Before Michele Assunto hauls in his fishing net from the banks of a reed-lined canal here, he uses a pole to push the garbage out of the way. “They really need to clean this up,” he growls. Where another canal empties into the sea here at the small community of Porto Badino, the only animals that can survive are giant rats, local officials say. Of course, the sea is not fit for swimming for 200 yards on each side of the outlet, they add with a shrug — yet bathers splash in the Mediterranean nearby.
In many parts of this affluent coastal region southeast of Rome and northwest of Naples, canals dumping effluent into the Mediterranean from farms and factories coexist with fishermen and beachgoers. There is little doubt that this area would need considerable work to return to a more pristine state. For places as far gone as this one, however, a new breed of landscape architect is recommending a radical solution: not so much to restore the environment as to redesign it.