Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lipari island has a lot to offer to volcano amateurs

The island of Lipari, in an archipelago north of Sicily, has always appealed to its mostly well-heeled summer visitors because it's hard to reach and therefore remains a secluded paradise .So a plan by the local mayor to build an airport on what is now a green plateau inhabited by buzzards and falcons has caused a flurry of alarm.

Many Italian politicians take holidays on Lipari and the neighbouring Eolian islands. Other frequent visitors include fashion designers Dolce & Gabanna, actors Michael Douglas and Al Pacino, and writers of the calibre of Umberto Eco .The worries of the politicians, artists and writers who regularly come to hide in the Eolian islands are coupled with the consternation of environmentalists .

But mayor Mariano Bruno insists that Lipari and the other Eolian islands need an airport because sea ferries are too few, too slow and too vulnerable to cancellation because of bad weather ."We live on tourism. There are few sea connections to our islands and this airport would solve a lot of our problems," he said .Bruno noted that you can fly from Rome to London in less than three hours but getting from mainland Italy to Lipari takes seven hours .

Plans for the airport, which would cost 30-40 million euros, have controversially been included in Lipari council's official plans for future construction projects .Giuseppe La Greca, a leftwing council member, is livid: "It would disfigure the island. We would be destroying one of its most beautiful parts just so as to have a few charter flights during the high season." Meanwhile, in Rome, the plan has also caused a stir. Former culture minister Giovanna Melandri and MP Ermete Realacci, honorary president of environmental group Legambiente, have called on the transport minister to block the project .

They point out that, because of their astounding beauty and the presence of active volcanos, the Eolian islands have been part of UNESCO's list of world heritage sites since 2000 .Building an airport on Lipari could mean the islands lose their special protected status, warned Melandri, who has a house on the island of Filicudi. Legambiente's Sicilian chapter branded the airport project as extremely "damaging" and said it would be better to simply improve ferry services to the islands .

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