• National Law 221/2015 “Environmental measures for promoting green economy and limiting the excessive use of natural resources” established the Italian Natural Capital Committee (INCC), composed of institutional members along with experts appointed by the Italian Minister of Environment, Land & Sea. The INCC’s mandate is to provide arguments for consideration of the Natural Capital within public policy in Italy. The INCC published in February 2017 the 1st Report on the State of Natural Capital in Italy. The aim is to deliver environmental information and data expressed in both physical and monetary units, following the methodologies defined by the United Nations and the European Union, as well as ex ante and ex post assessment of the effects of public policies on Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services. This first Report collects information on the state of conservation of water, soil, air, biodiversity and ecosystems, introduces the cartography of ecosystems and the assessment of their preservation state, as a preliminary step for identifying priorities of restoration to maintain and enhance ecosystem services. Moreover, the approach to accounting and economic valuation of Natural Capital contained in the Report aims to provide an initial framework on methodologies for estimating and assigning a monetary value to Natural Capital. Furthermore, one of the pilot cases for the physical evaluation of goods and ecosystem services covers metropolitan areas. It quantifies the public green of 10 metropolitan cities with regard to the total territory and the number of inhabitants, taking into account Genoa, Rome and Reggio Calabria, in order to indicate the ability to remove air pollutants and estimate the monetary benefits. Regarding green infrastructure, the Report includes, in particular, the following perspectives and recommendations:
    • to improve the system of ecological connections and green infrastructure;
    • to strengthen green finance tools to build green infrastructure, in order to cope with climate change and to enhance Natural Capital recovery measures, representing a model of sustainable development.
  • In 2013, Italy adopted the National Law on the Development of Green Urban Areas(Law n. 10, 14.1.2013) aimed at promoting green areas for the provision of ecosystem services (air quality, hydrological risks, soil protection and cultural dimensions). The law identifies a set of measures including green urban planning and monitoring, support to local-level initiatives, safeguarding trees and tree lines as significant features for landscape, heritage, nature, history and culture (Italian Ministry for the Environment and the Protection of Land and Sea and Italian Botanical Society, 2016).

    • Law 10/2013 establishes, in Art. 3, the Committee for Green Public Development, which has to prepare a report to be forwarded to the Chambers by 30 May each year, with the results of the monitoring and the interventions necessary to ensure the full implementation of sectoral legislation. Art. 3 also provides that the Committee should propose, in agreement with the Unified Conference, a National Green Plan. The Committee, in its function, is supported by ISPRA and the Ministry of the Environment as set out in the Ministerial Decree 18/02/2013. The Committee for Green Public Development has prepared, in collaboration with ANCI (National Association of Italian Municipalities) and ISPRA, guidelines for management of urban green areas and first indications for a sustainable planning that provides local governments with technical, scientific and socio-cultural orientation criteria, useful for planning, cultivation and management of public green.[1]
    • Despite the heterogeneity of the urban planning tools in the different Italian regions, there are some sector tools that the municipal authority can adopt for the regulation of urban and peri-urban green systems. These include the Green Census and the Green Plan. The data analysed (updated in 2015, published by ISTAT) show that the Green Census is the most widespread tool, both in the Centre-North as well as in the South and Islands; in fact, it is present in 89 of the 116 municipalities analysed. Another important operating tool for planning, maintenance, protection and utilization of public green is the Green Regulation, which by 2015 was adopted in 52 Municipalities, mostly located in the Central-North Regions. Finally, the Green Plan – an urban planning instrument – identifies how to enhance and increase areas for urban green or recreational activities.
    • The ISPRA Report on Quality of the Urban Environment (2016) focuses on urban nature (green infrastructure chapter) and provides useful information for evaluating natural capital on a sample of 116 municipalities.
  • The Charter of Rome on Natural and Cultural Capital, launched in 2014 under the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, underlines that the GI concept is a driver for transition to a green economy and has many natural, cultural, social and economic connections. To address this challenge, the Charter specifically promotes: i) identification of inter-connections and multi-functionality of natural and semi-natural areas; ii) Improvement of synergies between natural and semi-natural areas (including protected areas), green infrastructure, urban and rural areas; iii) mapping, assessment, monitoring, evaluation, planning and management of the territorial links between natural and semi-natural areas; iv) considering GI as a cost-effective alternative or complementary measure to ‘grey infrastructure’ in support of both nature and people.
  • Several regions have established Regional Ecological Networks (Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, 2014) as more or less prescriptive tools in land planning. Similarly, several Provinces and municipalities (Guccione and Schilleci, 2010) adopted the Land Ecological Network model to promote sustainable development at the different administrative levels (Blasi et al., 2008b).
  • The national conference “La Natura dell’Italia” organised by the Ministry of the Environment in December 2013 proposed several green infrastructure objectives. Green infrastructure is viewed as a means to strengthen biodiversity conservation and promote and enhance natural capital, in order to develop a greener economy (Sustainable Development Foundation, 2014).

