Building a bridge from the eastern tip of Sicily, across the Strait of Messina, to the southern tip of mainland Italy has been an Italian dream since ancient times. But how realistic is this endeavour, and what are its benefits? This is a hot debate in Italian government and among the Italian people, and the reality of this project has recently reignited excitement with the re-election of Silvio Berlusconi in April 2008 as the Italian prime minister. Hopes for connecting Sicilians to mainland Italy have built up over centuries, only to be dashed in 2006 when ministers under the government of former prime minister Romano Prodi stated their opposition to the project. They cited budgetary concerns, questioning if the billions of dollars needed for the construction of the bridge might be better spent on getting running water to Sicilian towns or elsewhere on improvements to Italian infrastructure. Officials also worried that this connection may increase criminal gang activity between the two areas and since a final design consensus was never reached, there were concerns about its impact on the environment and that structure would not be earthquake or tsunami-proof.
There have been many ideas about the best way to connect Sicily to the mainland over the years in Italian history, and the colorful array of possibilities exhibit that no stone has been left unturned. The ancient Romans once hoped to construct a bridge joining Calabria to Sicily using boats and barrels, and Charlemagne thought to connect them using a series of small bridges. In 1876, the idea of an underground tunnel was posited by Giuseppe Zanardelli, and numerous architects over the years since have put their pencils to paper to try to design this challenging prospect.
Despite the almost-stalled dreams of bridge supporters, there is new fervor around this exciting project. It is now projected to be completed in 2014and if it actually comes to fruition, the Strait of Messina Bridge could be a wonderful way to nurture the interaction of Sicilian and Italian culture. Imagine the new types of Sicilian foods and wines that could inspirethe restaurants of Rome and beyond; envision the infusion of arts, dance, music, and other cultural legacies between the two parts of Italy; dream about the new simplicity of escaping to a Sicilian beach by just driving over this bridge; think about the unity of people from all areas of Italy that this kind of connection would promote; and just imagine the rush of adrenaline as you drive or ride over the aquamarine waters of the Strait of Messina crashing so far below you! The idea of a Strait of Messina bridge opens so many windows and nurtures so many hopes for enriching the lives of Italians as well as vacationers from every part of the globe.
If you are planning a trip to Italy either now or in the future, think about the exciting possibilities and easy access that the Strait of Messina Bridge may bring to your Italian vacation destinations. This is certainly a project to keep up on over the next few years as plans move forward in its design and construction.
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