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An interdisciplinary debate on project perspectives

Regional landscape planning for the innovation of urban planning. Municipal implementation of the city-country pact in Apulia


The adoption of the European Landscape Convention (ELC) has wrought a profound evolution in the landscape planning discipline, contributing to the integration of the landscape into planning policy. This paper explores the operative significance of including the landscape dimension in local urban planning policies. Adopting an inter-scalar approach, the research analyses the renewal of local urban planning in light of the innovations introduced by the Apulia Regional Landscape Plan (PPTR), an exemplary case of ELC implementation in Italy. One of the spatial strategies indicated in the PPTR provides valuable insights into the complex relationships between the city and the countryside. That strategy, the City-Country Pact, interacts with urban transformations and, as a result, with municipal planning. The paper utilises PPTR indicators to explore how some Apulian municipalities interpret and implement the City-Country Pact. A comparative analysis of case studies outlines the approaches and conditions by which urban planning can effectively renew itself through the ELC landscape approach, influencing plan philosophy, regulations and practices. The paper also points out the current limitations of such processes.


The European Landscape Convention (ELC) (CE 2000) and its implementation over the last twenty years (Déjeant-Pons 2021) have profoundly innovated the concept of landscape and the policies relating to it. No longer limited to designated landscape and landmark heritage, the ELC attributes landscape significance to an entire territorial area and the variety and diversity of its manifestations (Déjeant-Pons 2006). As a result, landscape planning moves beyond protecting and preserving only individual sites or places to include overall regions. It requires a broader focus that shifts from protecting ‘extraordinary’ landscapes to developing the qualities of ordinary, everyday, and even deteriorated and neglected places (Barbanente and Grassini 2022).

The ELC underscores the indissoluble link between the landscape and the populations that inhabit and shape it, stating that public decision-making must include active citizen participation (Priore 2005; Jones 2007). Moreover, the involvement of citizens and local and regional authorities in decision-making and landscape management makes it possible to accompany change, including the creation of new landscapes that respond to community needs.

Thus, the ELC has a broad regional scope implying holistic and forward-looking approaches to landscape management, protection and planning with considerable implications for other disciplines ranging from law to ecology, local development and heritage. As an interface and link among sectoral interests (Jones et al. 2007), the ELC has the potential to integrate scientific disciplines and promote cooperation between planning subjects (Hersperger et al. 2020).

Article 5 of the ELC indicates “the integration of landscape into spatial planning, urban development, and cultural, environmental, agricultural, social and economic policies, as well as into other policies that may have a direct or indirect impact on landscape”. The European Council document “Guidelines for the implementation of ELC” (CE 2008), an integral part of the ELC, contains a set of theoretical, methodological and practical guidelines for ELC implementation, clarifying that “landscape policies are not to be considered an addition to other policy themes but as an integral part of them” (Jones and Stenseke 2011: 4). However, “in line with the principle of subsidiarity, the ELC does not define specific ways of ‘integration into policies’” (Ramos and Silva 2015: 4).

This paper explores the operational significance of integrating the landscape dimension into local urban policy and planning. It explores the renewal of municipal planning in light of the innovations introduced by the ELC as practised in landscape plans. The paper, therefore, intends to:

  • investigate how the contents of landscape plans are interpreted and implemented on a local scale;

  • verify whether landscape planning can introduce elements of innovation to urban planning, modifying not only the implementation content of regional plans but also the very philosophy of the local plan, broadening its scope and incorporating landscape content into urban planning and land use regulations;

  • understand how landscape and urban planning have interpreted the ELC.

Much scientific literature investigates ELC implementation (Dovlén 2016) in landscape planning and its local repercussions. Many studies use cross-national comparisons (Kovàcs et al. 2013, De Montis 2014, Hersperger et al. 2020) or primarily analyse national and regional landscape policies (Roe 2013, Voghera and La Riccia 2016, Dempsey and Wilbrand 2017, Wende et al. 2012, Marine 2022). This line of research highlights the need for extensive quantitative and qualitative analyses of the successful implementation of landscape plans. At the same time, it should develop practicable systems for monitoring plan effectiveness (Wende et al. 2012). The research also points out that the most successful European landscape policies contain integrated strategies on all levels of spatial governance, involving communities (Sala et al. 2014) in a multi-level and multi-actor perspective (Dempsey and Wilbrand 2017).

Some literature investigates the local dimension of landscape planning, raising several questions. The research widely accepts that “the local level is central to translating the ELC definition of landscape into workable strategies” (Dovlén 2016: 962) and that “in a multi-level system, landscape tools at a local level have enormous potential, mainly due to proximity and the higher possibility of involving the public and stakeholders in the region in the management of their landscape” (Sala et al. 2014: 112). The lack of a research tradition is highlighted by “only a few studies […] having looked at the urban landscape in a holistic way using the conceptual framework provided by the ELC” (Ramos and Silva 2015: 3).

Some general considerations regarding the processes analysed concern the following (Colavitti and Serra 2021):

  • the rigidity of top-down applications and the excessive ‘institutionalisation’ of such processes at the expense of civil society initiatives;

  • the intrinsic limits of administrative boundaries and lack of flexibility in adapting to specific local contexts;

  • the perception of landscape policy as a constraint on and limitation to regional and socioeconomic development.

In assessing the relationship between the ELC, its spatial planning instruments, and urban planning, however, little research explores the inter-scalar nature of landscape policy through dialogical and non-hierarchical interactions of regional and local policy. Additionally, very little empirical and case-study research addresses local implementation of the ELC. Rare studies explore the dynamic interaction with municipal planning (Sala et al. 2014, Wende et al. 2012), recognising the ELC as a direct and impactful tool for determining land use and physical transformations that interpret the landscape on a local scale and create new landscapes.

The paper seeks to enrich this particular line of research with the Apulia case as its empirical basis. Because the conflicts between landscape planning and protection vary with different European landscape conditions (Kovács et al. 2013), the case seems particularly germane to the discipline.

A unique historical and artistic heritage characterises the notoriously anthropised Italian landscape (La Riccia 2017). As discussed below, this consideration has shaped the idea of the landscape in Italian culture. In Italy, the nature and vision of the landscape make landscape planning almost coincide with urban planning. Both disciplines consider places produced by humans to be distinguished by the presence of a rich cultural heritage subject to urban pressure and conflict in terms of their use.