    • A comprehensive initiative for the implementation of both the EU Biodiversity and GI Strategies is carried out by the Italian Ministry for the Environment with the support of the Italian Botanical Society (SBI). This initiative represents important progress in terms of ecosystem mapping, assessment of ecosystem condition and restoration prioritisation, mapping and assessment of ecosystem services (for selected pilot case studies), and promotion of GI.[2]Regarding the last point, which is specifically aimed at defining a framework for the development of GI according to the land ecological network approach, some pilot proposals have been developed for the metropolitan area of Rome.

      • The Central Apennines is a vast natural area with many reserves and Natura 2000 sites, such as the Abruzzi and Majella National Parks and the Sirente-Velino Regional Park. Together with strict protection measures and positive management actions over the past decades in the protected areas, a spontaneous and vast rewilding process has been taking place due to land abandonment and decreasing traditional activities. The Rewilding initiative aims to generate an up-scaling of the conservation effort in the Central Apennines by focusing especially on the buffer zones of the parks and the ecological corridors in-between, and by involving local administrations and stakeholders. The initiative aims to demonstrate that land abandonment is a new opportunity to revitalize natural dynamic processes, the socio-economic potential of the region, as well as people’s quality of life.  In the buffer zones and connection areas, all new major infrastructure projects such as windmills, power lines, road building or water power/dam constructions will be actively held away. This will be secured through agreements with local administrations and land owners, which will see rewilding as a real opportunity to maintain the natural assets while at the same time boosting the socio-economic development (Rewilding Europe, n.d.).
      • The Vertical Forest (Bosco Verticale) is an innovative project in the Porta Nuova district of Milan, containing plants roughly equivalent to 2.5 acres of forest (European Commission, 2017).
      • The EcoSistema Filtro is a constructed wetland in Sardinia (and Natura 2000 site), built in 2004 to filter treated water (European Commission, 2017).
      • The ecological network of the Province of Rome: the design of the Land Ecological Network of the Master Plan of the Province of Rome (Lazio, Italy) was based on the integration of a multi-taxon approach with a hierarchical landscape classification, using information on landscape pattern, local distribution of vascular flora, vertebrate fauna and habitats and existing protected areas. Since its adoption, the Land Ecological Network represents a sound strategy for conserving biodiversity at fauna, flora, vegetation and landscape level, even in fragmented natural ecosystems (Blasi, 2008b).



