Strait of Messina

The Strait of Messina (Strittu di Missina in Sicilian, Stretto di Messina in Italian) is the narrow passage between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Calabria in the south of Italy. It connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea, within the central Mediterranean. At its narrowest point, it measures 3.1 km (1.9 miles) in width, though near the town of Messina the width is some 5.1 km (3.2 miles) and maximum depth is 250 m (830 ft). A ferry connects Messina on Sicily with the mainland at Villa San Giovanni and Reggio in Calabria. There is also a hydrofoil service from Messina to Reggio.

The Strait is characterized by strong tidal currents, that established a unique marine ecosystem. A natural whirlpool in the Northern portion of the strait has been linked to the Greek legend of Scylla and Charybdis. In some circumstances, the mirage of Fata Morgana can be observed when looking at Sicily from Calabria.

In 1957, a 220-kV overhead powerline was built across the Strait of Messina. Its pylons are among the highest in the world. This powerline has since been replaced by a submarine power cable, but the pylons remain and are protected as historical monuments. (See Pylons of Messina.)

The planned Messina Bridge

For decades, the possibility of building a bridge across the Messina Strait has been under discussion. In 2006, under Prime Minister Romano Prodi the project was cancelled [1]. However, on 6 March 2009, as part of a massive new public works program, Silvio Berlusconi's government announced that plans to construct the Messina Bridge had been fully revived, pledging EUR 1.3 billion as a contribution to its estimated cost of EUR 6.1 billion euros [2] Some 3.3 km long and 60 m wide, the bridge would be supported by two 382 m pillars, each higher than the Empire State Building. The plan accounts for six motorway lanes, a railway for up to 200 trains a day and two walkways.

Supporters perceive the bridge as a huge job-creation scheme and a boost for tourism to the island. Opponents see it as an ecological disaster, a structure at risk due to especially strong winds and earthquakes (the area having an intense seismic record), and a boon for Sicilian and Calabrian organized crime. Berlusconi claims work will be completed by 2016.[3]

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