An additional element of interest stems from the predominant physical space in which such potential conflicts arise. The rapidly-changing relationships between rural and urban land uses and activities characterise peri-urban space, presenting conceptual and practical policy challenges (Swaffield 2012). PPTR implementation provides compelling insights into the question. One of the spatial strategies—the “City-Country Pact” – pursues the goal of redefining peri-urban and rural areas by rethinking urban functions and ecosystems in terms of performance.

The paper is structured as follows.

Setting the scene: the Apulia Landscape Plan in the Italian context” section contains a critical reading of the PPTR within the Italian cultural and regulatory context, highlighting its distinctive characteristics.

Materials and methods” section illustrates the methodology used.

Results” section presents the results of the research, structured as follows:

  • illustration of the City-Country Pact strategy, which interacts with urban transformations, especially in peri-urban areas (4.1);

  • analysis of the implications for urban planning with the implementation of landscape planning (4.2);

  • in-depth exploration of how the Pact is interpreted and implemented in municipal planning through appropriate indicators deduced from the PPTR itself (4.3).

Discussion” section discusses the role of the City-Country Pact in municipal urban planning, deriving a taxonomy.

The conclusions in “Conclusions” section outline the approaches and conditions for the effective renewal of urban planning that incorporates the landscape dimension, perhaps even influencing the status of the plan itself. The findings also point out the limitations of such processes.

Setting the scene: the Apulia Landscape Plan in the Italian context

Each EU nation embedded the ELC into its existing cultural and governance traditions (De Montis 2014), contributing to their innovation.

The cultural and regulatory context has progressed in Italy, a nation characterised by its unique historical and artistic heritage. Every trace of the Italian landscape in the territoryFootnote 1 results from the long-term interaction of natural and anthropic factors. For a long time, an aestheticising idea of the landscape dominated Italian culture. Predominantly bound to preservation concepts (Settis 2007), landscape referred more to cultural aspects than environmental and ecological ones, distinguishing Italy from other European nations where the idea of landscape is closely tied to the environment (Colavitti et al. 2021; Colavitti and Serra 2021).

Italian landscape culture, and therefore Italian landscape law, has evolved.Footnote 2 The Italian regulatory framework consists of the Bottai laws Number 1089 regarding artworks and Number 1497 regarding natural beauty, both dating from 1939. As regulatory references for about sixty years (Cavallaro 2018), they enshrine the need for public intervention in the preservation of cultural heritage. The culture of the era considered monuments to be unique elements within their contexts. In the same way, the legislation on natural beauty regulates specific and singular places, areas, panoramas or views with individual protection measures. This kind of regulation introduced the first model of landscape planning for such places. A detailed plan was required to provide a comprehensive vision; however, few such plans were adopted. In 1948, the Constitutional Charter declared landscape protection to be one of the fundamental principles of the Italian Republic, reaffirming the central role of the landscape, along with historical and artistic heritage.

Since the 1960s, a flourishing cultural debate has led to the progressive extension of landscape and landmark preservation. Protection measures started with single objects and monuments and have expanded to include urban areas, historical centres, and the existing city (Gabrielli 1993; Piccinato 2010), reaching the entire historical territory in the UNESCO recommendation on Historic Urban Landscapes (UNESCO 2011). At the same time, the idea of landscape has increasingly broadened. The Galasso Law (1985) contained a fundamental innovation. For the first time, it introduced the principle of protecting not only specific heritage places but general and abstract categories (for example, coasts, rivers, mountains) and the evidence of the history and land uses (in Italy, denominated “civic uses”). Thus, the idea of landscape, linked to uniqueness and ‘beauty’, was abandoned to implicitly embrace an idea more generally tied to environmental and cultural aspects. The law also mandated landscape planning to manage designated assets with territorial significance.

The Cultural Heritage and Landscape Code, adopted in 2004 (henceforth Code), integrated the ELC while systematically incorporating previous legislation. The Code introduced a sweeping, interdisciplinary vision (Colavitti 2018) and significant innovation, embracing the foundations of the ELC, however, in a less incisive mannerFootnote 3 due to the previously-described cultural context. It ascribes a central role to landscape planning, extending to entire Regions and addressing territorial matters in addition to landscape issues. It is not oriented narrowly towards preservation but includes active landscape protection and development. The landscape plan establishes economic and planning goals, tending to spatially overlap regional plans (Cartei 2008). On the one hand, the landscape plan is co-designed with the central government, while on the other, local authorities are responsible for its implementation. Its scope of action is therefore broad, multidisciplinary, multi-scale and multi-actor.

The Italian urban planning system was born during the same period as the protection laws. Law Number 1150 (1942) is still in force today, its modifications introduced with the contribution of the Regions according to the planning responsibilities attributed to these governing authorities by the Italian Constitution. Municipal planning has assumed a central role in the Italian system within this legislative framework, which mandates Regional planning instruments, scarcely deployed until recent decades. In parallel, the municipal level effectively establishes land use regulations and development strategies. This system has led to a molecular and ineffective planning system (Romano et al. 2019). Municipal planning is the primary and most widespread instrument of spatial management. As a result, landscape planning must address local planning for its implementation.

Coherently with the subsidiarity principle, Regions play a crucial role in the planning process and are potentially the most effective body for implementing the ELC (Dempsey and Wilbrand 2017). Italian landscape plans are very different instruments from one Region to another. They suffer from the disadvantage of referring to coherent national legislation but specific Regional urban planning laws (La Riccia 2017).

In this context, the Apulia Region approved the Piano Paesaggistico Territoriale Regionale (Apulia Regional Landscape Plan, PPTR) in 2015, the first Italian landscape plan drawn up in coherence with the ELC and thoroughly adapted to the Code. The document is now a consolidated best practice on the national scene.Footnote 4 The PPTR expresses a triangular relationship between structural knowledge, regulations and strategies. These elements are critical factors for a system of regulations and operational provisions governing transformation throughout the Region and defining long-term strategic scenarios as frameworks for projects on different scales (Gambino 2011). In addition, it is essential to highlight the following aspects of the PPTR:

  • the transition from a preservation-oriented conception of a ‘subtractive’ type limited to protecting heritage and designated areas to a dynamic design tool for the development of the environmental, territorial and landscape heritage of the entire Region (Magnaghi 2016; Gisotti 2016);

  • the prevalence of landscape plans over sectoral plans, programmes and municipal plans according to Article 145 of the Code (Sciullo 2007).

