Ligurian icons make a comeback

Porto Carlo Riva in Rapallo on the east coast of Liguria and the mega project for the tourist port at Imperia to the west are two very different projects to re-establish two of Italy’s best-known marinas. Donatella Zucca reports

Porto Carlo Riva during work phase.

Porto Carlo Riva during work phase.

The piers and breakwaters are completed and the first yachts are now arriving at the newly-designed Porto Carlo Riva, and Marina di Imperia in Porto Maurizio – after a ten-year delay – is finally being completed via an improvement project that will also benefit the city and its environs.
Rebuilding Riva
Porto Carlo Riva, the icon created by engineer Carlo Riva, has been rebuilt following the devastation caused by a major storm in 2018. A new 7m (23ft) high breakwater, comprising 170,000 tons of natural boulders, has been tested, and Argo company Bizzi & Partners, headed by Davide Bizzi is managing the development. The ‘recovery’ of the marina has delivered a concept that brings it closer to the city, a benefit that is appreciated and supported by the mayor, Carlo Bagnasco, and Giovanni Toti, president of the Ligurian region.
Porto Carlo Riva - A CGI of completed port.

Porto Carlo Riva - A CGI of completed port.

The marina pays an annual fee for maintaining the port (which belongs to the municipality, with concessions to maritime associations and small nautical entities) and reserves a portion of the new berths and newly created space for public use. It also pledges support at €50,000 a year to help fund the highly popular July celebrations of the Madonna. The money is intended to cover the costs of renting barges, which will be put to sea as firework firing stations. Previously, the fireworks were released from the harbour breakwater which meant relocating the yachts.
The newly created areas in the marina will be used for a yacht club, tourist hotel, shipyard, 300-space car park, a series of nautical cabins, a new restaurant, pub and port offices. More than 190 new berths and new fixed piers have been added to completely rebuild the port at a cost of almost €80 million. The current concession lasts until 2056 but the municipality will soon be focusing on granting an extension to this.
Since early October, all members of the original management team and four new members of staff have been working at the marina and the entire port system is expected to employ around 100 people. Bizzi & Partners is, meanwhile, involved in other nautical tourism projects (see inset story).
The long road to Imperia
Marina di Imperia’s journey to get to where it is today has been lengthy and frustrating, starting with a blockade on work in 2014 and removal of the state concession, which has now been issued at 65 years following a detailed economic/financial, urban and construction assessment.
CGIs of newly developed Marina di Imperia.

CGIs of newly developed Marina di Imperia.

The entity at the helm of the marina regeneration is Go Imperia Srl, which deals with services related to employment and protection of public property. In the instance of Marina di Imperia, the value of port activities, together with the regeneration of original income and new added-value income, raised awareness of the positive economic impact of the port on the city. Guido Corradi, a bank manager and new president of the board of directors, will start the relaunch phase based on accurate market research.
One of the new docks at Porto Carlo Riva.

One of the new docks at Porto Carlo Riva.

Like every marina development, response is mixed but Imperia mayor, Claudio Scajola, recognised the challenges last year, admitting “it was a complex period in which the difficulties of temporary ordinary management overlapped with the tasks for requesting a new concession and the critical issues related to COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war.”
Notwithstanding the fact that ramifications of an additional war are now in the mix for 2023, there are people who view the project as expensive and aimed at people with little interest in the life of the local area. The majority, however, view it as a precious development link for the future of the city and with its 1,278 berths (156 for visitors and 1,122 under contract) as a crucial step in growth.

The project also includes a 5 star hotel, which was not part of the original site amenities, but radically reduced retail outlet space – solely for shops selling marine-related goods.
Berths along Via Scarincio will adjoin a reinforced fixed quayside, and a jetty damaged in the 2018 storm will be removed to create a new 90m (295ft) berth. This is in response to demand for superyacht berths. Other changes will include a new six-berth quay for professional fishermen which, like the rest of the port, the museum and events space, will benefit from better services from an upgraded electrical substation.
The two-storey yacht club will comprise office space, bar and restaurant, and an overhauled car park offer free parking for electric and hybrid plug-in vehicles. A mooring tower will also be built beside the entrance to the port and this will house a bar, restaurant, reception, port management offices and a command and control centre.

Revisioning Rapallo

Bizzi & Partners’ tourist port projects do not end with Porto Carlo Riva as, together with Fidim Srl, a biotech, property and hospitality holding company, it is considering participating in the tender scheduled for 2024 for the port of Lavagna. Davide Bizzi also has the concession for the international tourist port of Rapallo following the public tender announced by the Court of Genoa.
Rapallo was also lashed by bad luck when the Porto Carlo Riva dam burst, destroying piers and leading to hundreds of yachts sinking and needing to be disposed of. This was followed by an investigation into the management of the disposal of the vessels, an issue that Porto Carlo Riva had to deal with as it built the dam and was held responsible for the disaster. A series of knock-on difficulties then followed which forced the marina to crisis point.
Davide Bizzi recently told the press that berths at the marina will be assigned on short-term rental, with a maximum of one year for private individuals and three for businesses. The management offices will open within the year and the commercial part of the new port by summer 2024. This area will include retail for important brands in boating and fashion.


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