  •  “Corona Verde” (Green Crown) is a strategic project implemented in the metropolitan and surrounding (hilly) area of Turin, involving 93 municipalities. It was launched by the Piemonte Region and the “Politecnico di Torino” University. The project aimed to set up a Green Infrastructure that integrates the “Corona di Delitie” (Crown of Delights), a system of royal residences from the sixteenth and seventeenth century spread out across the city of Turin, with the city’s green belt including metropolitan parks, rivers and rural areas. The project covers an area of 164,883 ha and includes 1,865 ha of special protected areas; EUR 13,147,665 was invested by different parties including the EU. The “Corona Verde” has the objective of providing – in a cost-effective manner - the metropolitan area of Turin with many social, environmental and economic benefits for the city and its population such as protection against soil erosion, reduction of adverse impacts of grey infrastructure projects, enhancement of tourism and, in particular, reduction of pollution since Italian cities are among the most polluted in Europe. The latter is achieved by newly planted trees (Trinomics et al., 2016). 
  • The Metropolitan Area of Milan has created a system of regional parks under Regional Law 86/1983 on protected areas, reaching 39% of the land area in the Province in 2012. The system consists of six regional parks and an extensive agricultural belt called Milan South Agricultural Park (GreenSurge, 2015).
  • “Piano di azione per l’energia sostenibile” (Green Infrastructure for sustainable energy): In 2010, the city of Modena put in place a plan of action for sustainable energy (SEAP). It is part of a bigger initiative of local Italian municipalities called “Patto dei Sindaci” that many mayors signed in 2008. The project’s objective is to requalify its territory according to sustainable development criteria and to pursue energy efficiency goals and a CO2 reduction of 20% by 2020. Urban greening is part of the plan. The primary motive for investing in Modena’s Green Infrastructure is to increase the quantity of biomass for sustainable energy purposes, but there are several other benefits. An increase in GI in agricultural areas, ecological zones and public green will improve landscape quality and scenic beauty; it will also improve the micro climate and make the living environment more comfortable by mitigating the heat island effect and filtering the air. An increase in urban forest of 127.5 ha is planned between 2011 and 2020 (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • Based on a former project on the Apennine Park of Europe, a new project has been designed involving the Italian Minister of Environment, the National Association of Italian Municipalities - ANCI, the Union of the Italian Provinces UPI, the National Union of Mountain Communities - Uncem, Legambiente, Federparchi and 15 Regions as part of the Apennine Range. It is a new initiative promoted by the Foundation Symbola based on the fromer project started 20 years ago for the promotion of the whole area, its resources and products: http://www.greenreport.it/news/aree-protette-e-biodiversita/la-fase-2-0-del-progetto-appennino-parco-deuropa-parte-dal-festival-della-soft-economy/http://www.symbola.net/newtest/uploadfckimage/Invito%20per%20APPENNINO_DEFINITIVO%20060716.pdf)
  • The regional ecological network (rete ecologica regionale - RER) of Lombardia aims to protect biodiversity by creating an ecological network which safeguards pieces of land that were not included in the regional protected areas. The objective is to maintain and restore a connection between the flora and fauna where fragmentation occurs. The RER was approved in 2009 and defines primary elements which are the areas identified as a priority for biodiversity. The ecological network was designed by using the maps of 73 priority areas for biodiversity, complemented with the other elements constituting the networks, such as ecological corridors and road networks. This project also promotes low emission zones in urban and metropolitan regions (Trinomics et al., 2016).
  • The ecological network of Rome Municipality: the ecological network concept was introduced in the urban planning of Rome municipality in 2003. The New General Masterplan, approved in 2008, is structured around three components: the environmental system, defining the protection and enhancement of the environment and of the cultural heritage of the city; the infrastructural system, focusing on the development of the railway infrastructures; and the urban and metropolitan system, planning for and setting the limits of urban development. The ’environmental system’ is intended to be managed according to an ecological network approach. The network aims to protect the characteristics of the local ecosystems, together with the evolutionary processes of its species, agriculture land, protected areas, and river basins. The ecological network therefore aims to make the urban plan more sustainable, by ensuring the conservation and enhancement of natural resources and their regeneration capacity. The connectivity elements of the network are considered crucial, and include both natural and artificial elements (Mazza et al., 2011). This prescriptive planning tool represented the framework for several GI-related initiatives, such as the proposal for the MAB-Urban Biosphere Reserve of Rome (Blasi et al., 2008a) and the Municipal Forestation Plan (Capotorti et al., 2015b).
