• Short Summary

    Most Sicilians hope that plans for a roadbridge across the narrows of the Messina Straits will be relisted within the next few years.

  • Description

    Most Sicilians hope that plans for a roadbridge across the narrows of the Messina Straits will be relisted within the next few years. The distance across the water is two-and-a-half miles (4 kilometres), but at the moment in the eyes of the tourists, it could be the Atlantic. Much is not being done to encourage visitors to the lovely, volcanic island. New Motorways, hotels and other developments it's hoped will lure money-spending tourists to a land where money is scarce amongst the masses and industry and agriculture can barely provide for those who stay in their homeland to work.

    It's taken the Sicilian authorities a long time to get round to thinking about developing the natural attributes of their island as a tourist trap. Beds in decent accommodation have long been scarce, roads have been basic and crowded--little, in fact, has been available to attract foreign or even Italian visitors to a land where sunshine and breathtaking scenery have not even begun to be exploited.

    Meanwhile most sicilians struggle to make a living. Any development has little immediate effect upon them. The Citrus fruit industry is ailing simply because modern techniques have not been brought into use and crops are below the standard of those from other lands. Industry figures little in the working life of Sicily. The undercurrent of Mafia pressure discourages many potential investors who fear their profits may be bled off them.

    There is much that can, and doubtless will, be done to develop Sicily. At the moment it is only just beginning. Sicily remains an unspoiled place which badly needs change.

    SYNOPSIS: At its narrowest the Straits of Messina is two-and-a-half miles wide. They're seriously talking about building a roadbridge across from the toe of Italy to the island of Sicily, the land probably most famous for Etna, Europe's most active volcano.

    In the main, Sicily is an unspoiled land. Most of its peoples are poor. They live simply by the methods nearest at hand--there's little else for them to do. Change comes slowly. Not long ago the travelling shop was horsedrawn. Now a noisy little engine trundles the cheap plastic goods from town to town.

    The fisherfolks' homes may seem rustically quaint. They're dark and dingy in reality. Life is hard with few pleasures.

    The mussel farm on the out skirts of Messina has been one of the most successful innovations on the island in recent years. The mussels are excellent--even so, the profit for the small holders is not large.

    There are plans to expand the oil refinery near Milazzo. But it only employs 400; less when it's more mechanised. And the citrus fruity industry in ailing, victim of not keeping up with the times. Crops are small; modern cultivation methods unheard of.

    But progress is coming to Sicily in other shapes. Two new Autostradas stride across the landscape. That between Messina and Catania is almost completed. It's considerable engineering feat. Roads in Sicily are generally poor and congested. The new routes, however, are aimed at tourists. Little or none of the local traffic ventures onto the excellent metalled ways. Exit points are few and most traffic is local. Consequently the new road is deserted.

    Tourism is an industry which Sicily knows it must cultivate. The Greek Amphitheatre at Taormina is one of the many ancient ruins the island boasts. But Taormina and its Greek remains have long been attractions for visitors. Its narrow streets and colorful shops set high on a mountain overlooking the sea are internationally famous.

    Down at sea level the traffic bustles along routes only just being exploited for tourism. New hotels away from the crowded towns will shortly provide the luxury some travellers want.

    While, in Sicilian cities such as Catania, with its broad avenues and cosmopolitan atmosphere, there are big five-star hotels.

    Sicily's superb coastline is a developer's dream. As yet they've only just begun to scratch the surface. In about one year there'll be a skyscraper hotel here. Meanwhile the construction means work for some. This will be the view from the new hotel. But there are places best avoided. Sicily has not escaped pollution, but with some of the best beaches in Europe it's not hard to find a clean, beautiful, deserted stretch of sand--and that might be Sicily's salvation.

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    Media URN:
    Reuters - Including Visnews
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