The above approaches make the PPTR landscape plan a driver of sustainable land development and lasting wealth (Barbanente 2011), whose strategic vision can penetrate standard planning practices and renew them.

In summary, the PPTR can be considered a case of transformative planning because of its ability to bring about radical discontinuity in regional planning culture and practice by modifying established relationships between territorial/landscape protection and spatial planning (Albrechts et al. 2020).

Five integrated Territorial StrategiesFootnote 5 implement the PPTR framework, pursuing the overarching goals of creating quality urban and rural settlements, improving the environmental and hydro-geomorphological systems, and developing heritage and territorial use. The “City-Country Pact” strategy further characterises the exemplary nature of the PPTR with its ability to interpret and plan the interconnected continuum (Davoudi and Stead 2002; Donadieu 2012) between the dense city and the open countryside in an integrated and multidisciplinary way.

Materials and methods

Following the overview of ELC status in Italy and critical reading of the PPTR, the paper analyses the relationship between landscape and urban planning, using the municipal plans implementing the PPTR as empirical cases. The inter-scalar approach first requires the study of the PPTR and municipal urban plans.

The analysis of the PPTR makes particular reference to aspects that most interact with urban transformations and, therefore, with urban planning. One of the most innovative strategies in the PPTR concerning peri-urban space—the City-Country Pact—is taken as an example.

The paper selects and analyses the Municipal Urban Plans that applied the City-Country Pact in adapting to or certifying its conformity with the PPTR. The plans refer to different territorial contexts and ways of implementing the Pact. Official documents available on municipal websites provided valuable information, and the staff of the Apulia Region Landscape Protection and Improvement Department offered further support. The criteria for selecting the case studies from among the eighteen Apulian municipalities that had completed the process of adapting their urban planning instruments as of 2021 included the following:

  • municipalities with new-generation urban plans drawn up under the Regional guidelines document for municipal urban plans (DRAG);

  • municipalities that developed the PPTR City-Country Pact strategy;

  • integration of the City-Country Pact contents into urban planning regulations.

The comparative methodology applies qualitative indicators deduced from the PPTR document, “Guidelines for implementing the City-Countryside Pact”. In particular, the goals set out in the Guidelines serve as indicators to assess the effectiveness of the local implementation of regional strategies, making it possible to normalise and compare results.

The criteria/indicators used are:

  • methods for defining landscape projects—to illustrate the methodological steps from landscape interpretation to the definition of criteria for the identification of Pact components on the local scale, the identification of the framework of goals, and the indication of the documents necessary for illustrating strategic projects;

  • the tools for implementing Pact goals—to analyse the planning tools enacting Guideline indications and requirements;

  • the social production of the landscape—to assess methods of participation and co-design, the adoption of community-promoted projects, and the capacity to initiate ongoing processes fostering landscape awareness and shared governance.


Peri-urban areas and the City-Country Pact

The term ‘peri-urban’ was first used in France to identify sprawling territories around urban centres (Le Jeannic and Vidalenc 1997). Today, its recurring connotations in land-use processes reflect the intensity of urban–rural flows like commuting, migration, business relocation, and the regeneration of vacant spaces in the midst of urbanised and dispersed settlements (Piorr and Ravetz 2011). Over the last twenty years, countless concepts have developed in the disciplinary debate to describe phenomena relating to peri-urbanity to delineate a separately identifiable reality rather than an intermediate one (Lanzani 2003). In Italy, for instance, terms like suburbanisation, margin, urbanised countryside, and peripheral urbanisation (Lanzani 2003) have been used. Internationally such terms as tussenland in the Netherlands, urban fringe in England, zwischenstadt in Germany, and tyrolcity in Austria (Wandl et al. 2014) come up. This lexicon demonstrates the increasing attention to overcoming the clear-cut disconnect between the urban and the rural as a conceptual separation that influenced interpretations and, consequently, spatial planning for many years. Today, instead, planning focuses on the reciprocal relationships between the urban and the rural.

At the same time, thinking about peri-urbanity was increasingly intertwined with the new ELC landscape vision. Some thinking sought to introduce the idea of a utopia of an urban countryside organised by local forms of government that could take on specific landscape connotations by creating an urban fabric from agricultural and woodland spaces (Donadieu 1998). In other words, the idea of a ‘pact’ between urban and rural contexts would accompany the reorganisation of contemporary urbanisation. Such action would deconstruct the urbanised continuum and recombine urban centralities with their agricultural and forestry contexts as filters of peri-urban and urban agricultural belts (Donadieu 2012).

In Italy, territorialist studies have carried on the landscape approach to peri-urban areas,Footnote 6 introducing the “City-Country Pact”. Such studies represent a decisive change in point of view. Formerly, an “urban-centric” idea of the city regarded rural areas as residual—precisely “extra-urban”, lacking meaning on their own but only considered the negative of the urban. Currently, the viewpoint is shifting to the morpho-generative value of agro-silvopastoral space and the centrality of agriculture, particularly neo-urban agriculture, in the regeneration of the quality of urban life (Magnaghi 2009). Therefore, a dual, reciprocal vision of a city-country pact is a strong point for redeveloping territorial systems in an agro-ecological key, acting on the multifunctional values of open space—mainly agricultural and forest spaces (Magnaghi 2020).

This case study is an example of the potential of new ELC-inspired landscape planning to deeply innovate the governance of peri-urban areas (Cattivelli 2021) and urban and regional planning. For the first time in the PPTR, a strategy refers extensively and explicitly to landscape planning. The City-Country Pact becomes the strategic codification of an innovative approach to the relationship between the urban and the rural. In this sense, it constitutes the richest field of experimentation that can best interact with pure planning issues, with the stated goal of integrating settlement policies with agricultural and forestry ones.

Pact goals embrace the quality of both urban and rural living. It fosters the regeneration of degraded peripheral landscapes and diffuse urbanisation. It aims to reconstruct urban margins and limit the consumption of agricultural land. The design of peri-urban green belts and multifunctional agricultural parks under the Pact could promote agriculture and improve the quality of agro-environmental services and the rural heritage of peri-urban areas. These goals make it possible to develop a structural and strategic planning vision on a local and regional scale that could become the environmental and landscape ‘invariant’ for future transformation (Mininni 2011).