  • Mirandola Urban Green Belt: The Local Energy Plan of the municipality of Mirandola, in the Emilia Romagna Region, aims to achieve a significant reduction in energy consumption and contribute to climate change mitigation. One of the measures to achieve this aim is the creation of a green belt around the city to provide cooling and shading in summer, as well as COstorage. The green belt is developed through the ‘transfer of development rights’, whereby developers receive permission to increase the size of their buildings if they commit a significant part of their land to green space. The individual green spaces form a continuous green belt. The use of flexible and negotiable standards for developments promotes engagement of developers in town planning and shortens the wait for planning permission. The initiative started in 2001 (with a law by the Province of Modena n.153 of 17 April 2011), and the first wooded areas were planted in 2003. The initiative is planned to be concluded in 2020. The related measure ‘Una citta’ nel bosco’ (‘A town in the wood’) aims to create a public wooded area of about 1.3 million m2 related to programmes of residential building at low energy intensity. This would include about 440,000 m2 of woodland along the planned ‘Cispadana’ highway (Mazza et al., 2011).
  • Constructed wetlands as multipurpose green infrastructure in Gorla Maggiore: The project tested the feasibility of using green infrastructure, instead of traditional grey infrastructure, to treat sewage overflows in Gorla Maggiore, a municipality of ca. 5000 inhabitants in the Lombardia Region. The GI developed consists of a set of constructed wetlands surrounded by a park on the shore of the Olona River in an area previously used for poplar plantation. It includes± a pollutant removal area with a grid, a sedimentation tank and four vertical sub-surface flow constructed wetlands; b) a surface flow constructed wetland with multiple roles, e.g. pollution retention, flood buffer, maintenance of biodiversity and recreation; and a recreational park with restored riparian trees, green open space, information panels, walking and cycling paths, etc. Impacts include: improved management of water resources for the benefit of people and biodiversity; providing evidence that GI, besides complying with the existing water regulations, provides additional services; providing the regional government, the main sponsor of the project, with a cost-benefit analysis that can be replicated to analyse the potential impact of such interventions in other locations.
  • The tree database of Padua: The city of Padua has been collecting information on street trees since 1999. Since 2013, data collection also includes trees that grow inside public green areas (urban parks and gardens). Data are collected on the ground by trained and experienced surveyors using mobile devices and paper forms, and all records are checked for accuracy. Each tree is spatially identified and fully characterised by data on size, health status and maintenance operations needed. This information has many potential applications related to MAES and urban management. Using information about ecological traits (species specific data such as tree height and stem diameter) is a commonly used method for mapping ecosystem services. This information combined with the size of every tree species population delivers sound estimates for services such as air quality regulation and micro-climate regulation. The data are also very useful for validating models based on land cover and land use alone and thus help reduce uncertainty (European Commission, 2016).
  • Italy is currently involved in the EU co-financed GreenSurge project, which will identify, develop and test ways of linking green spaces, biodiversity, people and the green economy in order to meet the major urban challenges related to land use conflicts, climate change adaptation, demographic changes, and human health and wellbeing.
  • Moreover, three Italian cities (i.e. Padua, Rome and Trento) represent case studies for the EU MAES Urban Pilot (Maes et al., 2016) and for the EU project EnRoute ‘Enhancing Resilience Of Urban Ecosystems through Green Infrastructure’ (Fusaro et al., 2017).
  • The city of Mantova participates in the Horizon 2020 project URBAN GreenUP which aims to obtain a tailored methodology to support the co-development of Renaturing Urban Plans focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation and efficient water management, and to assist in the effective implementation of Nature-Based Solutions.
  • Genoa participates in the Horizon 2020 project Urban Nature Labs (UNaLab) which aims to develop a robust evidence base and European framework of innovative, replicable, and locally-attuned nature-based solutions (NBS) to enhance the climate and water resilience of cities. UNaLab focuses on urban ecological water management, accompanied by greening measures and innovative and inclusive urban design.
  • Modena participates in the Horizon 2020 project Green Cities for Climate and Water Resilience, Sustainable Economic Growth, Healthy Citizens and Environments (GrowGreen) which aims to deliver systemic changes to the long-term planning, development, operation and management of seven cities through the use of nature-based solutions (NBS), in order to deliver quantified improvements in climate and water resilience, social, environmental and economic performance.
  • Examples of best practices on urban green (available from GELSO, the database of environmental best practices of ISPRA, http://www.sinanet.isprambiente.it/gelso/banca-dati#b_start=0) that constitute recovery works and environmental requalification: the public park of "Norma Parenti" (Massa Marittima), Park Fratelli Michelin (Municipality of Trento) Park of Santa Teresa (Municipality of Verona), Park San Lorenzo (Municipality of Pegognaga), Requalification of a green roof area (Municipality of La Spezia).




