Given its unpredictable nature, urban sprawl in the Mediterranean region is considered an intriguing (and intricate) socioeconomic issue. Since the 1970s, urban dispersion advanced rapidly in southern Europe-irrespective of a city's size and morphology-with urbanization rates growing faster than population. A comparison between the metropolitan areas of Barcelona, Rome and Athens reveals how sprawl has occurred in different ways in the three cities, highlighting peculiar relationships between urbanization, land-use and economic structures. Sharing common drivers of change related to population dynamics, socio-spatial structure and deregulated urban expansion, sprawl has adapted to the local economic, cultural and environmental context. Barcelona shows a dispersion pattern towards a more spatially-balanced morphology, with expanding sub-centres distributed around the central city, Rome appears to be mostly scattered around the historical city with fragmented urban fabric and heterogeneous economic functions, Athens is denser, with polarized economic spaces and social segregation. Understanding how place-specific factors influence processes of settlement dispersion in Mediterranean contexts may inform policies of urban containment and land-use management.
mediterranean city urban form land consumption economic structure