urban fabric preserves the elements of its long and turbulent history) and IV (its street pattern, its wealth of historic buildings from many periods and its location on the Bay of Naples give it an exceptional and unprecedented global value, which has had a profound impact on many parts of Europe and beyond), which underline the relationship between the city and the sea and the importance that Naples has always had among the countries of the Mediterranean basin.


b) Re-approaching the relationship between the city and the sea. The port of Naples is one of the most important in Italy in terms of goods and passengers and is becoming the most important for cruise ship traffic, with revenues from tourism and cultural activities forming an essential part of economic development. The New Port Plan looks at the area stretching from La Pietra on the west side to Pietrarsa on the east side. The specificity of the Port of Naples is that it is one of the few ports in the world that are not sold or transferred to business sectors in other regions or regional cities, and for this reason, the Port Plan is designed as a "flexible" tool in relation to the use of port areas, confirming the multifunctionality of the Port of Naples as a resource.


However, the need to recover the relationship between the port area and the historic city centre through an integrated and joint strategy, through bottom-up processes, is the innovative approach of recent planning experiences in Naples. It is explicit in the proposal, as set out in the URBACT II Territorial Cooperation Programme 2007-2013, to experiment with new forms of cooperation and agreement on priority issues to reconnect the city and the port, through a feasibility study specifically called Local Action Plan. The thematic networks integrated in the city of Naples under the URBACT II programme are two: CTUR-Cruise Traffic and Urban Regeneration-the heritage of the city's port, in which the city of Naples participates as lead, and HerO-Heritage as Opportunity-in which the city participates as a partner. The local action plan focuses on the area of the city called "Città Bassa" and its main objective is: "The coastal front of the historic centre and the port area from Piazza Municipio to Piazza Mercato: a sustainable development through the improvement of the impact of cruise tourism"; with three main actions: redesigning the monumental area of the seafront and adjacent to the historic urban area; giving new functions to the heritage of the city and the port for urban regeneration; maximising the economic and social impact of cruise tourism; and supporting the social and economic development of the "lower city" district.


c) Policies for the diffusion of cultural production through the cooperation of citizens and institutions, aiming at improving the conditions of participation, inclusion, social innovation and urban resilience. Over the last decade, the city of Naples has been experimenting with new policy tools to bring back into use abandoned and/or degraded buildings that have been taken out of the use of the city's inhabitants. Indeed, various movements and symbolic occupations have highlighted the need for these spaces to be used and managed by the city's inhabitants as common goods, for the provision of various forms of cultural and social services. The occupation of these vacant buildings meant, on the one hand, a temporary use and a starting point for the 'regeneration' of these spaces and, on the other hand, an incentive to seek innovative mechanisms for the use of these spaces as urban heritage.

Urban policies for culture

Commoning practices in culture

In 2012 the Naples City Hall was faced with a major challenge. One of the buildings that had been donated to the municipality to use as a cultural centre was occupied by a large group of artists and cultural creators. The de Magistris administration had already inherited a public-private partnership contract to transform the building into a centre for the Forum of Cultures. After a long consultation, the squatters decided to declare themselves defenders of the common good of culture and to call on the mayoralty to recognize and support this perspective. With direct reference to the logic of "urban use" and the development of "emerging communities", the occupation assembly drafted a "Declaration of Urban and Collective Use of the former Asilo Filangieri" (Dichiarazione di uso civico e collettivo urbano).


This declaration, in the name of the protection and production of culture as a common good, guarantees full access to Asilo's premises and equal use of the facilities by all those who respect the principles of inclusion and equality. At the same time, it defines a self-management regime for the management of the space based on participatory democracy and the full activation of the "reference community" through rules that ensure the management of the space.

As stated, "This declaration, inspired by an extensive interpretation of urban uses, regulates the use of l'Asilo's spaces and the production tools contained in them, ensuring usability, participation, impartiality, accessibility and self-governance, in order to guarantee the preservation of the asset for future generations and the right of collective use by the reference community". (At www.


The experience of Naples demonstrates that the urban commons are not necessarily only natural resources (such as water, greenery, etc.) but also those spaces (and the specific corresponding spatial-social structures) that acquire their character because a community claims them, shapes them and takes care of them ('emergent commons'). The defence of culture as an emergent commons proves central to the example of Naples. In its production and dissemination, a model of community self-governance and a logic of constituting open communities of commoners is tested.

Commoning practices in culture
bottom of page