Fifty years ago, in an effort to modernise, the city of Bologna paved over a once-important network of ancient canals that connected the city's historic centre to the Po River.
Now city officials want to re-open these waterways, which could become a tourist attraction as well as a means for transport, said Bologna mayor, Flavio Delbono. ‘This is a major plan to regenerate an important part of our city's historic centre,' he told the press, ‘I hope the reopening of the canal can be considered in a calm fashion, in order to create a comfortable and attractive place in this striking stretch of Bologna.'
Delbono wants Bologna to join the ranks of Europe's recently rediscovered ‘canal cities,' such as Strasbourg, Brussels and Birmingham. City officials are using surveys and a referendum to determine residents' opinions of the proposal.
Bologna's canal system was built over four centuries, from the twelfth to the sixteenth. Five important waterways still survive today. The Reno Canal, which is the largest, would be the first to be restored. It features a bridge that carried traffic over the Reno River in Roman times. The Navile and the Savena canals provided transport around the city, as well as to and from the Po River. The Cavaticcio and Moline canals once powered Bologna's water mills.