Only in Sicilia: Sicily’s falling to pieces


Vucciria markets as depicted by Guttuso. Taken from Google images.
Vucciria markets as depicted by Guttuso.
Taken from Google images.

Given its central location within the Mediterranean basin, the island of Sicily has found itself involved in just about all the major events that have shaped Europe, Africa, and Asia over three millennia. First came the Phoenicians, who had established their outpost at Carthage. They gave way to Greeks and their culture. Romans took the island as one of their first conquests on the road to hegemony. The crumbling Roman Empire left a void that first German tribes and then Arab settlers filled. Normans succeeded the Arabs and ushered in a golden age under the great king Roger. Other European colonial powers vied for dominance until Italy’s eventual unification. 

– Mark Knoblauch Copyright © American Library Association (

Sicily’s history is as long as the history of humankind, along with the rest of the Italian peninsular and surrounding islands, it has always been inhabited. This gives Sicily endless history, historical sites and historical buildings. 

There is almost too much history to uphold, the country struggles to maintain many world heritage sites and tourist attractions, that on a more regional level, local governments struggle to restore and maintain their history.

Many people who visit Italy for the first time express the impression of being inside a living breathing museum, and it is a worthy metaphor.

In the constant struggle to keep their history alive Italian’s come across the inevitable barrier of ‘the ravages of time,’ if something isn’t regularly maintained, it’s going to crumble.

This is the case of Napoli’s Pompeii and now also the ‘centro storico’ of Palermo.

In February, 2014 the collapse of a small building in Piazza Garraffello near the historical markets of Palermo’s Vucciria, barely got a mention in the local newspapers and only a brief news story on the RAI.

The Vucciria was the inspiration for one of Sicily’s most well known painter Renato Guttuso (1912 –1987) 

The most disturbing aspect of the incident in the centre of Palermo is that is was the latest in a series of episodes of crumbling buildings. According to Live Sicilia: Beginning with collapses of old constructions in the area of the Cathedral, up until the fall of a roof, last October (2013) in via Principe di Palagonia.

A few days after the accident near the Vucciria markets there were extensive protests which called out ‘to save the Vucciria’ from locals who were seeking an immediate intervention from the local government of the city of Palermo.

Palermo’s historical centre isn’t in the best of health, according to a map recently published by the City of Palermo which has highlighted some 228 edifices either in urgent risk of incident or in an alarming state.

The map of urgently required interventions in Palermo includes the beating heart of the centre of the city including: Palazzo Reale, Castellammare, Tribunale, Monte di Pietà, the areas of  Capo and the afore mentioned Vucciria. 

It is a melancholy reality to see how pieces of Sicily are crumbling before our eyes.