Sicily’s Golf course survives amidst seismic tremors

Written by By Markus Dahlgren, CNN

This article was originally published in October 2017.

We know that golf is dead: at least that’s what some golf fans think.

But in Sicily’s tiny Cervia atoll, that’s only part of the story.

The local golf course is still going strong, won’t allow drones on it and is renowned for its spectacular ocean front views.

“The people here tend to think it was created here and it’s one of the more enduringly popular elements of the island,” says John Bryant, a journalist who lived in Cervia for 16 years and now lives in London.

Sicily’s golf courses face a grimmer future than mainland Europe, with both the European Union and local authorities cutting funding.

“I think it’s still an outdoor game here,” says Hannah Sharp-Dunn , an English student.

“And I also think the island’s atmosphere.”

1 / 11 This striking seaside location was featured in American television series The Rockford Files. The Dock of Cervia is one of Cervia’s best-known tourist spots, but it is not the island’s only name. Credit: Maurizio Degl’Innocenti

With a tiny population of 29,000 — the population of Italy’s northern Ionian island of Crete is 2.2 million — Cervia has a long history of tourism.

But on the entire island, only 110 of the more than 12,000 outdoor tee boxes have been left in operation, according to Bryant.

About 60 others are privately owned.

With demand for the island’s scenic Mediterranean beaches so high, the fragile golf course is an unlikely business winner.

For most of the past 15 years or so, however, Cervia has been “burning it all down,” says Bryant.

New commercial development has taken root in the city center.

Mountain peak called Marble Mountain, which once served as a reward for parish priests for their homilies, has been sold to a foundation and turned into a glass-encased temple, while a snip of Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s townhouse in the town center sold for $3.15 million

Planes are currently flying overhead, under a new radar system installed to detect foreign interference in the island’s sovereignty.

To combat this burgeoning tourism, Cervia has scrapped a major project to build a new airport.

Despite the shutdown, the island’s existing five Airbuses and a fleet of private planes serve the island, although they are usually booked and not in operation.

Thanks to a national tourism board’s budget cuts, it’s said that six of the island’s 41 ski slopes will remain closed this winter.

There’s also a perpetual debate about Cervia’s location in the island’s the Parco Paradiso complex.

“The Parco Paradiso is the home of so many different historic sites,” says Sharp-Dunn.

This lively square, a short walk from the golf course, hosts the island’s famous local artworks, many of which originated in Cervia’s monasteries.

It is a village after all, and with a mixture of quirky world class cultural attractions like the Cervia Museum of La Matera, remote rural ruins like Santo Stefano di Venezia di Capo and countless tiny towns steeped in history, the Parco Paradiso is, in some ways, a real microcosm of Sicily as a whole.

On the golf course, however, the connection between culture and golf is clear: those who are allergic to the idea of an impermanent game and plane flights, don’t play.

Leave a Comment