Is Sicily Going Out of Business? (Just Asking…)

traghetto_MESSINAIs Sicily closing? I need to know. As an American living in Sicily and invested in a home here I really need to know if Sicily is going out of business.
Today’s news that the famous putting of trains on a boat to cross the Strait of Messina may be eliminated (save for two overnite trains) is a personal blow to me, Gary Drake, as that is my preferred method of travel to the continent. That’s a personal decision as after years of work that had me constantly in the air, I now avoid the cattle-call of airports and the zero legroom of airlines like the proverbial plague. Plus, I like the freedom of train travel and certainly getting to see places fliers never see.
Forget about me for a minute, though. What about those work commuters and family travelers that make simple journeys to Calabria? It won’t be fun for a family of five with luggage to get off a train, walk to the boat docks, take the boat, get off the boat and walk to another train. That’s a nightmare, even if only a first-world nightmare. And, to be clear, this marvel of transport—-putting a train on a barge—is the talk of the world. Everybody asks me about it. So to stop the practice while not replacing it with something better is hard to digest.

bristolBut for me, Gary Drake, the news just gets worse. Palermo’s famous, long-standing, open 24-hours Bar Bristol has announced it is closing. Unbelievable. The joint I wrote about in an early “An American in B” Times of Sicily article suddenly will be gone! Now where do I go at three in the morning? I was already upset that the new Palermo tram construction had eliminated the outdoor tables on the Via Amari side, but now this! Yes, add Bar Bristol to a list of recent historical bar closings such as Renato’s in Mondello, where in September I took my Californian niece, and Bar Mazzara in central Palermo, where recently I took a group of touring Minneapolis friends. And throw in for good measure Al Pinguino near Politeama and Recupero in Via Malaspina. And that’s just recent closures. And that’s just Palermo. In fact, that’s just coffee shops in Palermo. I won’t get into the longtime businesses and retailers going out of business.

Old favorite spots closing isn’t necessarily bad economic news if other places are opening. Most of my NYC hangouts are gone but the city is still going strong (from what I’m told). But what new places are opening in Palermo to replace the old? All I see opening up are betting parlors. Thus, my concern.

Palermo and Sicily have been around obviously for centuries and have survived much tougher times than these, so my hope is that this will be just a rough patch, or what cable talk news heads might even call a “correction”. But with more businesses closing than opening and more Sicilians dying that being born, I think you can understand my asking about this island’s future. And I’m not sure whether to be encouraged or not by the addition in a Sicilian newspaper of a weekly quarter-page column called “What’s Functioning In Sicily”.

Gary Drake
Gary Drake
Gary Drake is American freelance writer who lives year-round in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily. Gary has lived in several big American cites and spent time in Milan before settling in Sicily. He is the author of "Silent Bell" "Digital Lives" "Daily News of Sicily" and "Conversation With A Settler". Gary's pastimes include, among many things, Palermo soccer, baseball, Dylan, Sicilian history, philosophy, and discussing the meaning of life with the wise sages that gather at the coffee shops of Castellammare del golfo.

Related Articles


  1. Mr Drake I couldn’t agree more… we’ve invested on the south east of Sicily, same situation at this part of Sicily… let’s hope for the better.

  2. I thank the nearly 3000 readers of this article and the comments written both here and in other formats (FB, Twitter, etc). I write now to add that cancellation of trains connecting Sicily to the continent is now one of the most heated debates in Messina and other parts of Sicily. If I may paraphrase today’s Giornale di Sicilia: “Sicily is not taking this sitting down.” There have already been public protests in Messina with more planned for there and other towns this week-end. And Monday the director of the infrastructure department of the Sicilian government wil go to Roma—–by train!!!—-to plead our case to the federal government. Stay tuned.

  3. Thanks for the updates and keeping issues on the “front burner”. We have family in the area and love it there. We hate to see things becoming ever more difficult economically.

    • Hi Donna,
      you can still take the ferry. You just have to change in Rome or Naple etc (depends where you are going).

    • Donna, when the story was originally written the plan was that after June only the two night trains leaving the island for the continent would board the ferry directly (and probably the same in reverse, overnite trains from the continent to the island) and that the daytime trains would require you to disembark completely one train, take the ferry on your own, and board another train on the other side of the Strait of Messina. If you are planning to come by train or car you not only will still be able to use the ferry, but it’s the only way to get here. The Ferry is not going out of business and all—in fact I’ve noticed a nifty new fleet of boats—it’s just how the trains interact with the ferry that might change.
      I shouldn’t really say it’s the only way, it’s the only way by train, you’d have to use the ferry one way or the other. Of course there’s also the boats from towns like Genova, Napoli and Cittavechhia that come to Sicilian ports.
      Make sense?????

      • I’m still a little confused, forgive me. If I have a car, will the ferry that takes both the car and the drivers operate from Messina to Calabria?

        • Sure Donna! You can still drive a car and take the ferry! It take about 30 to 40 minutes to get from Messina to Calabria. Time for a nice “arancina” and coffee in the bar of the ferry!

Comments are closed.

Stay Connected

Digital nomads? Time off? Retiring? Here your place.. in Sicilyspot_img

Latest Articles