There is a great resource spread across Italy. It’s made up of viaducts, bridges, tunnels, stations and roadman’s houses that—often placed strategically—connect our cities, towns, and villages and yet neglected.
There is a great resource spread across Italy. It’s made up of viaducts, bridges, tunnels, stations and roadman’s houses that—often placed strategically—connect our cities, towns, and villages and yet neglected. These abandoned railway lines cover over 5,000 km and often cross breathtaking landscapes. Recovering them would draw tourism, be a source of recreation for locals, make it easier to move from one urban centre to the other, and, most importantly, improve the overall quality of life.
In recent years, after the virtuous examples set in Paris and New York, Italy, too, is moving in the direction of converting old railway lines into biking and walking paths. The regions of Liguria ( the stretch between San Lorenzo al Mare and Ospedaletti), Trentino ( the former Dolomites railway line connecting Dobbiaco and Cortina D'Ampezzo), and Friuli Venezia Giulia ( the former Trieste-Lubiana line) are paving the way, and, in recent months, also in Sicily—in the Menfi area—and Abruzzo, many abandoned railway lines are being granted a new lease on life and are helping to form a dense network of itineraries along the coast and through the countryside for eco-tourists and locals.
Right now Italy’s Parliament is discussing the guidelines for safeguarding and redeveloping abandoned railway infrastructures and the development of a network of “soft mobility”, all of which has been united in a document comprising four different bills. The “Soft Mobility Network” project involves the mapping of unused railway lines, of waterway banks and levees, abandoned and secondary roadways, mule tracks and other rural roads of historic interest. This network would enable Italian regions to draft plans for their redevelopment and enhancement, as well as the promotion of new itineraries, while fostering the involvement of local organisations and communities.
The most interesting innovation is the use of public-private partnerships for all projects concerning the development of walkways, accessibility routes, bike and horseback trails, bike rentals, tourist information, and other recreational and environmental purposes. In a number of areas affected by the Futur-e project, such as Bari, Giuliano and Piombino, the abandoned railway lines could be converted into greenways to preserve and develop the areas’ cultural and environmental heritage.
Another redevelopment project concerns abandoned roadman’s houses-, with Italy’s roads and highway network manager ANAS donating 30 of these iconic, Pompeian-red buildings, which were used as distance markers and for road-maintenance.. The pilot project for their redevelopment as recreational centres, community bike shops, and refreshment bars, is ready.