The ‘Guidelines for the City-Country Pact: redevelopment of the periphery and peri-urban agricultural areas’ (PPTR document 4.4.3) identifies the problems and components of the Pact, defining a wide range of possible outcomes. It provides a framework of goals, guidelines and recommendations to apply to municipal planning, implementation plans and the design of individual sites.

The basis of the Pact is the recognition of the different characteristics of rural areas – the inhabited countryside, the urbanised countryside, the ristretto countryside and the deep countryside—as planning components (Figs. 1, 2). Such elements confer territorial significance to strategic scenarios and possible practices in reference to the urban planning tradition. Ristretto areas are portions of agricultural land near Apulian cities that envelop peripheral fringes, now subject to urban development (Mininni 2011).Footnote 7 This phenomenon creates a sort of dual marginality caused by the poor quality of prior urban expansion, the lack of public space and services and the abandonment of agricultural land uses in the hope of obtaining future development rights. The inertia of outdated urban planning paradigms emerges with visible force in such contexts.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Source: PPTR, elaborate 4.2.2 (2015)

The territorial project of the City-Country Pact. The City-Country Pact strategy divides the territory into three macro categories. The first (left column) refers to urban settlements articulated through historical centres, compact cities, residential peripheries, industrial areas, and tourist and commercial settlements. The second one (central column) interprets rural sprawl through the inhabited countryside (low density and agricultural and residential uses) and urbanised countryside (high density and residential use). The third category (right column) interprets open space relating to the degree of integrity of rural characteristics: ‘ristretto’ countryside, C02 Park associated with forestation, Multifunctional Agricultural Regeneration or Valorisation Park and Deep countryside. While the grey areas of the map indicate protected natural areas governed by specific protection plans.

Fig. 2
figure 2

Source: PPTR, ‘Guidelines for the City-Country Pact: redevelopment of the periphery and peri-urban agricultural areas’, elaborate 4.4.3, p. 27 (2015)

Details of the components of the City-Country Pact strategy. The image highlights the relationship between the settlements and the ristretto areas (yellow striped pattern), intended as ‘belts’ of valorisation and interaction with the countryside. It also highlights the relationship between rural sprawl (purple shapes) and the extensive network of historic roads connecting urban centres.

With the City-Country Pact, the PPTR dedicates deep thinking to peri-urban areas, identifying that peripheral space between the city and countryside where recent transformation manifests urban growth. Currently, plans designate these areas for residential, commercial-industrial, tourist, office and tertiary expansion in an intrinsically obsolete vision, especially due to their underlying idea of the city (Calace et al. 2020).

The City-Country Pact aims to redefine peri-urban and rural areas by rethinking urban functions and ecosystems in terms of performance (for example, housing quality, hydrological safety, environmental sustainability, social inclusion, food exchange, recreation, hygienic use of city and countryside). The Pact introduces an innovative and multifunctional role for these areas, merging utility with environmental, landscape and settlement quality (Fanfani and Magnaghi 2009). The concept of multifunctionality applied to open space enables rethinking the idea of urban standards. In Italian planning, urban ‘standards’ refer to the urban amenities (public spaces and services) mandated in different urban or development zones. With actualised models of environmental compensation, plans could redefine these requirements by referring new standards for multifunctional rural areas to the urban morpho-typologies that constitute contemporary urbanisation.

Such an approach could ease the transition from static spatial planning with fixed standards to planning based on territorial performance, which, by definition, is variable, depending on the local context and its social and ecological loads (Pelorosso et al. 2018). A project for peri-urban areas must integrate urbanisation, landscape, formal tools and informal practices to ensure a productive and lasting synergy between the city and countryside (Calace 2017).

The implementation of landscape planning and its implications for municipal planning

As highlighted in comparative studies by Sala et al. (2014) and Schroder et al. (2010), similar ELC implementation systems linked to local urban regulations are found in the Netherlands (Welstandsnota and Beeldkwaliteitplan), France (Schéma de cohérence territorial), Germany (Landschaftsplan) and the UK (Landscape Character Assessment). Even in states where these instruments are voluntary and non-binding, such as the UK and the Netherlands, their success is evident (Schroder et al. 2010).

Both studies highlight the diffusion and utility of inter-municipal implementation tools, like Swiss Landscape Development plans, Dutch Quality Plans, French Landscape charters and Landscape Plans, and Walloon Landscape Programmes. Additional inter-municipal tools include the French Blue and Green Network and Protection Perimeter and Valorisation of Periurban Agricultural Areas; or the English Green Infrastructure. These plans re-naturalise cities, create new economies, regulate compensation mechanisms and control urban development (Sala et al. 2014), indicating a decisive role for multifunctional rural and peri-urban spaces (Schroder et al. 2010).

In the Italian system, local implementation of Regional landscape planning comes about mainly by adapting municipal planning to Regional landscape plans. This process—which takes place in Apulia as in other Regions by imposing considerable constraints during the transitional period before final approvals (Colavitti et al. 2021)—represents the most widespread method for renewing urban plans with structural difficulties for their revision, with the exception of external agents like the case in question. In a complex operation, new objectives and, above all, new planning philosophies are imposed upon an existing municipal plan, integrating or modifying its contents. Such actions are decisive for obtaining an organically renewed urban plan.

In Apulia, some municipalities carried out the ex-post adaptation of their urban plans to landscape planning with the Landscape Thematic Territorial Urban Plans. However, this instrument did not include any strategic vision. In addition, the PPTR is profoundly different from the previous plan, and the regulatory context of Apulian municipal planning has also changed with the Documento Regionale di Assetto Generale (Regional Document of General Order, DRAG).Footnote 8 Indeed, the DRAG already tended toward a landscape approach (Mininni 2012).

Therefore, the Apulia PPTR—with its exemplary principles and structure—enables the investigation of the repercussions on the overall planning system, particularly on the municipal level. The conditions for effective implementation of the PPTR lie in balancing rules for regulating and controlling transformations (to which the public administration is undoubtedly more accustomed) with those aimed at promoting landscape quality and developing Apulian identity-related heritage (Barbanente 2014).

