Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tourism Ministry Shake-up

The typical public-sector employee in Sicily's ministries, including Beni Culturali (Cultural Assets), which includes tourism, historic sites and museums, has held his/her position for at least twenty years, having been hired with the help of a political party and a friend or two. He/she is not particularly competent or productive, speaks no English and is "protected" by a trade union - and therefore can not be fired.

But such a do-nothing or charlatan - like the charming clown shown here - can be transferred to another division of the same assessorato (agency). That is exactly what Sicilian governor Rosario Crocetta is doing, 60 or 70 managers at a time. It's the biggest shake-up in sixty years, and most Sicilians support it 100 percent. That includes your editors.

Administration of these regional agencies is mediocre and has been for decades. Altering the organization can only help matters. Things are so bad that it cannot possibly hurt. It is long overdue, and it will benefit the function of tourism-related services in Sicily.

Though lacking a solid legal basis for their position, employees and unions are threatening strikes and street protests. No problem; we Italians are used to that - and after a few days of protesting the employees will return to their newly-assigned offices and (for a change) do a little work.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Remembering Richard Wagner

As part of an international event, a series of opera performances at Palermo's Teatro Massimo commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Richard Wagner, who composed his last work in this city.

Wagner and his contemporary rival Giuseppe Verdi, both born in 1813, are closely linked to Sicily. Each was, in his own way, a nationalist supportive of a newly-united country - Italy in 1861 and Germany ten years later - with which he became closely identified, and each developed a distinctive kind of opera.

For ticket information, visit the site of the Teatro Massimo opera house. Our article on Wagner and Verdi discusses their Sicilian connections.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sicily Tours and Independent Travel

This is the time of year when many visitors make their travel plans to come to Sicily in the Spring (shown is Agrigento's Greek temple). While we believe that visiting Sicily in Winter is a great idea, the "high season" really begins in late March.

Our Sicily tour and Sicily travel pages are great places to find travel services, and there's also the Sicily hotel page, which has all kinds of useful links to plan your vacation. But we would also like to mention two services for independent travelers...

Sicily Concierge does personalized travel planning. And if you would like a tour guide, even for just one day during your stay, the Sicily tour guide page lists a few of the best.

It is possible to plan your entire visit to Sicily with Best of Sicily, and we also recommend sites like Trip Advisor. There are plenty of reasons to visit Sicily and this year is a great time to do it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sicily blocks US satellite project

Amidst protests and confrontation, the President of the Sicilian Region, taking (as promised) a position different from that of his predecessors, has - at least for the moment - blocked further development of an American military satellite dish construction project near Niscemi in east-central Sicily. The health and environmental concerns of local residents were cited as a reason for the intervention, which will pit Sicily's regional government against Italy's national government and this NATO nation's defence ministry.

This is one of four MUOS (mobile user objective system) bases under development. The others are in more remote, less populated areas of Hawaii, Virginia and Australia. The main problem with the project is not political, nor is it a question of anti-Americanism.

Who would want such an installation next to her house?

There is, however, a very real "social" side to this issue. Specifically, Sicilian politicians have "sold" Sicily and the Sicilians for decades, in the process pocketing handsome pay-offs much of the time. This is corruption, plain and simple. For example, it was also reported today that a public contract involving administration of archaeological sites was "won" by the son of a recently-appointed regional administrator - who declined it in the wake of highly public "conflict of interest" commentary that made its way into the newspapers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Come to Sicily this Winter!

It's the best time to visit. By April the most popular sights and sites will have more visitors. But for the next three months, until the middle of March, our island will be relatively comfortable and cool, without the crowds of the "high" season.

We have been saying this for about ten years - long before the folks at the New York Times and other publications began suggesting low-season Mediterranean vacations.

While things to visit "indoors" are no different from one season to another (shown is the Magione church in Palermo), you'll find archeological sites like Segesta and Agrigento surrounded by lush green fields. Steffi Lanza gives us 12 good reasons to visit Sicily this Winter.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Sicily - The Other Italy

Think about visiting Sicily this year. Why Sicily? It's like visiting over a dozen countries in one place.

On our site you'll see two approaches promoted - independent travel in Sicily and some well-planned Sicily tours. What you see, and what you experience, depends entirely on how your trip is planned.

Yes, Sicily is a land whose culture has been shaped by many civilizations. To think of it as "just another part of Italy" is an oversimplification. It's the other Italy, the multicultural one. And a great choice in 2013.