The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. In Italy, 2,585 sites have been designated under the Habitats and the Birds Directives. By early 2016, 18.97% of the national land area of Italy was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 13.31% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 14.21% (EU average 13.8%).  By the end of 2014, Italy's marine Natura 2000 network covered 6721 km². Italy also had 88 nationally designated Marine Protected Areas covering 26,644.9 km² which showed an 11.1% overlap with the Natura 2000 sites.

Management and prevention of floods

The 2014-2020 ERDF and EAFRD regional programmes foresee measures to invest in nature-based solutions to deal with flood control in addition to grey infrastructure (European Commission, 2017).

Urban policy

The national law on the development of green urban areas (Law no. 10, 14.1.2013) aims to promote green areas for the delivery of ecosystem services (see above).


GI is referred to in several Regional Rural Development Plans and related measures. For a synthesis, please refer to:


Disaster risk reduction

During the EU programming period 2014-2020, within the Partnership Agreement (PA) (which is the strategic framework for the European Structural and Investment Funds ), Italy has planned specific actions for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management also through green infrastructure[3].

Tourism and leisure

In the context of the Strategic Plan for development of tourism (2017-2022), Italy is promoting a slow mobility network through the realization of projects aimed to equip the country system with a "Greenways" intermodal infrastructure.

In a wider context, Italy is promoting a "Sweet Mobility Network" through the recovery and reuse of infrastructures such as: disused railways, rural roads or plain and mountain trails. 

A number of instruments will be developed in order to provide atlases of the paths and of the national cycle route.



  • Several regions use ERDF and EAFRD funding to increase green infrastructure and wildlife corridors (European Commission, 2017).
  • Some regions are allocating own funds for supporting GI planning and implementation (see for example the recent invitation to tender of Lazio Region for the “Definition of guidelines to realise Green Infrastructures in the peripheries of the five county seats of the Region”).
  • Within the national Fund for Development and Cohesion, financial resources have been allocated also for National Parks and Marine Protected Ares for investing in green infrastructures



5.1  Best practice/points of excellence

5.2  Challenges/gaps/needs

In the framework of a previous study on GI (Trinomics et al., 2016), national experts identified the following needs, or areas that could enhance GI implementation in the country:

• Support the planning of Green Infrastructure in agriculture.

• Develop an ecological classification of agricultural areas.

• Elaborate and provide companies with a toolbox for planning Green Infrastructure and for evaluating its benefits.

• Develop and establish a Green Infrastructure Public Procurement (GIPP) to include in public tenders the use of Green Infrastructure as innovative solutions presenting a real alternative to standard grey infrastructure.

• Develop fiscal incentives for implementing Green Infrastructure.

• Support Green Infrastructure pilot programmes.

5.3  Opportunities

5.4  Benefits



Italy started assessing its national ecosystems in 2014, recently completed its biophysical evaluation - resulting in a map of Italy’s ecosystems - and is currently assessing ecosystem services (Capotorti et al., 2015a). The Italian Ministry for the Environment provides financial support to academia (Italian Botanical Society – SBI and Italian Zoological Union – UZI) for the implementation of the MAES process in Italy.

A preliminary collection of data at the national level was carried out, including ecoregions, land units, bioclimate, biogeography, potential natural vegetation and CORINE land cover at the fourth level. Starting from these data, the Italian MAES process has been organised into the following steps:

1) Map ecosystems: a map of the ecosystems of Italy was developed at 1:100,000 scale, with 91 legend classes and counting 37 types of forests.

