On a beautiful Wednesday morning, we head once more up the hill to the town hall, this time to meet the mayor. The receptionist telephones through to upstairs – “Gli Inglesi, sopra la spazzatura…” we are famous already, or shall I say infamous. She sends us up to meet Rosalia on the second floor. The offices are grander here, and we are received with extreme politeness, even a touch of reverence, offered a seat and asked about our concern. Rosalia of the second floor is as touched by our story as was Rosalia of the first floor (it seems one has to be called Rosalia to get a secretarial job in Zafferana Council), and she views with disgust our latest photos, which include some rather unsavoury shots of freshly butchered horses’ heads. What opens the doors to people’s hearts is the fact that we are strangers who spend their free time, even their honeymoon, cleaning up nature.
After 10 minutes wait, we are lead into an office where –surprise, surprise – we meet Sergio, the consigliere. Sergio has good news for us. Last week, the sindaco sent a formal request to the police, who then sent a formal request to the regional courts, to be allowed to fix CCTV cameras by the bridge. Everything has to go its bureaucratic way; a camera infringes on privacy rights. They are expecting to get the go-ahead within ten days, by which time they will also organise vehicles with the necessary equipment to lift all the rubbish out of the ravine, including the tyres, fridges and vehicles. Sergio emphasises that Zafferana prides itself on being a clean town, and that they will deal with this incident despite the fact that the bridge does not lie within their boundaries but is the county of Catania’s responsibility. He promises to let us know when the cleaning action will take place and he alerts us that this Sunday the group PuliAmo Zafferana will meet for a cleaning day, if we would care to join them. He also tells us that our request to visit the Isola Ecologica means obtaining an authorisation from the desk of waste control, but we should be able to get this in due time. Once Sergio has explained everything, he takes us across the hallway to the mayor’s office.
Alfredo the mayor jumps up from his seat behind a huge desk and comes towards us to receive us with a cordial handshake. He thanks us for our initiative and tells us that Zafferana, although just a small town, includes a huge area in its jurisdiction (bigger than Catania) and that the question of waste disposal is an ongoing and very complex concern. He shows us the Council’s initiative to print educational title pages to children’s exercise books, which get distributed in all schools, each year with a different message. Last year it was about separating different types of recyclables, this year it tells about the initiative of linking clean water and waste disposal. For every kilo of recyclable waste that a resident of Zafferana brings to the Isola Ecologica, they receive a credit note for a litre of purified drinking water from the Casa del Acqua. As we leave, the mayor gives us his promise that within 10 (working) days, the ravine by the bridge should be clean and the CCTV in position to catch further perpetrators.
We leave the office stunned to have achieved such a positive result. On the way down, we pop into the office on the first floor to personally thank everyone there and to show our faces, just in case they’d forgotten us… 😉
Of course one shouldn’t count one’s chickens before they are hatched and we are looking forward to promises being put into action, but what we can say for sure is that everyone we met in the council received us with the utmost politeness and a willingness to help. Everyone there wants to make a change regarding the current situation of illegal dumping, but it needs a lot of money and co-ordination, and it can at times be beyond the town council’s financial abilities to do so.
We look forward to joining PuliAmo Zafferana on Sunday. Apparently more than 300 people took part last month.
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The brightest ideas hit me in the morning, just when I wake up…
This morning, I come up with the plan of moving the van to the watering hole near the stables, fill up with water and then stay there while doing all sorts of things that require hot water, such as washing woollen socks, doing a big washing-up and having a shower. Then fill up again before moving back to our parking place. If we do it early, there won’t be anyone around to see me having a shower (we have to hang the shower head outside the van). The plan works a treat – until the time comes to have the shower. I’m already wrapped in a towel ready to head outside when we hear the put-put of a little Tuc-Tuc coming up the hill. Antonino and his mate (also called Antonino) have arrived nearly an hour early! One minute later, and they would have had a perfect view of me in my birthday suit! I hop quickly back into my clothes – the shower will have to wait…
Frank and I borrow Rosi’s car and with the two Antoninis in tow, we set off to the other side of the ravine, where we have the neighbour’s keys to get through the property to where we have compiled the rubbish. Antonino is keen to walk up the ravine to view the source of the problem. As we approach, we are hit by the smell of rotting cadavers, and sure enough, new evidence has been thrown on top. Antonino gets on the phone to his boss to bring home the urgency of the matter. As we stroll back down the ravine, Antonino tells us that he’s just a simple dustman, but with a passion for clearing up what they call ‘abusive discharge’ – illegal dumps in nature spots. When we ask him what else we might be able to do to move the matter of the ravine, he advises us to go to the town hall and request to speak to the mayor today, as he is available to the general public on Wednesdays.
We take to the Antoninis straight away, they are men of action and straight, clear talk, no sides. Antonino the older tells us with a proud smile that between the two of them they keep Zafferana clean. The little Tuc-tuc is impressive too, seemingly small but able to swallow a large amount of rubbish bags. We take a quick photo and off their go, not before leaving us another role of large rubbish bags and the promise that they will come back and pick them up once we’ve filled them.
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One of the things I love about the Italians and even more so the Sicilians, is their irrepressible love of food and all things related. I was invited out to a meal, hosted by one of the horse-owners’ partners and we were 12 around the table. I was told it was to be a very simple affair with anti-pasti and tomato bruschetta. I was to be picked up at 8 from the Maneggio and thought I’d go down to the main entrance, to save them driving up through the property and opening and closing the substantially padlocked metal gates. At 8.20 I began to worry that I’d been forgotten but then someone showed up and whisked me off into town. At 9.20 the last of the guests arrived and everyone tucked in to the spread of olives, salami, Parma ham, artichoke hearts etc. which was followed by trays of tomato and garlic bruschetta and then a bottomless bowl of the freshest, most succulent Mozzarella. The partner, a Neapolitan by birth, had ordered a special delivery the day before and had gone to pick it up from the port himself, telling us in detail how the crossing had been delayed by bad weather and, of course, the provenance of the Buffalo cheese, a speciality of his home town and region. I’d never tasted anything like it! During the meal, as so often happens, conversations centred around food. It seems the more memorable or special the meal is, the more mouth-watering the reminiscences and descriptions are. I can’t help feeling that conversations about other peoples’ recipes and preparations might be deemed offensive to the hostess back in the UK, but here the waxing lyrical about an Aunt’s or Gran’s superior methods/results, is par for the course. The prosecco and wine flowed freely and the meal ended with the ritual dusting of the Pan D’Oro in the bag, a treat for the 10 year-old son. I’m having to up my daily exercises and physical work, collecting and sawing wood, to keep hold of my waist-line!
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