The paper aims at highlighting some major trends in the air transport system in Northern Italy, and then at presenting examples of urban development and planning issues related to airports, focusing on the case study of "Giuseppe Verdi" airport in Parma. In the last years there has been a significant increase in air passengers in Northern Italy, with a sharp growth in International and European traffic. Parma airport, despite being built in late nineteenth century, has one of the lowest traffic in Italy and suffers an important financial crisis. The case study can therefore be useful to analyse the dynamics of many so-called "service" airports, questioning their possible development and necessary integration at the National and International level, justified by the presence of key managerial, commercial, industrial and also tourist centres. Furthermore, the case study of Parma is useful to single out conflicts and incoherencies between airport planning and urban planning, which are unlikely usual in current competitive and bottom-up planning system, and to draft possible improvements.
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