Italians propose giant cable car linking Sicily and Calabria

Italy has never realized its 2000 year-old dream of linking Sicily with the mainland, but a team of architects and engineers might have found the answer: a giant cable car.

Italians propose giant cable car linking Sicily and Calabria
A CGI rendering of the cable car over the strait of Messina. Photo: Studio Majowiecki

The 3.3 kilometre-wide strait of Messina has separated Sicily from Calabria since the last Ice Age and with controversial plans to build the world's largest suspension bridge between the two shores seemingly dead in the water, Italian architects and engineers are proposing an aerial tramway.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The plans would enable people to complete the 37.5 kilometre journey between the airport of Reggio Calabria and Messina in less than 30 minutes and were drawn up by Bologna-based architect Massimo Majowiecki.

Majowiecki has worked on some of Italy's most iconic building projects of recent years, including the new Juventus stadium and Milan's 2015 Expo.

“What makes the project attractive is that it would be far cheaper than building a bridge,” architect Giambattista Ghersi, who's on the team, told The Local.

With an estimated cost of just €700 million, the project requires only a fraction of the €8.5 billion that was mooted for the divisive bridge planned over the strait.

If the money can be found, the cable car will have three distinct sections – one running 19.5 kilometres along the coast of Calabria, one travelling 3.5 kilometres over the strait, and a final section travelling 13.5 from the Sicilian coast to Messina.

Its cars would travel over the sea at a height of 70 metres, while running 20 metres over land where their cables would be supported by disused electricity pylons. A series of stations would link up some forty different towns on both sides of the water.

Photo: Studio Majowiecki

Plans for bridge over the strait were put on hold three years ago after decades of promises from the government – but its designers are certain they can succeed where the infamous ponte sullo stretto failed

“The tramway could put an end to years of arguments over the bridge,” Majowiecki told press as the project was unveiled last month.

“It would create countless jobs for the local community and help relaunch the Italian economy.”

Photo: Studio Majowiecki

The dream of linking Italy to Sicily is nothing new.

The Romans dreamt of crossing the water with a floating bridge made of boats and barrels. A thousand years later, 11th century Normans of Sicily considered building a similar structure.

In the late 1800s a series of plans were drawn up for bridges and tunnels, but nothing materialized.

It was only in 1990 that the Italian government settled on a design which they hoped would see the country build the world's longest suspension bridge.

In 2005, construction company Impreglio S.p.A was hired to build the bridge but the project was abandoned as opponents questioned its huge cost and usefulness.

“The project is still in its embryonic phases,” Ghersi said. “Italy's track record on this front is not good – but let's see what happens.” 

People can currently cross to Messina, Sicily, from Reggio Calabria by ferry, which also carries cars and trains. 

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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.