2) Assess the conservation status of ecosystems: the assessment is completed for all ecosystems at national and regional level, and ongoing at the ecoregion level.

3) Assess the ecosystem services delivered by ecosystems: biophysical assessment of selected ecosystem services for 5 pilot case studies (Manes et al., 2016).

4) Set priorities for ecosystems restoration: integrating the assessment of ecosystem conservation status and information as regards related habitats of community interest (presence, number, status and trend) at the national and regional/subregional level

5) Promote Green Infrastructure: Definition of the ecological framework for the development of green infrastructure according to the land ecological network approach (completed for two pilot case studies in the metropolitan area of Rome, one in the urban sector and the other in a peri-urban rural sector) (Capotorti et al., 2017).

6) Implementation of a road-map to be delivered to the regions, for the useful utilization of the products of the MAES process (points 1-5) to obtain an efficient and targeted use of European structural and investment funds in 2014-2020.

Mapping and assessing GI in Trento to support urban planning decisions – To support the revision of Trento’s Urban Plan, the municipal planning department conducted a background study to assess the multi-functional value of GI present outside the most urbanised part of the city, including agricultural fields, forests, pastures and other green areas. The results are intended to set the basis for a new classification of these green areas (and of the regulations aimed at their protection) to be included in the future planning instruments. This study is complemented by a MAES study undertaken by the University of Trento, which focuses on GI within the most urbanised part of the city. It analyses four regulating services (microclimate regulation, air filtration, noise mediation, water flow maintenance and flood protection) and a set of cultural services. The supply of regulating services is assessed through models tailored to the city scale and based on biophysical data. Demand for the ecosystem services is determined with reference to the conditions of both the urban environment and the urban population. Thus, environmental monitoring data (air pollution, noise pollution, soil sealing, etc.) are combined with spatial analysis of population density and service-specific vulnerability indicators (European Commission, 2016).

The Greening Rome project involves mapping and assessment of ecosystem services in the Metropolitan City of Rome. Based on the knowledge gathered through this urban MAES activity, the project will develop green infrastructure projects with the support of the Italian Ministry for the Environment. The GI projects will cross the rural, peri-urban and urban sectors according to differential demand for ecosystem services in the metropolitan area of of Rome, from the regional up to the district level (Maes et al., 2016).

Padova, Rome, Trento and Verona are participating in the EnRoute project (Enhancing Resilience Of Urban Ecosystems through Green Infrastructure) implemented in the framework of EU MAES, which runs from 2017 until 2018. The project aims to introduce the MAES approach into the local policy arena, connecting the governance levels horizontally and vertically, with a view to contribute to the further deployment of GI in cities and in urban contexts. In the “city labs”, the URBAN-MAES framework will be implemented using local data and involving in the process the local stakeholders and focusing on specific issues (Maes et al. 2017).








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Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea (2014). Italy’s Fifth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity: https://www.cbd.int/doc/world/it/it-nr-05-en.pdf

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[1] http://www.minambiente.it/sites/default/files/archivio/allegati/comitato%20verde%20pubblico/lineeguida_finale_25_maggio_17.pdf

[2] http://catalogue.biodiversity.europa.eu/uploads/document/file/1312/Esmeralda_country_fact_sheet_Italy.pdf

[3] Action 5.1.2 “Manutenzione straordinaria del reticolo idraulico, delle reti discolo e sollevamento acque, laminazione delle piene e stabilizzazione delle pendici, utilizzando, ove possibile, infrastrutture verdi”; Action 5.1.3. “Interventi di realizzazione, manutenzione e rinaturalizzazione di infrastrutture verdi e servizi ecosistemici funzionali alla riduzione dei rischi connessi ai cambiamenti climatici “, http://www.agenziacoesione.gov.it/opencms/export/sites/dps/it/documentazione/AccordoPartenariato/Accordo_di_Partenariato__ALL__I__Risultati-Azioni.pdf