‘No summer in Sicily’ as tourism budget runs out

Around 930 events risk being cancelled in Sicily due to budget cuts, prompting the island’s tourism councillor to say the summer "doesn't exist" in the holiday hotspot.

'No summer in Sicily' as tourism budget runs out
The international arts festival in Taormina has had its budget cut by 90 percent in two years.Taormina photo: Shutterstock

Of the €2.2 million needed to finance the cultural, sporting and tourism events in Sicily, there is little over €200,000 in the bank, La Repubblica reported on Monday.

“At the moment the funds available amounts to about €212,000,” Michela Stancheris, regional councillor for tourism, was quoted as saying. That sum has, however, already been earmarked to cover promotional costs.

“We don’t even have a euro in the cash register, the summer of 2014 in Sicily doesn’t exist,” Stancheris said.

Among the events at risk of being cancelled is Taormina Arte, a cultural festival in eastern Sicily which has been running for more than 30 years.

Ninni Panzera, the festival’s general secretary, said the budget has been cut by 90 percent in just two years.

“The budget has gone from €2.86 million in 2012 to €1.56 million in 2013, to €207,000 today.

“It’s too little for an international festival that each year sees the participation of thousands of people from across the world,” he was quoted in La Repubblica as saying.

In central Sicily, the Orestiadi di Gibellina arts festival is also said to be under threat.

According to director Claudio Collovà, the budget allocation for this year’s festival is just ten percent of last year’s €446,000.

“For the past 12 months ten members of staff and external collaborators haven’t been paid. There’s no money for toilet paper and running the office,” Collovà was quoted as saying.

Beyond the cultural scene a number of sporting events, including an international volleyball tournament, risk being cancelled if the necessary funds are not found, La Repubblica said.

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Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue

Sicily's residents are bracing for the arrival of a cyclone later on Thursday, the second this week after a deadly storm hammered the Italian island, killing three people.

Sicily braces for rare Mediterranean cyclone as storms continue
Cars and market stalls submerged in Catania, Sicily, after heavy rain hit the city and province on october 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

A rare tropical-style cyclone known as a “medicane” is set to reach Sicily’s eastern coast and the tip of mainland Calabria between Thursday evening and Friday morning, according to Italian public research institute ISPRA.

“Heavy rainfall and strong sea storms are expected on the coast, with waves of significant height over 4.5 metres (15 feet),” ISPRA said.

The Italian Department for Civil Protection placed eastern Sicily under a new amber alert for Thursday and the highest-level red lert for Friday in anticipation of the storm’s arrival, after almost a week of extreme weather in the area.

A total of three people have been reported killed in flooding on the island this week amid storms that left city streets and squares submerged.

On Tuesday, parts of eastern Sicily were ravaged by a cyclone following days of heavy rains that had sparked flooding and mudslides, killing three people.

Television images from Tuesday showed flooding in the emergency room of Catania’s Garibaldi-Nesima hospital, while rain was seen pouring from the roof inside offices at the city courtroom.

Thursday’s storm was set to hit the same area around Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city, even as residents were still mucking out their streets and homes.

Schools were closed in Syracuse and Catania, where the local government ordered public offices and courts closed through Friday.

The mayor of Catania on Tuesday shut down all businesses and urged residents to stay home.

Antonio Navarra, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper this week that Sicily was at the centre of extreme weather events, including heatwaves and cyclones.

“We’re trying to understand if, with climate change, these phenomena will become even more intense, if they will change their character as their frequency intensifies,” he said.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

Cars submerged in Catania, Sicily, after storms hit the city and province on October 26th. Photo: STRINGER/ANSA/AFP

Other forecasters have said the “medicane” is the latest evidence that the climate crisis is irreversibly tropicalising the Mediterranean, after the island’s south-eastern city of Syracuse this August recorded a temperature of 48.8C, the hottest ever seen in Europe.

“Sicily is tropicalising and the upcoming medicane is perhaps the first of this entity, but it certainly won’t be the last,” Christian Mulder, a professor of ecology and climate emergency at the University of Catania, told The Guardian on Wednesday.

“We are used to thinking that this type of hurricane and cyclone begins in the oceans and not in a closed basin like the Mediterranean. But this is not the case,” he said.

“This medicane is forming due to the torrid climate of north Africa and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The Aegean Sea has a temperature of 3C higher than the average, while the Ionian Sea has a temperature of almost 2C higher than the average. The result is a pressure cooker.”

The storm is expected to leave the area between Saturday and Sunday.