Annika Kress, Eurac Research
Since 2001, the Italian Constitution has recognized metropolitan cities as ‘autonomous entities having their own statutes, powers and functions’ (Article 114). The idea behind the metropolitan cities is certainly interesting: the asymmetric governance of rural and urban areas. While Italy with its special autonomies had already been a rather asymmetric system, the structural differentiation between urban and rural local governments, as such, is new. Metropolitan cities are established as second-tier local governments that are made up of a principal city and surrounding municipalities and replace the homonymous provinces. Established through an ordinary national law – the so called ‘Delrio Law’ (Law no 56/2014) – the metropolitan cities retain the responsibilities of provinces and obtain additional tasks that are supposed to enable them to better tackle the challenges of increasing urbanization and metropolitan growth. The very first new responsibility that is mentioned in the Delrio Law is metropolitan strategic planning.
The Delrio-Law itself established 10 metropolitan cities in Italian Regions with ordinary statute in 2014: Bari, Bologna, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Reggio Calabria, Rome, Turin, Venice. Subsequently, the Autonomous Region of Sicily established three more metropolitan cities on its territory via a regional law in 2015 – Catania, Messina, and Palermo – and in 2016, the Autonomous Region of Sardinia added the Metropolitan City of Cagliari to the list. The Sicilian metropolitan cities are not required to pass metropolitan strategic plans. So far, eight metropolitan cities have adopted one or more strategic plans: Bologna, Cagliari, Florence, Genoa, Milan, Naples, Turin, and Venice. Rome, Reggio Calabria and Bari are still in the process of elaborating their plans.
The finalized metropolitan strategic plans all outline macro-areas of intervention, more specific strategies and explicit actions and projects. Interestingly, the most common themes that have emerged across these plans are social inclusion, agriculture, landscape, research and education. The arguably rural themes agriculture and landscape take up much space in the strategic planning of metropolitan cities, and while the seemingly more straightforward metropolitan themes of mobility and innovation are still quite common, the themes smart cities and industry 4.0 only take secondary spots.
This prevalence of rural themes in metropolitan strategic planning can be explained by a curiosity of the establishment of metropolitan cities. After years of municipal, provincial and regional vetoes that blocked previous efforts, the national Delrio Law simply implemented them top-down. It converted ‘old’ provinces into ‘new’ metropolitan cities without changing any borders. On the one hand, this mere structural change made the top-down approach constitutional whereas boundary changes would have required more of a bottom-up approach that included local participation and regional consultation. On the other hand, this has led to metropolitan cities that in some cases do not entirely cover the functional urban area, for example Milan and Rome, while in others, they include remote rural municipalities. With the exception of Naples, the most extreme examples are the metropolitan cities in southern Italy where the functional urban area only makes up a small fraction of the overall metropolitan territory, but examples also include Turin and Venice. This makes strategic planning tricky for the metropolitan cities.
A closer look at three metropolitan strategic plans (Milan, Turin and Venice) provides some further insights into these issues. While Milan is the most extreme case of a functional urban area exceeding the metropolitan city’s territory, in Turin and Venice, the functional urban area covers only small areas of the territory.
The Metropolitan City of Venice outlines 13 programmatic trajectories in its 2018-2020 strategic plan, among which it includes infrastructures and networks, informatization and digitalization, economic development, cohesion and social inclusion, as well as labor and territorial planning, and others. The second of these 13 trajectories carries the title ‘Beyond the Metropolitan Borders’ and outlines the need for a flexible approach to the metropolitan geography in order to be able to reach governance objectives and mentions treaties, contracts, conferences, unions and partnerships as possible instruments to be able meet metropolitan needs, be they at the level of single municipalities or the level of the entire Venetian Lagoon that extends beyond the boundaries of the metropolitan city.
The Metropolitan City of Milan also identifies six general themes in its second strategic plan (2019-2021), covering digitalization, cooperation with and support of the municipalities of the metropolitan city, economic development, territorial planning and urban regeneration, environmental sustainability, as well as infrastructures and mobility, for which it has outlined 36 action plans. While the cooperation beyond metropolitan city boundaries does not take the center stage, there are already strong intergovernmental partnerships with surrounding provinces in place when it comes to transport and mobility, and which are supposed to be enhanced even further through some of the 36 action plans.
The Metropolitan City of Turin breaks its second strategic plan (2021-2023) down into six axes of intervention – digitalization and innovation, green revolution and ecological transition, sustainable mobility, education and research, inclusion and cohesion, as well as health services – 24 strategies and 111 specific actions, the implementation of which is assured through European and national funding, including Next Generation EU funds. It explicitly recognizes the very heterogeneous geography of the Metropolitan City of Turin and holds that this requires a polycentric approach, more so than in any other metropolitan city in Italy. It therefore requires actions that can be adapted to the differential needs of the various municipal realities that are present in the metropolitan city.
According to the Council of Europe ‘Toolkit on Strategic Municipal Planning and Performance Management’, in a strategic plan, ‘the [local government takes] care to establish a clear understanding of what local people and other key stakeholders want, what is achievable given the resources and assets of the Municipality and the overall municipal vision to be met’.
Unfortunately, the top-down implementation of metropolitan cities seems to have complicated the achievement of the ambitions that local government strategic plans generally set out for. The territorial reform following the Delrio Law, followed by the 2016 referendum that opposed related constitutional amendments, has seen many former provincial staff transferring out of the administration, leaving newly established metropolitan cities pressed for human resources.