During its genesis, the involvement of various subjects using forms of voluntary and experimental agreements characterised the methods for implementing the PPTR (Barbanente 2014). Following its approval, all local authorities were called upon to introduce the new landscape planning culture into standard provincial, municipal and sectoral planning practices. They were also encouraged to adapt their plans to the PPTR, contributing to the creation of a ‘new regional geography’ (Capurso and Guastamacchia 2019).

The Regional authority accompanied the innovation of municipal plans by launching the first experiments of Territorial Strategies with two calls for expression of interest (2015 and 2018) that encouraged municipalities to adapt their Municipal Urban Plans to the PPTR.Footnote 9 In 2021, eighteen Apulian cities and towns completed the process, while four are nearing termination at this writing. This small number is, nonetheless, sufficient for an initial assessment of the methods and efficacy of integrating landscape into urban planning.

The City-Country Pact in the adaptation of municipal plans to the PPTR

Land management is a powerful tool for implementing landscape policy (De Montis 2014), and the landscape can play a significant role in integrated spatial planning processes (Hersperger 2020). In Apulia, the City-Country Pact is the preferential field for testing the interaction of urban and landscape planning to guide the future organisation of cities, responding to the challenges that contemporary life imposes.

With these assumptions, the need arose to analyse the Municipal Urban Plans that applied the City-Country Pact in adapting to or certifying compliance with the PPTR. The Plans deemed to be of particular interest were diverse in territorial scope and implementation methods. They offer fertile opportunities to explore the relationships between a landscape approach and urban planning.

Like other Regions grappling with implementing landscape planning (Colavitti and Serra 2021), the Apulia Region has provided operational indicationsFootnote 10 for the top-down application of national and regional legislation. They define approvals processes and clarify specific aspects with which plans must comply to conform to the PPTR. In implementing its Territorial Strategies, the PPTR proposes a model based on a negotiation process,Footnote 11 a flexible approach also practised outside the Apulian context. On the one hand, it explores the possibility of hinging territorial strategies on a logic of long-term urban development. On the other, it implicitly recognises the risk of crystallising a strategic scenario in a rigid municipal plan, which should instead be supported by other forms of governance identified in the Plan itself.Footnote 12

The San Severo, Bitetto, Monopoli, Corigliano d’Otranto, Fragagnano, Campi Salentina, and Melpignano municipal plans serve as case studies selected by criteria outlined in “Setting the scene: the Apulia Landscape Plan in the Italian context” section. These cases enable the investigation of possible outcomes and innovative relationships between the strategic approach of the PPTR within the structure and regulatory dimension of municipal planning.

The substantial heterogeneity of the case studies necessitated the identification of specific investigation areas with indicators to normalise and compare the results and, at the same time, explain the different approaches. The “Guidelines for the City-Countryside Pact: redevelopment of suburbs and peri-urban agricultural areas” suggested the areas of investigation and are now references for agri-environmental sector administrators, planners, citizens and business people in rethinking peri-urban and rural areas (Mininni 2012). The first activity consisted in rereading the Guideline criteria and goals from the viewpoint of the planner and the devices of the urban planning discipline, giving rise to the study described in the following paragraphs.

The municipal approaches

The first area of investigation illustrates the methodological steps for implementing the landscape strategy, from interpreting the territorial context to defining criteria for identifying Pact components on a local scale, establishing the framework of goals and outlining the documents required to illustrate the strategic project.

The case studies attempt to overcome a constraint-based vision of landscape protection. In-depth knowledge of the elements under landscape protection was assumed as a ‘structural invariant’,Footnote 13 leading to the formulation of specific planning topics helpful in defining the framework of objectives. For example, hydrogeological risk areas become a “CO2 Park” in San Severo (Fig. 3). Canals and rock formations become the “Negroamaro Park” in Campi Salentina (Fig. 4). Degraded mining areas become the “Quarry Park” in Melpignano (Fig. 5). The Campi Salentina and Melpignano cases emphasise critical areas and physical and environmental decay. In the last two instances, descriptive graphics define a ‘diagnostic analysis’ of landscape characteristics underlying specific preservation actions considered ‘structural invariants’.

Fig. 3
figure 3

Source: Municipality of San Severo, Extracts from tables E1 (original content scale unknow, north–south oriented) and E3(original content scale unknow, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2019)

The strategy of San Severo Mosaic. The image on the left shows the components of the Pact. The strategy identifies the CO2 Park (light blue shape) for forestation in hydrogeological risk areas. In addition, it identifies the urban ‘ristretto’ (yellow) and the peri-urban ‘ristretto’ (yellow hatch). The master plan of the urban ‘ristretto’ shows the relationship between the green belt (top right), linked to the expansion areas, and the ecological corridors (bottom right).

Fig. 4
figure 4

Source: Municipality of Campi Salentina, extracts from table 15 (original content scale 1:20,000, north–south oriented) and table 18 (original content scale 1:10,000, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2019)

The strategy of Negramaro Multifunctional Agricultural Park. The City-Country Pact strategy on the left identifies 3 areas for enhancing the Negramaro Park (left) linked to hydrological and environmental invariants and orography. By utilising and naturalising abandoned areas (centre), the strategy aims to enhance the wine production system, interacting with the peri-urban space (right).

Fig. 5
figure 5

Source: Municipality of Melpignano, extracts from table 15 × (original content scale 1:5000, north–south oriented) and table 10dx (original content scale 1:5000, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2019)

The Melpignano Quarry Park. The City-Country Pact strategy focuses on regenerating the Melpignano quarry areas (left image). The Quarry Park master plan (right) shows different open spaces used for urban forestation (light green near settlement), organic farming (light green dots), and recreational and leisure uses within the quarries (dark yellow).

Fig. 6
figure 6

Source: Municipality of Corigliano d’Otranto, extracts from tables PUG-S 3 (original content scale 1:10,000, north–south oriented) and PUG-S 1.2 (original content scale 1:5000, north–south oriented) of Municipal Urban Plan in conformity with PPTR (2020)

The City-Country Pact strategy. On the top right the strategic assets of the City-Country Pact. They concern the relationship with the peri-urban countryside (green), the dense city (red) and the urban gateway (blue). The master plan, on the bottom right, shows the relationship between the expansion areas and the valuable elements of the rural area.

