SC - Mantova

Short description: 

Implementation Lab - Mantova
3-5 November 2004 Mantova - Italy

Sabbioneta is a town in Lombardy, Italy, within the province of Mantua.
It is located 30 km to the north of Parma, not far from the banks of the river Podia.
The population is estimated to be about 4,200 inhabitants: of these between 200 and 300 live within the old city centre (Old Sabbioneta).The area is approx. 37 km2.

Today, there are serious relationship problems between Old and New Sabionetta which are causing concerns for the municipality.
On the one hand Old Sabbioneta, with its valuable historic buildings, has been spurned and left by the people. On the other hand New Sabbioneta has become a dynamic sprawling development of new settlements which have spread out into the surrounding rural areas.


The Province of Mantua lies in the South-East of the Lombardy Region in North-East Italy. The population is estimated to be about 390,000 inhabitants and the total area 2,340 km².

Mantova is located at a ‘crossroads’ position amongst different regions. The province has no major urban centres and the population, which is not organised through urban poles, is disseminated in middle-sized towns, small villages and isolated farms.

The province currently has about 70 municipalities, each with an average of 5,000 inhabitants. The demographic trend is negative, characterized by an ageing population.
41,000 companies are registered, most of them being small or medium sized (99% have less than 40 employees).



English Final Report  IL-Mantova-2004  (PDF; 416kB)

Participants Mantova Workshop 3-5 november 2004 (PDF; 22kB)

Evaluation MILUnet Workshop Mantova (PDF; 112kB)


Sabbioneta was founded in the sixteenth century by Vespasiano Gonzaga. Its stellar urban form within the walls is a classic example of the Vitruvian urban rule applied to reality.
Within the town the pattern of the road network encompasses broad straight streets that run into rectangular squares with arcades. The town is characterised by the ancient fortress
rose in the west along with the Stronghold, the Garden Palace, the Gallery and numerous other monuments. It is one of the best examples of a well preserved historic town in
the Mantua area and its individual form is a main landmark of the Province.

Main questions being addressed
The main questions concern the relationship between the historic part of the town and the development of the new settlements that have spread out into the surrounding rural

  • How might the identity of Sabbioneta be preserved, when faced with the development of new settlements?
  • How can the identity of agricultural villages and little towns with an historical building heritage be enhanced and revived?
  • What tools can be adopted to regulate the relationship between Old and New Sabbioneta?
  • What policies and actions can be implemented to promote the re-utilization of the existing historic buildings and farms in the rural territory by assigning them new functions?

What were the debates about?

  • Major dispute about where and how further developments outside the wall should be considered and look like.
  • The ‘new village’ approach was considered in some detail as one of the two development concepts coming up in the discussion.

Added value for the host

  • The regional case and the local case where closely interconnected. Without a solution at the regional level, solutions at the local level are not readily achievable.
  • The setting down of opportunities to recover a problematic development scenario in the town and provide achievable options for future prosperity.

The recent trends in settlement development are still characterized by the model of the ‘widespread town’ and by the abandoning of historic farms in rural areas and villages.
The owners, who abandon these farms, prefer, nowadays, to live in new houses or move into the cities. These are primarily the reasons for the urban sprawl.

The high consumption of land and natural resources for scattered industry (large scale industrial plants in meadows) and for settlements places a great burden on the territory.
This, in turn, has a negative impact on the historic centres, the rural landscape, and other territorial factors. The various territories, which in the not too distant past constituted
compact and indivisible agriculturally productive countryside are now reduced to peripheral urban belts, squeezed between urban development and new infrastructure.

The forecasts of the municipal land use plans appear to suggest a continuation of the trend. Public transport is poor and would be difficult to improve upon because of the sprawl.
The towns seem to function quite well; they have a good scale and are very walkable and attractive. For those people living or working outside, however, the only efficient way to
travel is by car. The traffic connections between the towns, the industrial sites and the main national and international traffic system are inadequate.

With regard to urban planning and management there are many problems in terms of quantity and quality. The town planning and territorial instruments are devoid of any ability to promote a suitable territorial commercial development policy. The localization of new commercial activities has taken place in the absence of a correct evaluation of the contextual
relationships with the whole of the urban settlements, with the environment or with the system of private and public mobility. This has given rise to a serious negative impact on
traffic, increasing pollution and often irreversibly impacting on the territory’s cultural and environmental value system.

Main questions being addressed
The main questions concern the transformation processes in the area:

  • How can the territory and the urban landscape be shaped without affecting the identity of the historic centres of the polycentric system in the Upper Mantua area?
  • What tools can be adopted to regulate the development of new settlements – productive, tertiary and residential – with reference to the polycentric system (characterized
  • by a mix of functions), to the rural environment and to the landscape?
  • What policies and actions can be implemented to promote the reuse of historic buildings, heritage and the creative management of the landscape in the rural territory?

What were the debates about?

  • There was a general consensus about the preferred location and intensification of functions.
  • The foreign experts were surprised that this obvious development visions had not been formulated by the municipal and provincial source persons.
  • There was a discussion about whether we should recommend a process approach or a  development vision approach.