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Porto Garibaldi-Bellocchio

Case study sites

Site description

Keywords: Navigation inlet on urban coast and coastal lagoon

The Case Study site of Porto Garibaldi-Bellocchio is a 9km stretch of coast, located in the Ferrara and Ravenna provinces, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, northern Italy, facing the North Adriatic Sea. It is located on the Po plain, to the south of the Po River Delta, the largest natural reserve in Emilia Romagna and an UNESCO World Heritage site. Porto Garibaldi-Bellocchio and its hinterland is characterised by the presence of wide lagoons, wetlands and canals. Most of the territory is extremely low-lying, with coastal elevations reaching a maximum of just 2m above MSL, and a large part of the hinterland being below sea level. The area can be divided into a northern and southern section of almost equal lengths. The northern section is mostly urbanised and the beach is characterised by the presence of bathing establishments that provide numerous services to beach users during the summer months. Two towns, Lido degli Estensi and Lido di Spina, with a total of 2,750 inhabitants, were built in this section in the 1970s and are divided by an artificial canal. The northern section also includes a short stretch of natural dunes. The southern section of the study area meanwhile is natural and characterised by the presence of the Bellocchio marsh that is divided into two parts by an artificially-created channel that connects the wetland systems with the sea. This connection is important in order to maintain water quality within the wetlands and to prevent adverse effects to aquaculture and fisheries as well as to birds and biodiversity.

The coastal area is composed of low sandy beaches of widths ranging from 30 to 300m, south-to-north. The micro tidal regime of this area has a neap tide range of 0.3 to 0.4m and a spring tide range of 0.8 to 0.9m. The wave regime is generally of low energy, with almost 65% of wave heights being less than 1m. Energetic storms come from the east-northeast (Bora wind) and southeast (Scirocco wind). The 1-in-1 year return period wave height is 3.3m with a wave period of 7.7s.

Why was this area selected?

Porto Garibaldi-Bellocchio is a low lying area, highly exposed to extreme events, in which multiple human activities co-exist. Of high importance for the goal of the project, is the co-existence of a complex and exposed ecosystem with high socio-economic stakes. 

Land, coastal and marine uses

Keywords: Port, Residential use, Natural reserve, Tourism, Fisheries & Aquaculture, Agriculture, Gas mining

The Case Study site and its hinterland are characterised by the presence of wide lagoons and wetlands, whereas, in between the residential areas a large, artificially planted pine vegetation area exists. The two small towns represent the residential use of the coastal area. The main uses in the area are connected to fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and coastal touristic and eco-touristic activities. Leisure activities, such as kite-surfing and sailing, are also carried out. In the nearby area there is also a gas well operating, where, currently, the operating company is obliged to carry out monitoring activities to assess the possible effects of gas extraction on subsidence rates, beach erosion and related coastal problems.


Keywords: Marine flood, Erosion, Sea level rise

The area is exposed to high surge levels that can double the tide elevation. Since 1946 the coast has been affected by 79 important storm events. Marine floods and coastal erosion, connected to the destruction and loss of wetlands, are the main hazards for the area. The exposed nature of the coast results in loss of coastal zone every year, redeemed with beach nourishment measures in order to maintain the touristic activities during the summer months. Additionally, the area in the past suffered from significant subsidence rates due to groundwater and gas extraction activities.

Socio-Economic losses & Environmental Impacts

Keywords: Loss of habitat, Navigational problems, Infrastructure damage, Shoreline subsidence, Impact on tourism

In the Case Study site of Porto Garibaldi-Bellocchio, there is a long history of extreme storm surge events, affecting the touristic activities, the inhabitants and the coastal infrastructures as well as the natural assets such as the salt marshes and dunes, and the water quality of the inland lagoon system. The significant erosion, if it were to continue at its current rate, could potentially severely affect the well-developed tourist industry. In case of severe events, navigational problems also occur. There is of course implementation of protective and mitigation measures like dredging and nourishment actions and, where necessary, reconstruction of the protective semi-natural or artificial structures Nevertheless, these actions have substantial public and private costs that are not always easy or possible to maintain.

Partner in charge

Consorzio Futuro in Ricerca

Members of the project’s end-users and stakeholders board

Regione Emilia-Romagna, Garibaldi Port Authority, Po Delta Park

Photo Gallery

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Fig.1: Severe dune/earth protection embankment and beach erosion, occurring at the north side of the Case Study site.

Porto Garibaldi 2

Fig.2: Large overwash into the Bellocchio marsh, in the south area of the Case Study site. The sea water ingression into the marsh is evident.