Fig. 7
figure 7

Source: Municipality of Fragagnano, extracts from elaborate 002 (original content scale 1:15,000, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2020)

The City-Country Pact strategy. The City-Country Pact strategy for the small settlement of Fragagnano identifies the peri-urban green belt connected to new green spaces for the redevelopment of abandoned natural areas and old quarry areas.

The study observed the tendency to link each Pact component to one or more ‘territorial contexts’. The urban planning guidelines define these contexts as parts of the Region characterised by one or more specific dominant environmental, landscape, historical-cultural, settlement and infrastructure features, also determined by particular relations and evolutionary trends affecting them. This aspect is of considerable interest as it relates the Pact to the ‘structural part’ of the Municipal Plan. In the Regional model, the structural part of the plan has strategic and guiding value. It contains urban planning regulations for the structural invariants and directives for the programmatic portion of the plan. For example, the deep countryside is often conceived as a multifunctional agricultural park in differentiated areas coinciding with rural contexts (San Severo, Monopoli, Fragagnano, Corigliano d’Otranto, Campi Salentina, and partly Bitetto). The ristretto area is articulated in the urban and peri-urban context associating the former with a transformation zone (San Severo, Fragagnano) or an already settled low-density space (Corigliano d’Otranto). In Bitetto, ristretto areas are associated with the formal relationship between open and urbanised areas—interclosed, semi-open, and linear ristretto – without clear differentiation of design outcomes and urban design regulations.

Tools for implementing Pact objectives

The second area of investigation identifies the planning tools for complying with Guideline indications and requirements to achieve the following goals:

  • creating a quality peripheral urban context;

  • supporting quality agriculture in peri-urban space;

  • promoting urban and rural sustainability;

  • fostering multifunctional agricultural space.

A series of questions associated with each goal points to the potential performance of Pact components and the implications for municipal planning (Table 1).

Table 1 Design and planning tools for implementing the goals of the City-Country Pact

Each question, taken as an indicator, has been populated with urban planning tools and devices. They include regulatory instruments (structural and programmatic regulations, constraints), incentives (volumetric, economic and compensatory), and guidelines (guidelines and design solutions). The analysis of the technical implementation regulations referring explicitly to the City-Country Pact and rural and peri-urban contexts portrays a complete picture of the regulatory devices.

The result is a very complex and articulated picture highlighting some trends and issues. One is a clear design intention to redefine urban edges by creating ecological and landscape green belts, defining new transformation areas in San Severo, Corigliano d’Otranto (Fig. 6), Fragagnano (Fig. 7), Bitetto (Fig. 8) and compensation zones in Campi Salentina and Melpignano. All case studies included urban and peri-urban parks and public spaces, intended as new multifunctional ‘standards’ linked to heritage and place-identity development, implemented through forms of compensation (Corigliano d’Otranto) or temporary use (Bitetto).

Fig. 8
figure 8

Source: Municipality of Bitetto, extracts from tables A3 (original content scale 1:10,000, north–south oriented) and PP2 (original content scale 1:3000, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2021)

The City-Country Pact strategy. The image on the left shows the components of the Pact. The strategy identifies a green belt between the deep countryside (south and east), the multifunctional agricultural park for the valorisation of high-quality crops (north and east) and the multifunctional agricultural park for the redevelopment of industrial areas (west). On the right, the master plan shows the articulation of the ristretto area through new settlements and new green spaces relating to the peri-urban green belt.

The guidelines for industrial areas include other important design and regulatory devices fostering the quality of the peripheral urban context. Some examples include:

  • APPEAs (an acronym indicating “Landscaped and environmentally improved industrial areas”) for agri-food use (San Severo, Monopoli);

  • incentives for relocating industrial activities that are not inherently part of the rural context (Corigliano);

  • guidelines for the reuse of mining areas in an ecosystemic approach (Melpignano);

  • regulations limiting photovoltaic systems in agricultural parks (Campi Salentina, Fragagnano).

Plans pursue urban and rural sustainability through:

  • the introduction of ecological corridors connecting the countryside and cities located along hydro-geomorphological invariants (San Severo, Bitetto, Campi Salentina), especially in Monopoli (Fig. 9), or along historical routes (San Severo, Corigliano d’Otranto, Melpignano);

  • regulations regarding urban forestation and improvement of environmental performance as a form of compensation (Monopoli, Campi Salentina, Corigliano d’Otranto, Melpignano);

  • guidelines for the closure of the water cycle (Monopoli, Fragagnano) and the environmental reclamation of the groundwater (Melpignano).

Fig. 9
figure 9

Source: Municipality of Monopoli, extracts from tables 27_PUG_S_13i (original content scale 1:15,000, north–south oriented) and 57 (original content scale 1:15,000, north–south oriented) of the Adaptation of the Municipal Plan to the PPTR (2020)

The City-Country Pact strategy. The strategy of the City-Country Pact on the left interprets the vast rural territory of Monopoli into different areas of the Multifunctional Agricultural Valorisation Park. The perimeters depend on the density of archaeological and rural heritage, the density of monumental olive trees and the presence of historic rural settlements. While the strategy on the left shows the Municipal Ecological Network.

Support for peri-urban agriculture called for:

  • guidelines for the cultural diversification and sustainable management of hydrogeological risk areas (San Severo);

  • compensation for establishing new agricultural and zootechnical businesses (Melpignano);

  • rules encouraging land re-parcelling and the reintroduction of traditional crops (Corigliano d’Otranto).

In all cases, regulations control functions and allowed quantities for the reuse of existing rural structures and for new construction strictly limited to artisanal, agricultural and zootechnical production and residential, agro-touristic, and cultural uses.

The social production of the landscape

The third area of investigation is the assessment of participatory and co-design methods, observing whether there was an increase in community-promoted projects and the creation of ongoing processes to raise awareness of landscape values and shared governance. The indicators used were:

  • segments of the population involved;

  • specific stakeholders;

  • type of initiatives carried out;

  • duration of the process.

