Frontline World

Sicily - A Bridge Too Far? , April 2004
a FRONTLINE/World Fellows project
Il Postino
Aurelio
The Strait
Homecoming
Arancine
Il Postino
Nino Calarco
Anna Giordano
No Dolce Vita
Jamiolkowski
Daily life in Italy grinds to a halt for the Christmas holidays. Most people stop working by mid-December and don't return until the first week in January after the holiday of Befana, a good witch said to bring candy and chocolates to Italian children.

But one group of people didn't seem to take much of a vacation at all this holiday season -- members of the No Al Ponte coalition, a network of environmental and community organizations who are fighting the Messina bridge plans. They held a meeting in late December, where they gathered the signatures of bridge opponents in order to file a lawsuit aimed at stopping construction.

Postmen with No Al Ponte signs

Postman Filippo Denaro (far left) and his friends proudly display the "No Al Ponte" calendar, which is dedicated to the beauty of the Strait of Messina. It describes the bridge plans as a crime against nature.
"I am only the postman of Torre Faro, and I am against the bridge for very simple reasons," Filippo Denaro, an older man with deep-set eyes and silver-streaked hair, said in Sicilian. "I am very happy to be born here, to live here. This is the land of Odysseus. But the construction of the bridge will be terrible. It will bring the destruction of Torre Faro. There will be trash and pollution. And we, the people of this place, will become like rats living under the bridge."

For the next few hours, marine biologists talked about the effects the bridge could have on mammal and fish migration through the strait. Environmentalists insisted that two nearby lakes would be destroyed, along with the birds that depend on them. A teacher talked about Sicily's history of earthquakes, such as the massive 1908 quake, which remains the deadliest in Europe's history. It killed 50,000 to 100,000 people and triggered a tsunami that engulfed Messina in tidal waves. (Not long after Messina was finally rebuilt, it was flattened again by heavy bombing during World War II.)

Several Messina residents spoke of the area's strong currents and high winds, still notorious more than two millennia after the Odyssey. They argued that the area's propensity for disaster and Mount Etna, a towering and very-active volcano south of Messina that spewed hot lava into surrounding towns in 2001 and 2002, make the region too unstable for the longest suspension bridge in the world.

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