Naples: A city away from water: The role of path dependence in the history of Naples

Paolo De Martino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Over time, a large number of stakeholders have affected the Italian port city of Naples. The millenary history of Naples reveals a port that has been strongly intertwined with the city. Yet, recent history shows a different story. The historical investigation analysed in this article points out a conflict between several different authorities that led the port. As these developed into separate entities they detached people from the water. This article offers an institutional history. Using the concept of path dependence it argues that a past system of decision-making concerning the development of the port city reinforced the separation of land from water in Naples. Path dependence is understood as a resistance by institutions (rules) and actors (decision makers) to changes in patterns of behaviour and a tendency to repeat previous decisions and practices. This article analyses a series of critical junctures so as to analyse the constellation of actors and decisions which have prevented the city from living with water. The article concludes by arguing that understanding the articulated system of past decision-making is a key to (re)conceptualizing the current state of the city and (re)imagining ways by which the city might be reunited with its waters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-194
Number of pages16
JournalPlanning Perspectives
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • historical institutionalism
  • Naples
  • path dependence
  • Port city
  • water


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