Friday, 11 September 2009

History etching into Sicily's landscape

Sicily, marketed as ‘an island a continent’ to tourists has a varied and beautiful landscape of mountains, farmland, coast and caves. Going there does not feel not too detached from reality, as the island is too small too hide gigantic infrastructure projects like the petrochemical complex seen from the train to Siracuse and quarries gouging out whole hills. The island is criss-crossed with a gigantic road network with enormous flyovers on huge pillars and tunnels through the hills. Hurtling down one of these I fleetingly saw a sign to a place called something like ‘Five Bridges’ a town living in the shade of enormous pillars, with the little arches overarched by the new motorway. With its fertile land and geographical position as a strategic trading point Sicily’s history is dominated by successive waves of invasion by the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Normans etc... This is a photo of a map of Sicily from Roman times. It is ‘upside down’ as Rome was regarded as the centre of the world.

It was not just the sea ports that were fought over. Enna is a town high on a 1000m ridge in the centre of the island that was repeatedly fortified as a strategic base. Now, if a monster new infrastructure project takes place, it will not just be the A19 motorway passing through. A delegation from China has visited with a view to investing in and constructing an airport and logistics hub for exports to Europe and an expanding affluent population in Northern Africa. This is a map of Enna,
View Larger Map if the development takes place the new 500km runway will be longer than the town. The Sicilians have a formidable reputation for holding up or even halting developments that trash the landscape. Residents near the Zingaro nature reserve campaigned successfully for a road planned to cut through the area to be routed underground through a tunnel. I wonder if this, if it comes to anything, will cause a stir.

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