Wednesday, May 31, 2006


According to an article in the “Independent Online” yesterday, Sicily “has confirmed its dubious reputation” by voting Cuffaro back in as regional President. [Rita Borsellino did manage to reduce his majority, though.]

Personally, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. From what I observe [ and I appreciate that I’m a very new observer] it seems more a case of Sicily’s demonstrating its innate conservatism.

The Prodi government has scotched the project to build a bridge across the Strait of Messina which would have linked Sicily directly with the mainland. Sicily really needs the development to go ahead as the port traffic is in chaos. According to an article [not available online] in La Sicilia today, Sicilians feel abandoned by the centre-left and therefore it is no surprise that they vote for the right.

Messina, by the way, is one of the loveliest places I have ever visited, in any country: if you are fortunate enough to go there one day, do take a bus ride to the furthest point of the Strait. I wrote in my diary of a few years ago that “the water was all hues of blue and purple, with glints of silver every now and then. As we neared the Torre Faro, I found myself crying at the sight of such beauty – and at the romance, the sense of myth and the fact that time outwits us all”. I decided then that I wouldn’t mind one of the villas along that road, in the unlikely event that I one day make my fortune! I also remember sitting in the hotel restaurant, which had a fine view of the lighthouse , the Strait and the Calabrian coast on the other side, thinking of all those who had, during the early part of the last century, left Sicily by that route in search of a better life in other lands. And I thought about the tragedy of forced emigration.

Now, of course, Sicily itself is the recipient of would-be immigrants as mainly Moroccans but other Africans, too, board illegal boats in their hundreds to try to get into Europe via Sicily. Most of them are taken to the detention centre on Lampedusa and the police are overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. Last year, there was a tragedy at the beach of Sampieri near here, when several clandestini were drowned during a night of rough seas. Some were never identified. How awful for their families, never to know… Sicilians, of all peoples, have reason to be sympathetic to the plight of such desperate souls, and from what I have seen and heard, most are.

As for Sicily’s “dubious reputation”, one of my reasons for writing this blog is to demonstrate that it not an island wholly populated by racketeers – though of course that side exists – but that people do live normal lives here, that it is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth and that the hospitality, friendship and kindness it is possible to find here are unrivalled in the world.

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