The Port Network Authority of the Ionian Sea – Port of Taranto, in Italy, is a new AIVP member since 2020. The port of Taranto has been very actively disclosing the port-city culture, sharing with the citizens. Indeed, Taranto’s history is closely linked to its maritime activities. It goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and has historical links to several countries, including obviously Greece, but also Spain, France and the Maghreb. Today, Taranto is a major port in Southern Italy, and aims to be a leading intermodal hub on the maritime road from Europe to Asia through the Suez canal. Urban development relies on the port, both for industrial activity and for tourism, as a discrete cruise sector is growing in this Apulian historical city. The Old town of Taranto counts several historical monuments such as the Aragon Castle, located directly on the waterfront. The City also hosts the “MArTA”, the National Archaeological Museum founded in Taranto in 1887, today hosting the largest collection of works produced in ancient Taranto, thus exploring thousands of years of history and culture. The Port of Taranto is an active stakeholder in the Old town’s redevelopment, in cooperation with the Municipality of Taranto. 

President, Sergio Prete

AIVP – As we explained it in the introduction, Port of Taranto has joined recently AIVP. For which reasons did you join AIVP?

President du port de Tarente, Sergio Prete – The new Three-Year Operational Plan of this Port Network Authority identifies five main strategic objectives to be achieved by 2022: innovation, port and territory, sustainability, physical infrastructure and competitiveness. To reach these targets, we are shaping our mission in order to keep up with the evolution of our ecosystem and to bring new development visions in our port domain. The regeneration of the relations between the port and the city of Taranto is one of the main issue for our Port Authority, and we are striving to put it as a priority capable of inspiring a number of activities. Some of them have already started; some others are currently undergoing in our port and are almost close to see the light. To this aim, we count on open dialogue, participation and mutual cooperation with the territory as the key drivers for a sustainable economic, social and urban recovery in our port-city. Considering the activities carried out worldwide by AIVP, this Port Network Authority has decided to join your prestigious Network, as a hugely valuable opportunity to get involved in an international cluster that will allow us to disclose new visions and dynamics and to increase the strengths and the results of our actions from a local to global perspective. Indeed, we consider Your expertise and know-how as key points to ensure the achievement of new goals for rebranding the port-city of Taranto worldwide.

AIVP – Many port-city projects seem to be under way in Taranto, an inspiring territorial collaboration being put in place. This is perfectly aligned with AIVP’s spirit and goal of inspiring port-city relations. What are you expecting from your AIVP membership? 

President, Sergio Prete – Indeed, this is a thriving period for the Port of Taranto as it is witnessing the full and global relaunch of its activities and today, more than ever, the city needs to rethink its vocation as a port-city as many other EU port cities around the globe. The key drivers underlying the measures and strategic plans related to the city of Taranto mainly focus on the flourishing of projects and initiatives that can allow the transition to a “New Taranto”, the Sea Capital and Mediterranean sustainable cruise and tourism destination. To achieve this goal in the port-city of Taranto, we strongly believe in the promotion of a dynamic and steady evolution of land-sea interfaces into crossroads of cultures and hubs of commerce and trade, ensuring thereafter the general evolution of the city’s sea-based landscape and identity. We consider AIVP’s expertise and know-how as driving forces to ensure the achievement of new goals for rebranding the port-city of Taranto worldwide. By learning from each other’s best practices and focusing on positive examples of urban recovery, our active participation in the AIVP network will support our strategy towards the creation of a new way to “plan the port with the city”. Furthermore, considering that we are currently working for the future opening of a Port Exhibition Center in Taranto, following the example of the Port Center concept by AIVP, it will be interesting and very useful to better understand how to raise awareness and enhance port activities through open exhibition and educational activities, giving citizens the possibility to discover, experience and better understand port activities. “Every member is unique”: it will be a very meaningful responsibility for us to represent the port city cluster of southern Italy; to this aim, we will do our best to contribute to achieve a tangible and sustainable growth of the whole territory wishing to further strengthen port-city relations throughout Italy.

AIVP –Last year was the first edition of the Taranto Port Days in the framework of the Italian Port Days. This four-day festival included cultural events, animation for children but also debates about the future of the port. This years’ edition (8-10 October) is following a similar recipe of serious events plus more entertaining content for adults and youngsters.  Could you give us more details of this approach and the program of this year’s edition of the festival? 

President, Sergio Prete – Considering the unpredictable Covid-19 emergency that has forced the global seafaring life to be as not as operational as it would have been in a ‘normal’ situation during this 2020, this second edition of the Taranto Port Days can be considered as the result of extremely huge dedication and perseverance as well as the natural consequence of carefully structured planning and joyful creativity. The edition just ended has in fact opened the port of Taranto to unprecedented scenarios that aimed to build a new way of narrating the sea and port in our city. The Port Days are perhaps the key element of the strategy promoted by this Port Network Authority in its new Three-Year Operational Plan. The event was launched in 2019 as part of the Italian port Days promoted at national level by Assoporti, the Association of the Italian Ports. As for 2020, the Italian Port Days have been included by the EU Commission within the European Maritime Day 2020 – EMD inMyCountry. For this 2020 edition, our Port Network Authority counted on the precious collaboration of the Associations AFO6, Jonian Dolphin Conservation and the International Propeller Club – Port of Taras which contributed to the success of the initiative. The event also received the patronage and endorsement by the Municipality of Taranto and Medcruise, the Association of Mediterranean Cruise Ports. The activities carried out during the 2020 edition represent a range of best practices that the port city of Taranto aims to develop over time, also at an international level, through the exchange and sharing of development visions common to other ports of the worldwide network already active in regenerating the link between the port and the city. It was a real symposium dedicated to the port of Taranto and to the enhancement of the maritime and port culture, marked with a sustainable and innovative key, which recorded the participation of about a thousand people in the three days of the Taranto Port Days.

