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Open AccessArticle

Towards Regenerated and Productive Vacant Areas through Urban Horticulture: Lessons from Bologna, Italy

Research Centre in the Urban Environment for Agriculture and Biodiversity (ResCUE-AB), Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Viale Giuseppe Fanin, 42-40127 Bologna, Italy
Department of Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Turin, Largo Paolo Braccini, 2, 10095 Grugliasco (Torino), Italy
STePS s.r.l., Via Ettore Bidone, 6-40134 Bologna, Italy
Department of Sociology and Business Law—SDE, Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Strada Maggiore, 45-40125 Bologna, Italy
Department of Sociology and Social Research, University of Trento, Via Verdi 26-38122 Trento, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors equally contributed to the present work.
Academic Editor: Hossein Azadi
Sustainability 2016, 8(12), 1347;
Received: 2 September 2016 / Revised: 22 November 2016 / Accepted: 13 December 2016 / Published: 21 December 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Land and Food Policy)
In recent years, urban agriculture has been asserting its relevance as part of a vibrant and diverse food system due to its small scale, its focus on nutrition, its contribution to food security, its employment opportunities, and its role in community building and social mobility. Urban agriculture may also be a tool to re-appropriate a range of abandoned or unused irregular spaces within the city, including flowerbeds, roundabouts, terraces, balconies and rooftops. Consistently, all spaces that present a lack of identity may be converted to urban agriculture areas and, more specifically, to urban horticulture as a way to strengthen resilience and sustainability. The goal of this paper is to analyse current practices in the requalification of vacant areas as urban gardens with the aim of building communities and improving landscapes and life quality. To do so, the city of Bologna (Italy) was used as a case study. Four types of vacant areas were identified as places for implementing urban gardens: flowerbeds along streets and squares, balconies and rooftops, abandoned buildings and abandoned neighbourhoods. Six case studies representing this variety of vacant areas were identified and evaluated by collecting primary data (i.e., field work, participant observations and interviews) and performing a SWOT analysis. For most cases, urban horticulture improved the image and quality of the areas as well as bringing numerous social benefits in terms of life quality, food access and social interaction among participants. Strong differences in some aspects were found between top-down and bottom-up initiatives, being the later preferable for the engagement of citizens. Policy-making might focus on participatory and transparent planning, long-term actions, food safety and economic development. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban horticulture; city planning; green infrastructures; participatory processes; social ecology urban horticulture; city planning; green infrastructures; participatory processes; social ecology
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Gasperi, D.; Pennisi, G.; Rizzati, N.; Magrefi, F.; Bazzocchi, G.; Mezzacapo, U.; Centrone Stefani, M.; Sanyé-Mengual, E.; Orsini, F.; Gianquinto, G. Towards Regenerated and Productive Vacant Areas through Urban Horticulture: Lessons from Bologna, Italy. Sustainability 2016, 8, 1347.

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