Poggioreale, January 2022 (updated May 2023 - please see the bottom of this page)
I've been asked a lot lately about events and products being promoted for sale purporting to benefit the Poggioreale economy. The most headline grabbing is a proposal to sell buildings in the old town of Poggioreale to be rehabilitated by the buyers as vacation homes. This idea caught on after the mayor of nearby Salemi offered buildings there for sale at one euro with the condition that the property be renovated by the buyer. These proposals have largely been criticized as the gimmicks that they are. In the case of Poggioreale, there is absolutely no infrastructure or tax revenue to support such an undertaking and the depressed economy there and in Sicily in general, make it a very poor investment.
I have lived in Poggioreale for about 3 months out of every 12 to 18 months for the last 25 years. I have rented homes in town and in the countryside, bought a car, shopped for groceries, attended church, had coffee with friends in the local bars, stood in line at the post office, attended council meetings in town hall, established relationships in many archives all over Sicily, and met and interviewed everyone from mayors to many older everyday citizens who lived in the old town and experienced the earthquake. I say this because, while I have found Poggioreale to be full of generous and friendly people, I think it's important for those of us separated by generations from our immigrant ancestors and unable to spend time there, to understand that we may not have a realistic view of the town today or its past. I can testify that it is very unlikely that such a project in the old town would ever be well funded by any Italian entity, either governmental or private. Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong, as long as any development is tasteful and respectful, but I'm not holding my breath. For more details, please feel free to contact me at the address below.
I've also been asked about items that are being offered for sale, mostly on the internet, purporting to be products of Poggioreale. Over the years many people have contacted me complaining about inferior products that they purchased thinking they were supporting the Poggioreale economy. Do not be fooled by claims that residents of Poggioreale are suffering from poverty and neglect. It's simply not true. Despite the poor economy, everyone in Poggioreale has a very high standard of living thanks to government subsidies. Many of these products are being sold by people who do not live in Poggioreale and have spent very little time there. I cannot speak to the value of everything on the market today but "buyer beware" would be a good motto to live by. For details, drop me an email any time.
And lastly, beware of "genealogy" information posted on the internet. My family history research in Poggioreale has been extensive and in person, using the original documents. A good portion of what you find posted elsewhere is based on speculation and assumptions. Some of the family charts I've been shown are complete fiction. Keep in mind that the first rule of genealogy is that anything that is not backed by reliable, first person documentation is highly suspect. If you want the truth, you can get it for free from me. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about your Poggioreale ancestors and point you toward proper documentation.
*** Update May 2023 ***
I visited Poggioreale in May of 2023 to spend time with family and to do a little genealogy research in surrounding towns. Much has changed in Poggioreale and nothing has changed. There was an election for a new mayor and the topic of the fate of the old town was high on the list of promises. As I've mentioned, lots of lip service and absolutely no action. I was surprised to learn that the new mayor and his family don't live in Poggioreale. They live and work outside of Rome, but he is required to spend three days a week in Poggioreale.
The new pool is still closed as is the library. The last bank in town will be closing soon and the only bank in Salaparuta closed recently so a trip to Partanna or Santa Margherita is necessary to take care of banking needs. All three restaurants were closed when I was there and we had to travel to a nearby town for a pizza. Many young families have moved away to northern Italy, Germany or Great Britain to find work and there are very few children to be seen. The new elementary school term consists of two students who will be bussed to another town. The general consensus there is that Poggioreale is a dying town of elderly citizens and I have to agree.
The old town is now completely and very securely buttoned up by a fence that surrounds it on all sides. These measures have never been used before to this extent but it's easy to see that many, many more buildings on the Corso and the Piazza are in peril of immediate collapse. I would urge any visitors to avoid entering the old town. The risk to lives is higher than I've ever seen it in my 18 visits over 31 years. There has been absolutely nothing done in the last 15 years to rescue any portion of the old town from its crumbling fate. In fact, a fire brigade from another jurisdiction was allowed to demolish large portions of the lower part of the old town to practice methods of rescue from collapsed buildings. It's a shame to see what was allowed to happen.
Buying trinkets and souvineers of Poggioreale from sketchy individuals will not improve the state of the economy in Poggioreale or in Sicily in general. It will only enrich those few selling them, some of whom don't even live in Poggioreale, so your money has little or no effect on the big picture. This is a world economy and Sicily has very little to offer on a grand scale at this point in history. I can only hope that Italy manages to find a way to help Sicily improve their stagnant economy.
You can reach me at the email address below. If you haven't heard back from me in about a week, it's probably because your spam filter is overly aggressive and my reply went directly to your spam or trash folder. If you don't find it there, check with your internet access provider to see if my email was screened. AOL is particularly bad about this, so you'll need to write from another account, such as gmail or yahoo. There's nothing I can do about it from my end.