The mayor of a picturesque coastal region in Sicily has become embroiled in a row with residents after he announced the council was considering plans to create one of Europe’s biggest luxury holiday complexes.
Giancarlo Garozzo, mayor of Siracusa, is looking at a €120 million (£88 million) proposal for a resort complete with helicopter pad, cooking school and artificial lake, which would be privately financed and measure 365 acres – the size of around 200 football pitches.
Mr Garozzo, whose election slogan was “zero cement” in reference to his strong opposition to the construction that blights large parts of the Sicilian coastline, said he had a duty to examine any project which would bring investment to the area.
But residents reacted angrily to the plans, describing the proposal as “criminal” and insisting the project would leave locals confined to a tiny “ghetto” along the coast.
The proposal submitted to the mayor’s office last week includes plans for a large complex of villas, two artificial lakes and a golf course between the bays of Ognina and Fontane Bianche, a stunning stretch of Italian coastline along Sicily’s southeast coast.
The area is popular with tourists who flock to bathe in the azure waters of its secluded beaches before heading to the capital to take in its baroque cathedral – once a Greek temple – on the island of Ortigia.
Sos Siracusa, a group which works to protect the local area, has launched a campaign to stop the project. It said if the resort is built, the general public would have access to only five acres of the coast.
The coastline would become “a sort of ghetto or ‘Indian reserve’ for citizens, with the rest of the coast exclusively reserved for guests of the resort”, the group wrote on its website.
“It’s snatching the sea from residents yet again, ” Enzo Maiorca, a world record breaking free diver who was born in the area, told La Repubblica.
“We will lose our most valuable asset; the sea… Not to mention the view. It’s a mad and criminal project.
The project will be discussed at a Siracusa Council meeting on Tuesday. Defending his announcement, Mr Garozzo said: “First we must examine the project. The council is obliged to analyse initiatives that provide significant investment to the area, always taking into account the restrictions that we must place.”
The project is a joint venture by multinational firm One&Only, which owns resorts across the world from the Bahamas to Dubai, and Siracusa Sun. Giorgio Fanara, chief executive of Siracusa Sun, said the resort would be “the most luxurious in Europe“.
“The projects were developed by professionals in Sicily,” he said. “We want to invest in the area, guaranteeing 400 jobs. The resort will have an 18-hole golf course. We would like to market it internationally at the highest level: as the most luxurious in Europe.”