“Sicily – as the writer and travel enthusiast Goethe said – is the key to everything. One cannot understand Italy without seeing Sicily.” And so, from the times of Magna Graecia to today, the island that brushes the mainland at the Strait of Messina and faces the Mediterranean just a few nautical miles from Africa, remains a unique place, with exceptional beauty but also delays, partly economic and largely infrastructural.
These delays will be overcome in the coming years thanks to a series of projects designed to provide the island with modern infrastructures, on par with the most advanced areas of the continent. Thus, from new highways to high-capacity railways (a mode of transportation absent in Sicily until now), there are dozens of construction sites open to reshape the lifestyles of the 5 million Sicilians who are called upon to move between major cities such as Palermo, Messina, and Catania, as well as numerous smaller but equally vital centers.
Construction sites, an opportunity for Sicilian professionals to come back home
Looking at them on the map, the routes of the new infrastructures that will cross the island form a dense grid, branching from south to north and from east to west, connecting the main centers, starting from Ragusa, Catania, Enna, Caltanissetta, Messina, Palermo. Eight projects bearing the signature of the Webuild Group aim to establish the island’s first high-capacity railway line, running from Palermo to Messina via Catania, as well as a new highway corridor connecting Ragusa with Catania.
Collectively, these essential works form a network crucial for the modernization of the island, with an immediate impact on employment. Currently, around 900 people, including engineers, technicians, and workers, are involved in Webuild’s construction sites in Sicily, but when the operations are fully underway, 7,500 jobs are expected to be created. It’s an opportunity for many to return to their homeland after having left to work abroad. This is the story of Salvatore Carmeni, a construction assistant currently engaged in building the high-capacity railway that will pass near Taormina. Carmeni commutes to the construction site every day by car, starting at dawn from his home at the foot of Mount Etna. “This house means everything to me,” he confesses. “It’s the reward for many sacrifices made over the years.”
Before returning to Sicily, Carmeni worked all over the world, from Nigeria to Namibia to Australia, and even on the M4, the new subway line in Milan that recently inaugurated its first stretch from Linate Airport to San Babila station in the city center. “I’ve been away for many years, but now I have finally been able to rediscover my homeland and, above all, my family,” he admits. Today, Carmeni oversees the works along a route spanning dozens of kilometers, where the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will penetrate the mountains to create tunnels for high-capacity trains. His story represents that of many women and men who have rediscovered Sicily after years spent abroad and who are now putting their skills to work on these major projects.
The profound impact of these major works on the future of Sicily
Currently, Webuild‘s contracts involve the design and construction of approximately 200 kilometers of new railway lines. In total, there are six sections where high-capacity trains will run, connecting Messina with Catania and from there to Palermo.
Once the line is completed, the impact on travel times will be enormous: it will take just 45 minutes to cover the distance between Messina and Catania, 30 minutes less than currently required. Similarly, the longest journey between Palermo and Catania will take two hours, one hour less than today. These changes will profoundly transform travel times on the island and significantly reduce pollution. The construction of the seven sections will avoid the emission of 53,500 tons of CO2 annually.
In addition to the new railways, which are part of the European TEN-T network plan, there is the doubling and modernization of the Ragusa-Catania highway corridor, known as the Ragusana. This strategic corridor for eastern Sicily will connect the provinces of Ragusa, Catania, and Siracusa, adding a new route to facilitate mobility throughout the region. As construction work begins on the Strait of Messina Bridge, Sicily is revolutionizing its internal transportation networks, aimed at connecting the largest cities on the island with the mainland.