The international spotlights are pointed on Taormina. The beautiful Sicilian town, destination of tourists from all over the world, is preparing to welcome the world leaders for the G7 to be held on 26 and 27 May. “We are ready”, assures to In Terris Eligio Giardina, Mayor of the city, who tells us, with a pinch of pride, that “we succeeded with forty days of record speed construction sites” to make the impossible possible”.
In the meantime, the atmosphere in the town is surreal. The safety machine has been active for a long time. The entrance to the town is allowed only to the residents with a pass. Almost ten thousand soldiers are expected. There is already a feeling of siege: even the small streets of the historic centre are controlled day and night and the snipers are stationed on the terraces with sea view. Giardina is relaxed: “Taormina probably in these days is the most secure town in the world“. There is instead some concern for the dissent demonstration that will be held in Giardini Naxos on 27 May.
Mr Mayor, how does the town of Taormina live the wait for this event?
“We are ready to welcome this world event. This is an extraordinary situation. We have never seen Taormina in this version: the most striking thing is the absolute absence of tourists, that are our lifeblood. But in view of the importance of the event, we are willing to accept all this”.
Then there is no intolerance on the part of citizens?
“Certainly there are great disruptions, we cannot hide it. The people have even difficulties to move from one point to another within the city. This atmosphere causes also some concern, which however is overcome by the massive military presence on the territory. I feel safe and I assume that my citizens are”.
With regard to safety, did the measures became harder following the attack in Manchester?
“In Taormina security was already at the highest level. The filters are so narrow and stringent that the impression we already have from days is that the public security forces are ensuring a very high level of control. After the attack in Manchester nothing changed, if not the huge pain caused by the images of a slaughter of children and teenagers”.
In recent months, you complained about a delay on the works for this G7, and warned about the “risk” for Taormina and for Italy of creating a “bad impression”…
“A risk that fortunately was avoided. Everything that was provided was done. Forty days of working sites at record speed have made possible the impossible, performing a job that usually takes years to be achieved. Taormina will enchant the world”.
Since last Monday all Sicilian ports are turned off: for safety reasons during the week of the G7 all landings on the island are prohibited. Did anything change for you?
“No, absolutely. Landings do not touch the city of Taormina. I believe that this effected more the inhabitants of the large neighbouring towns like Catania or Messina”.
What does the protocol provide? Will you shake hand with the world leaders?
“I have a meeting this afternoon (25 May, editor’s note) to be informed about the protocol procedure of the presidency of the Republic and of the Council. As you can imagine, I am not accustomed to attend this type of ceremonies, therefore I wait for instructions. I certainly would like to greet the world leaders”.
Taormina does not need it, but do you hope that this event may promote your town and further stimulate tourism?
“The presence of Taormina on the media all over the world can and must give to the town – in the short, medium and long term – a tourism return. Above all my hope is that we can send a message to the world about the true values not only of Taormina but of the whole Sicily. That are those of beauty, of culture, of attention to international issues”.
The undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council Maria Elena Boschi visited Taormina last Monday. How was the meeting?
“Very good. It was the closing meeting of a commitment taken personally by the Boschi to prepare this event from the point of view of the infrastructure. She herself has pointed out that we have managed to make the town ready for this event by respecting the timing of the works without exemptions”.
Boschi also said that in November there will be another meeting of the G7 in Taormina…
“There will be the closing event of the Italian Presidency of the G7 dedicated to equal opportunities. The chosen date is the 25 November, the International Day against Violence on women. We are honoured that our city has been chosen for a double worldly appointment”.