Another issue is the financing of metropolitan functions. While the Italian Constitution requires that territorial entities be able to fully finance their tasks and the law on fiscal federalism (actually pre-dating the existence of metropolitan cities) established far-reaching metropolitan tax autonomy, the legislative decree enacting this autonomy has so far not been issued. This means that despite their additional functions, the metropolitan cities continue to incur only the tax bases of the former provinces. As can be seen in the case of the Metropolitan City of Turin, this leads to strategic planning and projects that depend on ad hoc funding and have to forego the continuity of own additional tax bases.
Furthermore, creating metropolitan cities that do not necessarily coincide with their functional urban areas might tie up metropolitan city resources in intergovernmental cooperation mechanisms with municipalities outside the metropolitan city territory and other provinces in order to tackle metropolitan challenges, while at the same time necessitating differential approaches to diverse realities within the metropolitan city territory, itself. To conclude, while strategic planning in and of itself can be a useful tool for local government entities, the context in which it happens nevertheless has to be conducive to the goals that it sets out to achieve.
Law no 42/2009 on Fiscal Federalism
Law no 56/2014 ‘Delrio’ on Metropolitan Cities
Metropolitan Strategic Plan 2019-2021 of Milan (Milan PSM), ‘Milano metropolitana al futuro: Piano strategico del territorio metropolitano aggiornamento 2019-2021’ (Metropolitan City of Milan 2019) <https://www.cittametropolitana.mi.it/export/sites/default/Piano_Strategico_2019_2021/doc/Piano-strategico-2019_2021.pdf>
Turin Metropolitan Strategic Plan (2021-2023), ‘Torino Metropoli Aumenta’ (Metropolitan City of Turin 2021) <http://www.cittametropolitana.torino.it/cms/sviluppo-economico/piano-strategico/>
Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications:
Boggero G, ‘The Establishment of Metropolitan Cities in Italy: An Advance or a Setback for Italian Regionalism?’ (2016) 8 Perspectives on Federalism E-3
Council of Europe, ‘Toolkit IV on Strategic Municipal Planning and Performance Management at Local Level’ (undated) <https://rm.coe.int/smp-strategic-municipal-planning/16807470ea>
Crivello S and Staricco L, ‘Institutionalizing Metropolitan Cities in Italy: Success and Limits of a Centralistic, Simplifying Approach’ (2017) 10 Urban Research & Practice 231
Kössler K and Kress A, ‘European Cities Between Self-government and Subordination: Their Role as Policy-Takers and Policy-Makers’ in Ernst H Ballin and others (eds), European Yearbook of Constitutional Law 2020 (TMC Asser Press 2021)
 See also report section 4.1. on the Structure of Local Government in Italy.
 Regional Law of Sicily no 8/2014.
 Regional Law of Sardinia no 2/2016.
 See Metropolitan Strategic Plan 2019-2021 of Milan (Milan PSM), ‘Milano metropolitana al futuro: Piano strategico del territorio metropolitano aggiornamento 2019-2021’ (Metropolitan City of Milan 2019) 29 <https://www.cittametropolitana.mi.it/export/sites/default/Piano_Strategico_2019_2021/doc/Piano-strategico-2019_2021.pdf>.
 For the rather long history behind metropolitan cities, see Giovanni Boggero, ‘The Establishment of Metropolitan Cities in Italy: An Advance or a Setback for Italian Regionalism?’ (2016) 8 Perspectives on Federalism E-3; see also Silvia Crivello and Luca Staricco, ‘Institutionalizing Metropolitan Cities in Italy: Success and Limits of a Centralistic, Simplifying Approach’ (2017) 10 Urban Research & Practice 231.
 See Italian Constitutional Court Judgement no 50/2015, referring to Art 133 of the Italian Constitution.
 Crivello and Staricco, ‘Institutionalizing Metropolitan Cities in Italy’, above, 232.
 Although in both cases part of the functional urban area does still extend beyond the territorial boundaries in some areas, see Crivello and Staricco, ‘Institutionalizing Metropolitan Cities in Italy’, above, 233, for maps of the metropolitan city boundaries and the functional urban areas.
 The Metropolitan Strategic plan 2018-2020 of Venice is available at <https://cittametropolitana.ve.it/notizie/il-consiglio-adotta-il-piano-strategico-metropolitano-triennale.html>. A new version for 2021-2023 is not yet available.
 ibid 131
 Metropolitan Strategic Plan of Milan, above, 55ff.
 ibid 77.
 Turin Metropolitan Strategic Plan (2021-2023), ‘Torino Metropoli Aumenta’ (Metropolitan City of Turin 2021) <http://www.cittametropolitana.torino.it/cms/sviluppo-economico/piano-strategico/>.
 ibid 13.
 Council of Europe, ‘Toolkit IV on Strategic Municipal Planning and Performance Management at Local Level’ (undated) iii <https://rm.coe.int/smp-strategic-municipal-planning/16807470ea>.
 Statement by Emanuele Padovani, Associate Professor, Department of Management, University of Bologna (LoGov Country Workshop, Local Responsibilities and Public Services, 28 April 2021); Interview with anonymous expert, Politecnico di Torino, Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (21 June 2021); the Draghi Government has made increased public sector recruitment a priority for its Next Generation EU funds (Piano Nazionale di Ripresa e Resilienza, PNRR).
 Law no 42/2009.
 Karl Kössler and Annika Kress, ‘European Cities Between Self-government and Subordination: Their Role as Policy-Takers and Policy-Makers’ in Ernst H Ballin and others (eds), European Yearbook of Constitutional Law 2020 (TMC Asser Press 2021); and ‘Elenco delle deleghe e dei decrei legislativi emanati’ (camera.it, undated) <https://www.camera.it/parlam/leggi/deleghe/09042ld.htm>.
 See also LoGov Country Workshop, Local Responsibilities and Public Services, 28 April 2021.