Today Ravenna is no longer a city of water. The sea has in fact receded by more than 10 km, but the Darsena (Dock), an artificial water basin built at the end of the last century, still acts as a connection between land and sea, historic centre and coastline.
The entire Darsena district looks like an anomalous suburb: historically linked to production activities on the Candiano canal, over the last century it has undergone urban development between via Trieste to the south, the mobile bridge to the east, via delle Industrie to the north and the passenger railway station to the west.
When the Corsini canal was built in 1737, where the port facilities are still located today, the Darsena became a very active and productive area. Furnaces, cement factories, mills, feed and fertiliser factories were built here. Thus, the landscape and society of this area of Ravenna underwent a radical transformation.
In this manner, the Almagià sulphur factory of 1887, the new Pansac (ex-canapificio) of 1905, the Spagnoli mill (1912) and the ex-Montecatini (1905) influenced the first urban planning areas of 1938/1943, built in via Lanciani and via Grado. The Darsena would have to wait until the 1990s for comprehensive urban renewal, with the 1993 town planning scheme, which placed it at the centre of the new city development initiatives.
Among the most prestigious buildings are the church of San Pier Damiano (1955), Piazza Medaglie d’Oro, the school in Via Aquileia “Drago Mazzini” (1956), the tower house by Lenci (1969), the Mani Fiorite park (1986), the house designed by architects Naglia and Gamberini on Via Tommaso Gulli and the Pala de André (1990).
Today this area represents the fulcrum of development for twenty-first century Ravenna, where new architecture meets industrial archaeology and Street Art, and is in fact affected by profound changes in the use of the areas.
The “Darsena di città” Urban Redevelopment Programme aims at enhancing the role of Ravenna as a seafront location, urban renewal and soil reclamation works, such as the overhaul of the sewage system, the installation of a new water drainage pump and fibre optics.
Among the works being carried out on Via d’Alaggio, starting from Via Zara towards the head of the canal, there is also the new waterside pathway, with a charming wooden and galvanised steel walkway, 1,140 metres long with resting areas, seats, steps, ramps and stairs, decorated with flower boxes and lighting.
This work is bringing the people of Ravenna back to the Darsena, just a few hundred metres from Piazza del Popolo. In addition to the possibility of staging cultural events, the route along the Candiano also offers a literary itinerary with fascinating content: from the texts of the ancient historian Strabone to Dante, from Lord Byron to Dario Fo.