Rehabilitated staircases ease access to Albania's southern gem

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 27, 2018 18:50

Rehabilitated staircases ease access to Albania's southern gem

Story Highlights

  • Situated in the city center of Saranda, a town known as the Pearl of the Albanian Riviera, the staircases connect the waterfront walkway to the upper parts of the town, serving tourists, local businesses and residents especially in summer when the city becomes overcrowded with tourists, but using them had become quite risky during the past few years following years of neglect

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TIRANA, Sept. 27 – Albania's southernmost travel destination of Saranda is having its landmark staircases reconstructed as part of a facelift blending modernity with tradition thanks to a World Bank project supporting urban and tourism development in the country.

Situated in the city center of Saranda, a town known as the Pearl of the Albanian Riviera, the staircases connect the waterfront walkway to the upper parts of the town, serving tourists, local businesses and residents especially in summer when the city becomes overcrowded with tourists, but using them had become quite risky during the past few years following years of neglect.

"The project includes the reconstruction of 4 out of 5 staircases in the city. This work is complemented with improvement of the infrastructure network, which includes water supply and sewerage system, use of rainwater for plants and lighting," says Pavli Mico, a contract manager for the state-run Albanian Development Fund that is implementing the World Bank-funded project.

"After the rehabilitation, the staircases will facilitate the pedestrians to stroll through the city. This project has been designed by blending modernity with traditions in the existing staircases, preserving the stone element, but adding the modern element of mosaics, decorative lighting and enhanced greenery," he tells the World Bank in a video documentary about the project.

Modern changes to the stairs have added a mosaic design through which one can discover the city.

Local government officials are also optimistic the project will contribute to the key travel and tourism in Saranda, also home to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Butrint and the famous Ksamil islands.

"The reconstructed staircases have enriched the city's architecture, ensuring better connections not only for the city's residents, but also for the tourists to visit the city's museums such as the Onhezmi Museum, the Monastery of 40 Saints and the Synagogue," says Robert Piro, the deputy mayor of Saranda.

But for some local residents, Saranda also needs new staircases to make access to local destinations easier.

"These initiatives are welcome of course because they will serve tourism development in Saranda. But for me, it would have been more efficient to add more staircases to the city," says Xhorxhi Vasili, a Saranda resident.

Vjola Demi, another Saranda resident, says the new stone stairs have brought more harmony to the city.

"As a citizen of Saranda, I think that the rehabilitation of stairs and the new design has made it easier for the citizens to move within the city. The old stairs were heavily damaged and the new white stairs have brought harmony with the beauty of the city," she says.

The World Bank says the next major improvement in Saranda will be the reconstruction of the existing promenade, including the rehabilitation of 12,700m2 of public space.

The project comes at a time when local travel agencies report a hike in tourist numbers in Saranda.

"Saranda has seen a steady increase in tourists in the last two years, many arriving by cruise ships. Visitors are attracted by the wonderful landscape, clear water beaches, archaeological sites and the city culture. We expect the number of tourists to increase by 25 to 30 percent compared to last year," says Romina Laze, a representative of a local travel agency.

The staircase rehabilitation is part of a larger World Bank-funded project supporting four tourism centers south of Albania, including the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Berat and Gjirokastra, as well as Saranda and Permet.

The World Bank says the US$ 71 million project will help create jobs, increase incomes, and support local economic development by improving urban infrastructure, enhancing tourism assets, and strengthening the capacity of institutions to support tourism at local level.

 

The Albanian pearl

Known as the pearl of Albanian Riviera, the southernmost Albanian district is a top destination in Albania during summer, offering tourists a combination of rocky and sandy beaches as well as cultural heritage attractions such as the Butrint UNESCO World Heritage site and the Blue Eye spring.

Situated just next to the Greek island of Corfu with regular ferry lines linking the two cities, Saranda faced a boom of unplanned and illegal constructions following the early 1990s, somehow spoiling the beauty of Albania's southernmost coastal town.

The four small islands at Ksamil coastal area, just off the Greek island of Corfu, feature some of the most popular beaches and are recommended as a must-see to foreign tourists.

Earlier this year, Saranda, was named by Business Insider portal as one of the top off-the-radar destinations that deserve holidaymakers' attention.

 

 

 

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 27, 2018 18:50