There was a lack of participatory and co-design processes accompanying the adaptation of municipal plans to the PPTR, often postponed to later stages of the landscape project. At most, they define future management arrangements for more restricted areas linked to specific physical transformations. The cases of San Severo and Fragagnano are virtuous exceptions; they experiment with increasing place consciousness, contextual knowledge, and dynamic knowledge of heritage in a design-oriented fashion (Magnaghi 2020). In San Severo, the entire project (Fraccacreta et al. 2019) was accompanied by:

  • awareness-building meetings entitled “Leggere, Conoscere e Condividere il Paesaggio” (Reading, Knowing and Sharing the Landscape);

  • memoranda of understanding leading to the immediate creation of the “Baden Powell” Urban Park;

  • interdisciplinary workshops involving technicians, professionals and associations.

The effects of these initiatives continue with such annual events as the ‘San Severo Mosaic Landscape Award’ and the ‘Landscape Chair’. In Fragagnano, after an initial phase of meetings and the collection of project ideas, a school explored the ‘Park of Life’ theme; and associations and citizens contributed to developing integrated management systems.

The Municipal Urban Plan expresses a complex idea of developing an entire municipal territory anchored to the landscape dimension. Nevertheless, it does not seem to be able to activate ‘forms of agreement’ and shared governance of the common good. On the other hand, it could become a programmatic framework within which bottom-up processes might constitute real leverage for implementing the physical transformations called for in City-Country Pacts.


Results demonstrate that in the most frequent cases in Apulia, the City-Country Pact is acknowledged and included in the municipal plan. Because it must await the funding for its implementation, it has no immediate effect on the urban territory and, even less so, on the planning tool itself. Instead, analysis of the case study plans shows that some municipal administrations have made efforts to bring the design thinking from the City-Country Pact to the regulatory apparatus as an integral part of adapting the urban plan to the PPTR (Capurso and Guastamacchia 2019).

The analysis of the adaptation of urban planning to the contents of the PPTR City-Country Pact produced different results. Some ritual and confirmatory operations in municipal plans remain unchanged, especially when Pact contents are treated exclusively as guidelines and entrust their implementation to future action. There is substantial difficulty in adopting a cooperative and inclusive approach in adapting planning to the PPTR. Overcoming such challenges would mean substantiating forms of the social production of the landscape invoked by the PPTR and promoted by the ELC.

Less widespread but more innovative practices show close interrelations—starting with interpretations—between Pact content and the components and structural provisions of the Municipal Urban Plan. In these latter cases, original design solutions were developed and embedded in the structural part of the urban plans, diversified according to the characteristics of the different contexts. For example, constructing multifunctional ‘peri-urban green belts’ often correspond to reconfigured peri-urban and expansion areas. Other examples include introducing multi-purpose ‘new generation standards’ to the urban fringe in contexts compromised by mining activities or places affected by hydro-geomorphological vulnerability.

Results regarding the defined goals led to the classification of the role of municipal plans in relation to the Pact according to three conceptual categories:

  • ‘selective’, if Pact components concern only some portions of the territory, involving a partial revision of the Municipal Plan regulations;

  • ‘innovative’, if Pact components involve the entire municipal territory, enriching structural provisions and municipal plan regulations;

  • ‘confirmatory’, if Pact components involve the entire municipal territory, maintaining a guiding value without revising the structural part of the plan and municipal plan regulations.

The following cases exemplify the ‘selective’ approach:

  • Campi Salentina provides a ‘Table of model solutions, Good practices for implementation’ and the ‘Landscape Rules’ referring to the “Negramaro Multifunctional Agricultural Park” and complementary to the urban-construction discipline;

  • Melpignano develops Pact contents only in the western area in contact with the quarries, introducing original content in the margin project through a modest revision of the regulations.

The following cases deployed an innovative approach:

  • San Severo confirms the provisions of the Municipal Urban Plan but at the same time introduces substantial regulatory revision through the “Urban Margin Scheme” and “Implementation rules for the agricultural sector”;

  • Fragagnano does not revise regulations tout court but draws up “Social, functional and morphological guidelines” and an “Urban Planning Scheme”, which already identifies the variations to the urban plan needed to implement Pact projects;

  • Corigliano d’Otranto is the only case of compliance with PPTR. It defines strategic projects in the structural part of the plan. The programmatic part includes implementation through public works, executive programs, and incentives in the entire discipline of physical transformations.

The following cases took a confirmatory approach:

  • Bitetto, while formulating a complex framework of goals and some explanatory regulations, does not call for concrete innovation in the structural part of the plan;

  • While creating a substantial knowledge base of rural landscapes, Monopoli does not significantly rethink its municipal plan.


This paper began by confirming the exemplary nature of the PPTR in the Italian context with the incorporation of the ELC innovations and its potential to renew territorial and municipal planning based on the acknowledgement of landscape values. One of the strategies focusing on peri-urban issues, the City-Country Pact, allows deep exploration of the relations between landscape and urban planning, acting on the urban and rural dimensions, promoting local planning, and enabling the interaction of settlements with agricultural and forestry policies.

The PPTR document ‘Guidelines for the City-Countryside Pact: redevelopment of peri-urban suburbs and agricultural areas’ has great potential in terms of generating landscape culture; establishing methods for interpreting and rethinking the role of the peri-urban context in environmental and social terms; promoting awareness and providing criteria and indications to increase the quality of landscape projects and transformations; influencing the knowledge and understanding of landscape producers and promoters (Sala et al. 2014). The guidelines effectively ensure an inter-scalar approach to landscape policy and its integration with municipal planning. Although widely used (Sala et al. 2014, Colavitti and Serra 2021), there is still a lack of monitoring systems that assess actual effectiveness (Wende et al. 2012).

If landscape-oriented municipal plans can act on a detailed level and work closely with those responsible for landscape transformations (Sala et al. 2014), the local level can determine the effective implementation of most regional PPTR choices (Di Bene et al. 2019). Adapting and/or conforming municipal urban planning to the PPTR serves to verify the effective application of specific ELC measures (Art. 6) on the local scale. This process constitutes a precious opportunity, especially in those landscape contexts that are highly anthropised, like peri-urban ones.

In particular, adaptation to landscape planning is of considerable interest on two specific levels. First, assimilating the ELC landscape approach can leverage the recognition and redefinition of identity-related elements replacing urban paradigms of spatial expansion and homologation. Second, combining PPTR strategic approach, which, by definition, is flexible and non-predictive,Footnote 14 with the municipal plan as specified in the DRAG document, can define shared and lasting rules for adaptable, implementable, integrable and inter-scalar development programmes.

