After decades of planning dispute, the construction of a bridge over the Strait of Messina is to begin in 2024. A corresponding draft law was adopted by the cabinet in Rome on Thursday evening. According to this, the "urgent measures for the construction of a stable connection between Sicily and Calabria" are to be taken as early as next year.

Matthias Rüb

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta, based in Rome.

  • Follow I follow

The two chambers of parliament now have two months to give the decree the force of law. Since the parties of the centre-right coalition under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni have stable majorities in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, approval is considered likely.

Ferry or plane are the previous options

So far, the island of Sicily can only be reached from the Italian mainland by plane and by ferry between Villa San Giovanni near Reggio Calabria and Messina in Sicily. Several governments had in the past considered the construction of a bridge over the strait between the southern Italian region of Calabria and Italy's largest island, but could not realize the plans.

Most recently, the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi presented a corresponding plan shortly after the turn of the millennium, but could not prevail against the criticism of environmentalists and against the warners of a possible earthquake in the seismically active region.

Critics also describe the new plans as a "waste of resources" and warn of the "extremely high environmental and financial costs". With a length of about 3.2 kilometers, the bridge would be one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world.

Transport Minister Matteo Salvini of the right-wing nationalist party Lega spoke after the cabinet decision of a "historic day not only for Calabria and Sicily, but for the whole of Italy". Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the Christian Democratic party Forza, assured with a view to his own failure a good two decades ago: "This time they will not stop us."