Sicilian Cities Study Tour:

The Influence of Environment and History on Urban Life

Sicilian Cities Study Tour, May 24 ? June 7, 2010


16 Virginia Commonwealth University students at University of Messina

VCU Summer Study Abroad led by John Accordino, PhD, AICP

Associate Professor of urban & Regional Planning - Wilder School of Government & Public Affairs

Virginia Commonwealth University

Academic Program

The purpose of this study tour is to learn how the natural environment and human history shape the form and function of cities, using Sicily as a case in point.  Both forces shape and limit a community?s possibilities, but they also present opportunities for communities to forge unique identities and play distinctive roles in the world. The formal part of the tour will focus on cities along the Ionic Coast of Sicily ? Catania, Siracusa, Messina and Taormina, as well as Reggio Calabria.  All have been, and continue to be, shaped by their proximity to the sea.  Catania has a special relationship to the active volcano that sits above it, and Messina and Reggio have a long history of dealing with earthquakes, the most devastating of which, of course, was the earthquake and tsunami of December 1908.  All of these cities also have rich human histories, evidence of which is still quite visible in most places.  Taken together, they provide both positive and negative lessons for city planners everywhere.

As the pace of socio-economic change throughout the world quickens, these cities, like all others, must continually adjust and find ways to survive and thrive.  Our study tour will seek to understand how these cities are meeting this challenge, striving to develop viable economic activities and maintain a high quality of life.  We will focus, in particular, on how they take their environment and history into account as they seek to chart their course for the future.  Asking the same questions of the same types of experts ? professional urban planners and architects, university professors, and historians ? in different cities of the same region, will allow us to understand better why communities make the life choices they do.  And this, in turn, will help us to better understand how history and the environment shape the choices that American communities make to guide the development of their functions and form.


Taormina Major House Meeting