Saturday, July 14, 2012


Since our friendly neighbourhood petition has had such immediate results with the local police, we thought we had better get a counter-petition going, so that those who frequent the borgo could lend their support to all the bars and restaurants here. Mio marito's article about running a restaurant in the borgo also was published in the local paper and suddenly he has become quite famous, locally! Since he can express himself quite well, the other bars and restaurant owners are happy that he has undertaken the role of spokesperson. He is also practised in the art of diplomacy and so, less likely to blow his top when he comes across challenging situations, in the form of local authorities etc ... (The other restaurateurs might not manage to keep their volcanic temperaments in check). One bar-owner in particular, however, maintains that he is wholly disinterested in the entire affair. He thinks the petition is all about making money (this comes from someone whose family got rich by exploiting all sorts of channels - including the refinery - in recent decades, without having to put much actual hard graft into the money earning). This character argues with the 'borgo consortium' every time the restaurant owners try to work together. It's a pity, because if we could all work together, maybe we would have a chance of improving the situation here. Basically, if we had some more regulations in force, both neighbours and bar-owners would be happier. We would all like the streets to be cleaned and the skips to be emptied on a Sunday morning, for example. Imagine: the town council says it does not have enough money to pay street cleaners on a Sunday, the day after the Saturday night chaos. So by Sunday night, skips are stinking and overflowing. Our waiters do their best at 4am on a Sunday morning, and then, at 7am my suocero comes to sweep up the cigarette butts in front of the locale ... but not all of the bars put in the effort. Also, as the neighbour whoe wrote the newspaper article noted, our music is inside - and it is a DJ, not live music. There is one bar in particular whose music is slap bang in the middle of a piazza, starts at around 1am and goes on until 3am and can probably be heard within a 10km radius ... We can hear it clear as a stadium speaker in our house ...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The third Saharan anticyclone of the summer

We are having the hottest summer of the last fifty years in Italy (rivalled only by the summer of 2003). June brought the first Saharan anticyclone, called Scipione, after the Roman General Scipio Africanus, who defeated Hannibal in the Second Punic War. That heatwave had barely ended when anticylone Numero 2 - Caronte - came along. Caronte, or Charon in Greek mythology, was the ferryman of Hades who transported souls of the newly deceased across the rivers Acheron and Styx that divide the world of the living from that of the dead. In Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Charon is the first named mythological character that Dante meets in the Underworld, in the third Canto of Inferno. Now, hot on the heels of Caronte, comes Minosse, the third suptropical Saharan anticyclone of the summer (Minos, son of Zeus and Europa, judge of the dead of the underworld). Temperatures will reach the mid-forties in Sicily. Too hot to be outside. Too hot to stay inside.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Neighbourhood Petition

Now that summer is here, the police have started to frequent the borgo, as usual. Last Saturday a carabiniere came by in plainclothes at 1.35am, and stopped the music. It was an amicable encounter and the policeman even seemed to understand the difficulty of our situation - that no one comes up to the Borgo at weekends until well past midnight. So we end up paying the DJ and the hefty SAIE taxes (Music Performing Rights Society) all for one hour or so. At weekends, diners stay from 9.30pm to midnight, and the younger crowd come for drinks and the so-called movida from midnight until around 4am. In the summer there is little else for young people in Milazzo to do, apart from a disco by the sea on Friday nights. Many go to Messina or Capo D'Orlando, but that means taking the car ... Last night the Finanaza (tax police) came by to check us out - but all was in order. Later, three poliziotti came by at 1.42am and stopped the music. Mio marito had already asked the DJ to stop the music at 1.30am but he had forgotten. The policeman tapped his watch and said he would have to give us a verbale (a ticket), since it was twelve minutes past the time limit for music. It was the same poliziotto who gave us the verbale this time last year, and which ended up in a fine of €1 200. There was no reasoning with him: it didn't matter that it was a question of twelve minutes, or that we turned off the music immediately ... so on Monday mio marito will have to go down to the police station, like a common criminal, and have a riunione with the poliziotti who, depending on how they are feeling and whether the state could do with some money (ahem), will probably give us the same fine again. And tell us we are lucky to get away with that, because it is a criminal offence. The DJ felt so bad that he wouldn't take his pay. This little episode has been spurred on by a little petition that has been going around the borgo. Sixty-six residents of the Borgo have signed a petition to have all the locali closed , including our neighbour, who rents one of the locali! The mayor, warned us about this, as he said the residents have taken their petition to him, to the polzia, to the carabinieri, to the finanza - all places which could do potential damage to the Borgo bars. An article appeared in the local paper yesterday about this - with a picture of our restaurant, as if we were the main problem. In reality, our DJs play indoors, and the real source of the problem is a bar up the road which has very loud live music on a stage in between two rows of houses so that it reverberates and carries quite far ... A kind journalist came to interview mio marito and a couple of other bar owners yesterday for the counter-article, published in today's paper. Among the positive factors of the Borgo bars he mentions the tourism value, the employment it provides in these difficult economic times, and the fact most of us who work here have families to provide for. Also, it helps Milazzo's economy, since, without these bars, many more young people would drive to Messina and Capo d'Orlando for entertainment. The presence of the bars has also given a new lease of live to the Borgo, which, twelve years ago, was a rundown, forgotten part of Milazzo, despite being the most beautiful and ancient part of the city, with its Spanish castle found on the site of a Greek acropolis, and its winding, cobblestoned streets. The situation could improve, I think, if the council provided street cleaning on Sunday mornings. At the minute, the only cleaning on Sundays is that which we do ourselves in front of our bars (no small task - on Sunday mornings the street is full of cigarette butts, beer bottles and plastic cups - not enough bins around and even if there were, many people are not sure how to use them ..) This means that the skips opposite our restaurant are full to overflowing by Sunday evening, disgusting in this heat. Also, if the Milazzesi could leave their houses before midnight and make it to the Borgo a little earlier, they could enjoy the music until 1.30am. Last night people told me that they have a siesta after dinner and get up at 11.30pm to go out ... Mio marito is completely fed up and is considering putting a stop to the music - it's certainly not worth it at this rate ...