AIVP – For this years’ edition of the Taranto Port Days you launched a call for artists named “Taranto: la mia città-porto” (Taranto: my port city). In the website and regulation of this initiative, you link this call with your Triennial Operative Plan (2020-2022) that “aims to encourage the materialization of a new identity based on the construction of an emotional relationship with the port city of Taranto.” Could you tell us more about this new identity and the importance of the artistic and emotional link for the port? 

President, Sergio Prete – The call for artists was launched as part of the Taranto Port Days 2020 with the aim to contaminate the existing narrative about the port-city relations with new visions and values capable of rethinking the image of Taranto as it is seen by “others” (the seafarers, the sealovers, the common people from Taranto). We considered the contamination between visual and figurative arts, creativity and words as the best mix to build an emotional bridge between our port and the local community. As occurred physically with the events organised in the port area – for three days the skyline of the port of Taranto took on a new and unprecedented look! – the call for artists revealed the real essence of the existing cultural texture of the local people, thus disclosing and revealing the high value and skills of 4 young ‘artists’ who produced particularly valuable works using their personal attitude. They were able to speak the language of arts through drawing and storytelling (written and spoken) and it was really touching to see and read the works created by the four winning artists who perfectly achieved the goal of our call. Through their words and artistic talent we were all able to see our port-city in a new and unprecedented way. It was a ‘maiden call for artists’ for out Port Authority but we are planning on promoting a second, newly edition in a short future! The call-winning works will be soon published on our institutional website within the section “Taranto Port Days 2020”. A visit is worthily spent!

AIVP – We have learnt from your documents that Taranto has a rich archaeological heritage from Magna Graecia, with some sites even located on the port domain.
How is Taranto’s Port Authority contributing to heritage preservation? Are there perhaps special collaborations with other institutions? 

President, Sergio Prete – Taranto and the surrounding territory is incredibly rich in immense history and natural beauties. As you said, Taranto was once an ancient capital – the heart of Magna Graecia – and boasts a thousand years old history, It is the history of its seafaring, of its port, which since ancient times has allowed the flourishing trade of goods and culture throughout the Mediterranean. Over the last few years, our city has been witnessing a real boom in tourism that has been steadily growing. Our region, Puglia, is becoming more and more popular as it is registering a remarkable increase in tourist arrivals, even during this particular 2020, with hordes of tourists falling head over heels for the pleasures of the unspoiled southern Italy. Hence, we have started an open dialogue with local authorities in order to jointly promote our cultural heritage and tourist destination at global level, pursuing the aim to achieve a sustainable growth of the territory and its heritage preservation. To this aim, we focused our dialogue with cruise lines in order to promote tailor-made itinerary solutions that can meet the needs of a specific segment of guests interested in exploring and discovering our cultural heritage. Our port is only few footsteps walking away from the very heart of the old City of Taranto: we are now working for the regeneration of the urban waterfront that is the “reconciliation point” between the port and the city.

AIVP – Among the topics of the debates in the port days is the new waterfront project, “Waterfront Mar Grande”, which also has a strong component of heritage preservation and refurbishment. This project presents a vision including port areas and historical sites. Can you briefly explain how this project will improve the port-city relationship?

President, Sergio Prete – Together with the Municipality of Taranto we agreed to share a collaborative governance for the programming and redesigning of the interventions concerning the regeneration of those areas connecting the port to the city, starting from the creation of a new and shared cooperative approach. The “Waterfront Mar Grande” project can be considered as a ‘masterplan’ for the regeneration and refurbishment of the public sea-land areas. The waterfront – that we also define as sea-land ‘interface’ area – can be considered as the key element to relaunch Taranto as a tourist and cruise destination, from a local to global perspective. The project provides for the creation of a unique cultural and in promenade joining the two stretches of land joining the port and the city of Taranto, walking from the Castle and the old town to the port and the Saint Cataldo Pier, that will host the Multipurpose Service Centre, the building currently under construction by thus Port Authority that will be renamed ‘Falanto’, recalling the historical origins of the city linking Taranto to the ancient Greek city of Sparta. The overarching strategy beyond these projects is to pave the way for the creation of the ‘port-city of the future’, where the investments in the creation of a new dress for the port-city waterfront represent a good reason to further strengthen the relationship between the port and the city. Together with AIVP, our aim is to convert this area into the place where bringing together ideas, innovation and port culture and history, thus creating a continuity between public spaces and pedestrian interconnections and opening the city of Taranto to a new and open cultural dimension.