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Urban Policies in Napoli

Naples is the third most populated city in Italy, after Rome and Milan, capital of the region of Campania and the metropolitan area of Naples. Characterised by a strong urban sprawl and with the highest poverty rates concentrated in the central area of the city (rather than in the periphery as in Milan and Rome), in the last decade the city of Naples has made a shift in its urban policies focusing on the reuse of the existing historical heritage of the city centre.


The case of Naples is interesting, as the implementation of the policy of 'new municipalism' seems to focus on the attempt to transform specific building complexes and urban welfare services into urban commons. The potential of this innovation consists in activating the possibility of collective management of key urban facilities managed as urban commons through a public-community governance. Such an approach attempts (according to the official declarations of the municipality) to ensure the equitable and open access, co-design and maintenance of 'emerging commons' through a model of social and economic sustainability of urban assets and infrastructure, which places the expansion of democracy and the benefit of future generations as a key focus. This collective form of governance takes place through the participation of the community of neighbourhood residents in the design, experimentation, management and delivery of new forms of cultural and social services.


With eight formerly empty buildings converted to urban use (L' Asilo, Giardino Liberato, Lido Pola, Villa Medusa, Ex-Opg Je so' pazzo, Scugnizzo Liberato, Santa Fede Liberata, Ex- Scuola Schipa), Naples is the lead city of the URBACT Civic e-State network - a three-year 'transfer network' between six European cities to disseminate knowledge on how to create, manage and maintain urban communities. Naples defined urban commons as tangible and intangible assets, services and infrastructure that are functionally necessary for the exercise of fundamental human rights. At the same time, recognising them as collective assets moves them away from the property logic of 'exclusive use', and shapes a new model of urban governance based on the legal instrument of 'civic and collective urban use'.

The legal instruments that emerged from the process of negotiation between the Naples mayoralty and the movement, although rooted in the Italian legal system, are characterised by a high degree of adaptability to other urban contexts. This attempt to 'hack the law' in favour of a dialogue between institutions and the community has at the same time managed to highlight the field of culture as a field of the commons, in the context of its disentanglement from the imperatives of private capital and market conditions.

Initially, collaboration was the key to initiating the process of the emergence of urban commons in Naples. Direct collaboration between the City of Naples and the users of Asilo was crucial to create a framework for urban use and to outline the new role of the city administration as 'facilitator'. Collaboration is also at the heart of the day-to-day management of common spaces. Users become problem solvers and resource managers who are able to make strategic decisions about common assets and implement them with other citizens and other urban actors.


Furthermore, the day-to-day management of urban commons reflects a system of multi-centred governance. This means that resources are neither exclusively owned nor centrally regulated. Rather than a top-down system of governance, where organisations on the ground carry out mandates and are accountable to the city government, the spaces of emerging communities are owned by the community and governed by various bodies that reflect that community. At the same time, there is a certain level of interdependence between institutions and urban communities, as the administration is committed to paying some of the costs. In other words, in a polycentric system of governance, local government assumes the role of facilitator, providing the necessary tools for urban communities to flourish and create social value, while maintaining their participatory and open access character.

The contribution of Naples to the debate on spatial justice lies precisely in the use and informal management of these vacant buildings by urban communities, which implies on the one hand a temporary use of these spaces and on the other hand created an incentive to start looking for innovative mechanisms to use these spaces as community-managed properties. The latter feature is the main focus of Naples' role as lead partner of the URBACT Transfer "Civic eState" network. The identification and implementation of forms of organisation and urban co-management, by creating an innovative dialogue between administration and citizens initiated and building a process of co-creation, not only of legal instruments and governance arrangements, but also of economic-financial tools that can ensure the medium and long-term sustainability of the spaces.

Urban Policies in Napoli
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