In this sense, opening urban planning to ELC landscape content also interacts with plan philosophy on different levels. The recognition of values is not only affirmed by protection mechanisms but is promoted through design tools. Interpretative and design tools no longer focus on urban transformations (and building construction) but firmly pinpoint open space and landscape projects. Thanks to the values included in the City-Country Pact, peri-urban areas move from being ‘spaces of urban conquest’ to places of new possibilities for the coexistence of settlements, agriculture, and nature.

The limits of this empirical research are undoubtedly due to the still-limited number of Municipal Urban Plans that have received their final approvals and the difficulty in obtaining data from municipal administrations. Notwithstanding these limitations, the research identifies the possibility for the structural part of the Municipal Urban Plan to incorporate a local landscape plan through a challenging exercise of trans-scalar interpretation, design and regulation. It could root the landscape approach in a logic of long-term development, where regulations do not exclude or inhibit actions but open possibilities (Mininni 2012). In this case, effective ‘transformative planning’ might outline some answers to the questions raised.Footnote 15

This paper demonstrates that municipalities implement Regional regulations with a fundamental assumption of responsibility in defining an organic regulatory framework (Colavitti and Serra 2021). However, this comes with little recourse to the mature and ongoing participatory processes and governance tools promoted by the PPTR—one of the most significant drawbacks noted in the case studies. The research found that the ELC principle of citizen involvement in landscape decisions is still not widespread.

Further research could focus on two aspects to enable a more comprehensive understanding and implementation of the ELC on the local level. On the one hand, inter-municipal adaptation processes could be encouraged, like the previously-mentioned international cases, with the advantage that “the limits of a landscape do not necessarily have to be set by administrative boundaries” (Sala et al. 2014: 113) but, more correctly, by environmental components. Moreover, future research could address the complexity and difficulties in systematically renewing planning or producing new municipal plans complying with the PPTR. It might become opportune to study ‘lighter’ and more selective forms of adaptation, implementing the Pact in single places or concerning single design topics. More flexible procedures could guarantee greater success by actively involving the community as a driver of change and guarantor of implementation.

Availability of data and materials

The data and materials used and analysed in the study are available from the corresponding author on request or are available online at the websites listed in the paper.


  1. In this paper, the terms ‘territory’ and ‘territorial’ are used in a broader sense than commonly used in the English language. They refer to the combination of physical realities and spatial processes as well as socio-symbolic constructions (Debarbieux 1999).

  2. Colavitti provides a detailed reconstruction of this evolution, starting with pre-unification through the unification of Italy to the present day (Colavitti 2018).

  3. In particular: the persistence of the distinction between landscape heritage, already subject to the primacy of protection under previous laws, and the overall landscape; less importance given by the Code to the local community in the participation process aimed at identifying landscape values and determining landscape policies (Cartei 2008).

  4. For a description of the construction and contents of the PPTR, see the various publications on the topic, including the monographic article in Urbanistica n. 147, Magnaghi (2016), Albrechts et al. (2020), Barbanente (2020), Barbanente and Grassini (2022).

  5. The Regional Ecological Network, the City-Countryside Pact, the Infrastructure system for soft mobility, the Integrated management and regeneration of coastal landscapes, Territorial systems for the use of heritage assets.

  6. The term "City-Country Pact" can be found in Magnaghi and Fanfani (2009); Magnaghi (2009). With regard to the landscape approach of the territorialist school, for the sake of brevity, see the numerous works on the subject and a synthesis of the territorialist school's work in “Il ritorno dei luoghi nel Progetto” (Magnaghi 2005).

  7. Instead, the Multifunctional Agricultural Park for rural areas are larger than the ristretto ones, representing the conceptual evolution of the natural park. It is conceived as a laboratory for creating new reciprocal relations between city and countryside that are not only environmental and landscape-oriented but also social and economic. It is implemented through ‘multi-actor pacts’ (Fanfani and Magnaghi 2009).

  8. Approved in 2007, it contains guidelines and instructions for the drafting, contents and sizing of municipal plans, in Apulia called Piano Urbanistico Generale (PUG). In addition, it divides planning contents into two distinct levels. The structural part indicates the main choices for medium to long-term town and country planning, and provides guidelines and directives for transformations. The programmatic part disciplines and manages spatial transformations.

  9. Expression of interest for experimentation activities of the Regional Landscape Projects of the PPTR (DD n.132 of 26/03/2015 and Prot. Note n. 2648 of 29/03/2018) addressed to Municipalities for adapting their urban plans, PUG, to the PPTR.

  10. Unlike Tuscany, Piedmont and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Apulia has not prepared a guideline document for the adaptation to and compliance of municipal plan with the PPTR, but it disseminated operative indications in Note number 432 dated 10.06. 2016.

  11. Draft Memorandum of Understanding, pursuant to Article18 of the NTA of the PPTR, between the Apulia Region and the Municipalities, aimed at sharing the priorities of the strategic scenario and the technical-operational methods, responding to the characteristics of the territory concerned; the negotiation takes place in the Service Conference.

  12. Implementing technical standards of PPTR—Chapter III, Governance Tools.

  13. Structural invariants define the characteristics constituting the enduring identity of places and their landscapes. They specifically relate to the constitutive rules resulting from co-evolutionary settlement and environmental processes, which survive historical ruptures and changes.

  14. Strategic projects do not directly describe a set of rules but provide a strategic framework for initiating a process of public consultation, actions, plans, projects and policies geared towards realising the future they describe (Granatiero et al. 2011).

  15. Transformative planning “raises some crucial general questions when confronted with the actual rationalities involved in diverse systems and processes of planning practice, such as: in which direction should change move, and which forces of change need to be mobilised? what substantive contents should nurture the planning process in different action contexts? and what planning instruments are more suitable to favour transformative practices?” (Albrechts et al. 2020: 2). The analysis made by areas of enquiry partly attempts to explore these issues.


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The contribution is the result of a joint reflection by the authors, of which FC drafted paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 6, and OGP drafted paragraph 4. Paragraph 5 is ascribed to both the authors.

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Correspondence to Francesca Calace.

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Calace, F., Paparusso, O.G. Regional landscape planning for the innovation of urban planning. Municipal implementation of the city-country pact in Apulia. City Territ Archit 9, 25 (2022).

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