Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi plans to build a gigantic bridge over the Strait of Messina. The project would finally bring direct road traffic to Sicily. But the project remains controversial.
The Golden Gate Bridge would look puny next to this
The argument for building the bridge comes down to tourism. A bridge would allow tourists to drive over the strait instead of waiting in a long line for a ferry. It would allow traffic to flow seamlessly, avoiding the backups created in summer when droves of tourists flock into Italy and onwards to Sicily.
The dream of connecting mainland Italy and Sicily are not exactly new. The ancient Romans already recognized the advantages of easing travel across the strait and had plans for a floating bridge made out of many small ships. Italian military and political leader Giuseppe Garibaldi wanted to build a bridge in the mid-19th century as a symbol of Italian unity. And in 1969 a competition resulted in the first concrete bridge project.
A political nightmare
Berlusconi has thrown his support behind the project
But the project didn't really get going until Berlusconi won the elections in 2001. The bridge was scheduled to open in 2011. Yet when Berlusconi's center-conservative coalition lost, his successor, Romano Prodi, shelved the scheme as being pointless and expensive.
But now Berlusconi is back and so is the brigde project. It is now scheduled to be completed in 2018. But the residents don't believe a word. They don't believe it will be built in their lifetimes.
"My neighbor was 93," one unnamed resident said. "He had already heard about the bridge project as a 60-year-old. But in 93 years he hasn't seen a single trace."
Want to drive in Sicily? Take a ferry
The project was projected to cost 5 billion euros ($7.8 billion), but after the delay the estimate has been raised to 6 billion. In the end the bridge could cost twice as much. Those opposed to the scheme feel that even that enormous sum is unjustifiable as the mafia is likely to profit handsomely from it.
The excavations required would in themselves be a massive undertaking, said Antonio di Natale. The marine biologist isn't worried about the mafia, he's concerned about the biological equilibrium of the Strait of Messina.
"Millions of sea dwellers swim through this path," said di Natale.The new bridge could be fatal to the sea creatures living there. For example, the bridge's shadow could block their routes.
"We do not know exactly, but I believe that we should not incur such a risk," the biologist said.
Does Italy need this bridge?
There's concern that the mafia will profit from the project
There are similar concerns that the bridge would pose a danger to the millions of birds that migrate past here twice a year. But, most importantly, the construction is not needed, opponents say. It would be the largest suspension bridge in the world and have six traffic lanes and two train tracks.
But it would connect two regions which are famous for having poor infrastructures. In both Calabria and Sicily the highways and railroads which would connect to the bridge are extremely old.
For the bridge to pay off, the traffic volume would need to be around 2.5 million vehicles over the next hundred years. But a century from now, it may well be that the bridge has still not been built.
After clashes in eastern Ukraine, European parliamentarian Rebecca Harms suggests tougher sanctions against Russia. She tells DW that Russian President Putin is isolating himself from the international community.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Russia to change course on the unrest in eastern Ukraine. His comments followed Russia's announcement that it would resume military exercises near the border.
The International Monetary Fund has said it will consider a funding package for Ukraine after receiving the necessary documents. Any financial backing will require Kyiv to introduce tough austerity measures.
It's one of Berlin's secret gems. They've been racing horses at Hoppegarten for 150 years, so the circuit is a monument to history - as well as a fine picnic spot. DW's Jefferson Chase tried his luck at the track.