Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Debut of Etnapolis!

Sicily might lose its reputation as a 2 1/2 world country if it's not careful. On November 23, 2005, the first real MALL on the entire island opened to huge crowds. It's called Etnapolis, and best of all, it's located between my house and my school! Woo-hoo!

It doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside--oh boy! It's a shiny, American-style mall, even better than anything I've seen in northern Europe! It's got 110 stores, ten restaurants, a multi-cinema, and more on 270,000 sq. meters. There are 6,000 parking spaces (all paved and most covered). Best for the local economy, perhaps, are the 3280 jobs that have been created!

The Sicilians love it, and traffic jams to and from it are the norm and have been since day one. They walk around in it like it's Disneyland, which it is for Sicily. It has ample, lighted, lined, and free parking underneath. That alone is something I have not witnessed anywhere down here. What, no seedy little "parking guys" to guide you in and take your small change? Upstairs, there are two floors of shiny new stores. Like any American mall, it has a big super department store (Carrefour, a French company) and lots of other clothing, electronic, and speciality stores. Maybe the only things that distinguish it as Sicilian are (1) the over-abundance of underwear stores (they love underwear stores for some reason) and (2) the Italian "bars" selling expresso and other coffees. Oh, yeah, there are tons of cell phone stores, too.

Even the bathrooms are like American malls. The Siclians I observed were confused and shocked to walk into a shiny public restroom with multiple stalls of toilets, all working and ALL with seats! Unheard of! And no little plate of change for the restroom attendant! Mamma mia!

Another cool feature is the absence of smoking anwhere in the mall. Italy already is ahead of Europe with no smoking laws for restarants, but this is for the entire Etnapolis mall!

Besides Carrefour, a kind of giant Super WalMart, there is a Home Depot-type store called Castorama at the other end. I have never seen such a store in Europe, and I'm quite sure nothing like it exists anywhere else in Sicily. It's huge, well-stocked, clean, and comprehensive.

So, once they get all the stores up and operating and the exterior landscaping and parking lots finished, Etnapolis will be the showcase of the island inside and out. It will remain to be seen, though . . . will people really give up their street markets, hole-in-the-wall stores that look like Arab bazaars, and the fun of double or triple-parking for . . . convenience?? Stay tuned, because it looks like they will.


At January 09, 2006 1:39 AM, Anonymous Shana said...

No, no, no, the Americanisation of Sicily will not prevail! Soon the parking men and bathroom attendants will move into Etnapolis. That's my prediction. Enjoy the order while it lasts.


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