Tourism and culture, how to change the fate of a city

Taranto deserves a profound paradigm shift, both economically and socially. That is what he thought in 2017, Rinaldo Melucci, who has just joined the Palazzo di Città, still believes today that he, supported by the “Taranto 2022 Ecosystem” coalition, is proposing himself for mayor. That change is a very complex process under way, which has partially exhausted its first planning phase, and which is now seeing its realization. Among the tools that immediately seemed useful and effective to accompany him, Melucci certainly identified the promotion of Taranto as an attractive tourist destination and investments in culture and training, both inspired by a model of full sustainability. The diversification that has been so much relied on in recent years is therefore today a more realistic prospect that can be concretely achieved in the short term.

When did you realize that Taranto had really begun to reverse that trend, to change its paradigm?
“When I saw the city’s reaction in the light of a major event like SailGP. After a difficult period, marked by the first wave of the pandemic and a powerful shutdown, the citizens who were thrilled to see Taranto as the scene of such an important event completely convinced me: we were ready for a different fate, inspired by the themes sustainability as it was the sporting event “.

An event that had unusual numbers, with media coverage never seen before.
“We had an economic impact of $ 6.8 million, 28,000 spectators present in Taranto, with 3,000 nights reserved in all kinds of structures. The glorious image of the city has reached more than 70 million TV hits. This is certified by Deloitte, a third party, and that’s why we’re proud to have made that dream a reality, and we’re sure we’ll be back to live it out, despite stopping this year, which we’ll just have to “thank” them , who signed in November, to make us lose ahead of time ».

The arrival of cruise ships has also shown the potential of a city naturally suited to hospitality.
“Last year, despite the health bubble to which passengers were exposed, we showed how good we are at welcoming guests: the city tours between the old town, Marta and Castello Aragonese, but also the beaches of Marina di Taranto, have each experience was lived by cruise passengers with enormous satisfaction.This was also recognized by the companies, which have relaunched this year with 54 landings spread over 9 operators, for at least 130 thousand passengers, not including the confirmation of the MSC for 2023. I am sure that Taranto will copy and surpass the successes of last year, when it was placed among the first 10 Italian ports and the first 20 European ».

These results certainly do not come by chance. How did you work on the construction of the “Taranto” destination?
We first did an identity work, and invented the brand “Taranto, the capital of the sea”, from which the homogenous portal dedicated to tourism originates. We also managed to attract the attention of international operators such as Lonely Planet, to be present at major trade fairs in the sector and to hold one of the most important in the city.I’m talking about Btm, a trade fair dedicated to the tourism industry, which we have hosted in Taranto for two years ».

Also film productions have they been a means of promotion?
“Well then. We started with the colossal Netflix” Six underground “, and then hosted the filming of the fiction” Il commissario Ricciardi “, just to name a few. Taranto’s unique light has attracted many productions, and as an administration we have equipped We have joined the Apulia Film Commission and set up a cinema office, but we have also started to be the destination for cultural sector initiatives such as Cinemadamare, the largest and freest gathering of filmmakers in the world, with over 40 young people from more than 20 countries.

Culture can therefore be a tool to change the fate of a society. What happened in Taranto in this sense?
“In four and a half years, we have changed the image of the city and transformed it from the periphery of the region into a nerve center. Reaching the final of the title “Italian Capital of Culture”, realizing the dream of the Mediterranean Biennial of Contemporary Art and Architecture, organizing dozens of artistic festivals and music festivals, with names of primary importance, rebuilding the city’s architectural heritage beginning with iconic Concattedrale by Gio Ponti , which hosts the Trust, one of the most interesting street art initiatives in Europe, and being a stop in Asvis’s “Festival of Sustainable Development” for three consecutive years is not the result of a coincidence. We have strongly focused on these languages ​​to offer the city an alternative and sustainable perspective ».

However, the competition for the title “Italian Capital of Culture” has opened up interesting spaces for collaboration with the region and Bari Municipality.
“Yes, we have made an agreement to celebrate 2022 as a year of culture anyway. Taranto and Bari both reached the final, and even before the verdict we had decided together with my friend Antonio Decaro to work together to promote the culture of our cities. The region wanted would like to be part of the game, and I am particularly proud of that, to have it next door means that one can count on an institutional supply chain that guarantees development.Everyone who claims the opposite confirms that they never “has managed or even worse is working to refer Taranto to the role of extra. We are working and will work in the opposite direction.”

However, the collaboration with the region has also given great success in the field of university education.
“Our goal is to continue to make the University of Taranto autonomous. In the meantime, however, the privileged dialogue with the region has allowed us to start the Faculty of Medicine at the former headquarters of the Central Bank of Italy. This is the first step we want Taranto to take. be independent so that all the development levers associated with the presence of an urban university are activated.That the faculty will enter into dialogue with the new San Cataldo hospital will attract researchers, increase the educational offer that we have already supported with others initiatives in the recent mandate.I am thinking of the agreement reached with Politecnico to bring courses and administration to the Old Town and to fund scholarships and research grants ».

However, the subject of education must be addressed at all levels. What is the project that has given you the most satisfaction?
The “undoubtedly” @ula 3.0 “measure, the digitization plan for municipal schools launched by my administration in agreement with the former principal. “We have invested one million euros in municipal funds and together with the resources invested in rebuilding a large part of the school buildings, we are sure that we have used the citizens’ money well”.

Looking to the future, what can Taranto still express in terms of tourism and culture?
“We need to make the whole area of ​​Marina di Taranto grow, further promote the image of our city abroad, beginning with our holy week rituals, further developing conference and religious tourism, which we met very well during” Social Week of Italian Catholics “. And for culture and training, in addition to working on the university’s autonomy, from which the Ionian campus and innovation district project also runs, we believe we can also create a Cineport in Taranto and increase our festivals further”.

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