Meet the Council of Zafferana Etnea

The work of cleaning the ravine at Passopomo cannot be done by us alone – it needs professional power, with the right machines to lever the vehicles out, and people in protective gear who can deal with the poisonous stuff. So we decide to approach Zafferana Council – we’ve been told that they have a good reputation for environmental awareness. Our first attempt is an email (which, if you are interested, you can read here in English as well as its’ Italian translation), but neither of the three addresses we find on the internet seem to work. So on January 5th, we take a paper copy and try to deliver it by hand. The doors of the town hall are open but everything seems very quiet. We pass by an unmanned reception and venture into the belly of the administration. However, the only people at work on this day are cleaners and the police. We try again the next morning, and you can read about that visit in a previous chapter.

Entering the town hall of Zafferana is like entering some kind of theatre play. Every character seems exaggerated, almost cliché – we have the beautiful, doe-eyed secretary; the grandiose, benevolent, fast talking higher official; the mute and slightly grumpy ‘fat controller’ who doesn’t move from behind his desk; the serious, intelligent and ambitious young consigliere, and, last but not least, the very important Mayor, in his splendid (and verging on the opulent) large office on the upper floor, facing the town square and overlooking his ‘realm’ all the way down to the sea.

We don’t meet the mayor until our 4th visit though. Before that, we pay another visit to the waste disposal office on the floor below, where despite becoming known for uncomfortable information, we find an open ear and a generous reception. We are here to find out if anything has happened ‘back stage’ in the two weeks since our first visit, since we have not seen any changes at the ravine, other than more rubbish having been dumped. Alfredo, in charge of waste in this town, gets a bit more involved in the conversation than last time we called round. He asks us if we can give the council one more week to come up with an action plan. This makes me reflect on how these people see us. We are foreigners and this seems to give us some kind of kudos, we are respected, listened to and treated very politely. I try to imagine how it would be in England – let’s say a Sicilian arrives at Totnes town council to report an illegal dump and ask for its removal. Somehow I doubt that they would be paid the same kind of attention we receive here… Nevertheless, we are slightly frustrated by the permanent reply of ‘non e facile’. Well, yes, we know it’s not easy. We know it will cost money and requires several organisations to work together, but this should not mean that nothing is being done.

In the same way as two weeks ago, more people gradually arrive and are shocked by the story, especially when I mention that there are fresh animal carcasses and that we cannot do anymore cleaning ourselves as last time he went to the ravine, Frank contracted some kind of bug, possibly from being in the vicinity of the cadavers.

As no-one tells us to leave (or more likely, we don’t get the subtle ‘hints’ since we are not fluent in Italian, let alone au fait with Sicilian cultural undertones), we sit in the office and present our case for about half an hour. Before we leave, Antonino promises to come at 9am the next morning.

Below is a photo of the new lot of rubbish in the ravine, with a horse’s head perched on top.



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