From a singer who caused all of Italy to fall in love with her to one who has caused considerable outrage and quite a few divisions: The artist in question is Roberto Vecchioni, the singer-songwriter who won the 2011 Sanremo Festival with Chiamami ancora amore, a song he composed with a view to giving hope, particularly to young people, at the height of the global financial crisis. So what, I ask myself, has got into him? The Palermo traffic seems to be part of the answer.
Speaking at the Engineering Faculty of Palermo University last week, Roberto Vecchioni expressed his exasperation with Sicily, even going so far as to call it a "shit island". Coming in from the airport, he said, he had seen 400 out of 200 [yes, you read that right] motorcyclists riding without the obligatory helmets and there were three lines of traffic in the middle of every road, making it impossible to get through. This, he continued, shows that Sicilians have not yet understood how to live side by side. He believes that the island is ruining its own culture and cannot keep citing the fact that it has wonderful beaches as an excuse for everything. In short, Sicily is letting itself down.
As you may imagine, this caused strong reactions both inside and outside the conference hall, which many people left early. However, support for Mr Vecchioni's views has come from an unlikely source, namely Leoluca Orlando, Mayor of Palermo, who said that Roberto Vecchioni had proved himself to be a friend of Sicily in the past. He also said that Sicily deserves much more than it has today and that Sicilians must choose the right path for the future.
Here is Roberto Vecchioni in more mellow mood:
Roberto Vecchioni - Chiamami ancora amore