Plans are being drawn up to build a one billion euro (£810 million), Dubai-style artificial atoll off the coast of Italy.
The atoll, which would be a kilometre in diameter, would consist of hotels, villas, shops, parks and a deepwater port to service cruise ships plying the Adriatic between Venice and countries like Montenegro, Greece and Croatia.
The artificial island, which would lie three nautical miles off the town of Riccione on the Adriatic riviera, would support a permanent population of 3,000.
It has inevitably invited comparisons with The World and the Palm Jumeirah, the artificial islands created off the coast of Dubai.
But backers of the Adriatic atoll say that it would not be a haunt of super-rich magnates and celebrities, but ordinary tourists.
The project is being pushed by authorities in Riccione, with technical expertise from Luca Emanueli, who runs a coastal research centre at the University of Ferrara.
They say businesses in Saudi Arabia, Britain and the Netherlands have shown interest in funding the project.
“It won’t be an oasis for VIPs,” Cristian Amatori, from Riccione council, told Corriere della Sera newspaper. “The intention is to broaden the tourist experience for this area. The coast has reached saturation point.” An environmental impact assessment will be carried out and the project will be discussed at a conference in Ferrara in February.
The atoll would be constructed just south of a spot where, 40 years ago, an offshore platform was briefly declared an independent micro-nation.
The platform, dubbed the Republic of Rose Island, enjoyed a brief period of “independence” in 1968 before being blown up by the Italian navy in 1969.
Its short-lived history was similar to that of Sealand, the Second World War gun platform in the North Sea that was declared an independent principality in the 1970s by Paddy Roy Bates, a former soldier.