©Jeff Matthews entry Jan 2011
I remember the town of Bagnoli as the degraded site of a steel mill, a blight on the potentially beautiful Bay of Pozzuoli. The industrial plant, of course, was ugly and dirty, and whatever recreational use the waters might have served was rendered academic by the presence of a huge industrial pier.
As I have noted in main entry for Bagnoli, there is underway an enormously ambitious project to revive the area. The steel mill is already gone, and an impressive Science City exposition ground is, at least partially, already open on the premises. The latest wrinkle in bringing Bagnoli back to life is more ambitious than I could have ever imagined: The America's Cup! —the boat race. (Not knowing anything about boats and sailing except what I remember from Captain Blood, I am not even sure if "race" is the proper term. I should be keelhauled, I know. Avast. Belay that.)
The Swiss team, Alinghi, won the recent 31st edition of the America's Cup in New Zealand and is now searching around the Mediterranean for a site to hold the 32nd competition in 2007, when they will be called upon to defend the Cup. There are two Alinghi representatives now in Naples to scout Bagnoli as a possible site, and there is intense politicking going on at City Hall to get the race.
Palma di Mallorca is also
mentioned as a candidate. The Neapolitan papers, as
might be expected, tout all the advantages of Bagnoli,
from wind conditions to water depth to the availability
of a vast tract of "virgin area" to develop into
facilities to accommodate the 18 craft that will
participate. I have seen the area, and—while there is
nothing "virgin" about it (I shall spare you the lame
jokes about "restorative surgery")—much of it is again
available to be redeveloped. If selected, could they do
it four years? I don't think so.
plans to “deindustrialize” the Bay of Pozzuoli are
ambitious. The area includes the town of Bagnoli and
extends west along the coast through Pozzuoli, itself, and on to
the end of the bay at Cape Miseno.
The long-term plan, one assumes, is to try to resurrect
the natural beauty of the area with an eye for
attracting some of the considerable money generated by
the tourist trade elsewhere in the Gulf of Naples—that
is, Naples, the Sorrentine peninsula, and the islands of
Capri and Ischia.
It’s a tall order, but they have started. This week, they started the end-stage demolition of the remains of the old Italsider steel mill, for many decades a thriving enterprise as well as an unsightly blob of industrial blight in Bagnoli. As well, the Sofer (Società Officine Ferroviarie) plant in Pozzuoli has been closed. It was one of the oldest industrial concerns in the Naples area, having been built 120 years ago, not too long after the unification of Italy. For over a century it turned out railway coaches and engines.
These few steps into the post-industrial age are independent of—but somehow connected psychologically with—another ambitious project: attracting the next America’s Cup regatta to the waters of Bagnoli, off the tiny island of Nisida. Scarcely a day goes by without an update in the papers. Within the next few months, the Swiss defenders of the Cup will make their decision as to where they wish to defend their title, and Naples, it seems, stands a reasonable chance of being selected. Money has been found, marine architects hired, plans for the new harbor are on the boards. The design presents what the papers have been calling a “canal harbor”; that is, using the large area that used to contain the facilities of the Italsider steel mill, a long rectangle will be cut in from the sea, one end of which is, obviously, the outlet to the bay, with the perimeter of the other three sides providing mooring for boats.It will be a shot in the arm for the area if the Swiss choose these waters and that kind of ambitious boat harbor is built. Even if Naples loses out in the America’s Cup lottery, however, the other plans—the ones to turn the area into the kind of place that people will actually want to visit and enjoy—will continue.