Sicilian Electrical Wiring and other Health and Safety Issues

I’ve been meaning to write about Sicilian electricians for a while. I needed to accumulate a good set of photos, though, as pictures speak louder than words.

Sometimes, in fact, they scream while shuddering all over, with their hair standing up on end, fizzing with 240 volts.


While I was taking this photo, the resident of the house emerged onto her balcony. Ahem! Embarrassing! She confirmed that they are indeed live wires connected to the mains. Then she started watering the plants, so I didn’t ask why, I ran away.

Here’s a picture of her neighbour’s house:


…And another one up the road: This is the proper, safe method of electrical wiring in Sicily and it is usually fine, until the wires stretched out across the road snap, and flutter down, the ends caressing passing vehicles.


Now for some architecture.

I do adore this one. If you observe the very new-looking doorbells, you’ll realise this gate is in regular use, and forms the main entrance to a large number of apartments.


But what makes it so fabulous is the attached cardboard notice, which says…



On the other hand, below are some balconies which I believe have not been repaired lately.

Don’t they make a great pair? One has no front and the other has no bottom. Some smart handyman will no doubt soon think of cobbling the two together to make a single, usable balcony.

I would have rung on the doorbell to suggest this to the owner, but I was too chicken.


These pictures were taken in two very average towns called Lercara Friddi and Piana Degli Albanesi. I could have taken many photos, indeed more shocking ones, right outside my own front door, but I felt it would be too rude. I took my chances in these towns, as they are very far from my home and nobody knows me.

Yet I must tell you a story that happened in my village.

I was waiting to see the doctor and got chatting to an old man. He told me his son had broken both legs, his pelvis, a collar bone and one arm when a balcony landed on him.

“He was very lucky,” said the old man. He wasn’t being sarcastic. In Italy, people die every year from derelict balconies landing on them as they walk out of their front door.

Well, his son spent a very long time stuck at home and was getting serious cabin fever. He couldn’t even sit up, as he was set rigid in plaster and metal bars. After some months, when he was nearly healed, his best friend came over with his Fiat Uno, opened the boot, put the back seat down and slotted his friend into the car from behind.

“I’m taking you to the pub,” he said cheerfully.

Then his friend got into the driving seat, shut the car door, and the sudden noise made the balcony he was parked under collapse completely and crash down onto the car.

“My son would have died if he had been sitting up instead of lying flat,” the old man told me. “His friend got a broken neck.

“They’re in hospital together now,” he added. “They’re both so lucky. God was looking out for them.”

Here are the rusty remains of a balcony whose concrete base has collapsed:


I do hope God was looking out for whoever was under this one when it ended its existence!


25 Comments Add yours

  1. Omg most of the pic can be easily an example from Kathmandu.


    1. I’m beginning to find out that about half the world does its electrical wiring like this! Sometimes I marvel that the human race hasn’t died out. 🙂


  2. Hilarious! I think I actually snorted coffee through my nose! 🙂


  3. Pecora Nera says:

    Brilliant, I am still laughing. When I first visited Sicily to ask the parents of Mrs Sensible if I could date their daughter, I was amazed at some of the sights. I would point at things, for example a family of 4 on a scooter (none wearing helmets), or a car pushing another up the motorway at 70kmp because tow ropes were illegal…WHAT!!! I would shout in astonishment.

    “Ah but this is Sicily” my prospective father in law would say.


  4. Our Adventure in Croatia says:

    My sister married a Sicilian and lived in Sicily for many years, I remember when I went to visit her the first time and she was showing us around some villages/towns, she said “never walk on a pavement” precisely because of the reason highlighted in your above pictures, pieces of the building or balconies falling down…. what a shame…


    1. It’s hard to decide whether the pavements or the roads are more dangerous, isn’t it? I think staying inside and EATING is probably the best and safest choice!


  5. If you ever turn these blog posts into a book I will be the first to buy a therapeutic copy. I don’t laugh easily but this post had me in stiches.


    1. So glad you enjoyed it!
      I am working hard on my book about Sicily; I am determined to have it finished this year! And I promise it will be highly therapeutic…
      My problem is deciding when to stop, as more and more hilarious and ludicrous things keep happening to me. I’ll have to draw the line somewhere and move on to writing a sequel 🙂


  6. decimawho says:

    Saw this and thought of you 🙂


  7. tycobeans says:

    “I was waiting to see the doctor and got chatting to an old man. He told me his son had broken both legs, his pelvis, a collar bone and one arm when a balcony landed on him.”

    I can see I’d better go visit the restroom before reading any further, I don’t want to be laughing so much I wet my pants!


  8. OMG! Nearly laughable until the reality sinks in! No codes in Sicily?


  9. yangszechoo says:

    I love your blog! It made me laugh so much I had to go and read all your back posts. Please write more 🙂


    1. I will write more! I’m really glad you enjoyed it so much 🙂


  10. Medieval arches and porte in Tuscan villages can also be a little scary. I have one rather crumbly one right outside my door from the 1100s. Vehicles pass very slowly beneath, wing mirrors pulled in, as the space isn’t very high or wide. This doesn’t stop the square-peg-in-the-round-hole effect If you mention it everyone in town grits their teeth and hunches their shoulders, as though to ward off the probability that 3 tonnes of stone might not hold its own weight.
    At least there are signs that there, in the distant past, some effort made to repair it…the block of concrete should hold…


    1. There must be structures like that all over Italy. And I bet if you look carefully inside it, there will be streaks of paint every colour of the rainbow where cars have scuffed the sides!
      I have to pull my wing mirrors in each time I take my son to school, as the school entrance is at the end of a tiny weeny street. Most of the residents of the street have wing mirrors held on with brown parcel tape as they have been wacked off so many times. I have reached the point where I can pop the mirrors in, and pop them out again at the end of the street, without even slowing down. I’m definitely too Italianised, aren’t I?


  11. Raunak says:

    this made me laugh…but more so because we have it a hundred times worse in India…wait till you check out the electrical wirings here! fortunately we do not have falling balconies here 🙂


    1. Really worse? Could you take some photos to prove it? I’d love to put up a photo or two from India as a guest blog post, if you have time to take some! 🙂


      1. Raunak says:

        a thousand times worse…let me see if I can get some pics…I remember once when my Finnish friends were here and they were completely in awe of the electrical wiring here…take the Sicilian situation and multiply it by a thousand 🙂 I wish I was exaggerating…but I’m not!


  12. Diane C says:

    When we were looking at houses to buy in Sicily, we brought our (British) contractor with us to help us decide which house would cost the least to renovate. In one house he was examining the wiring and a live wire shot him away from the wall and threw him (thankfully) onto a nearby bed! Needless to say we didn’t buy that house!


  13. MarlisB says:

    Wow. Only the second post I read on your blog and it’s still totally like India. As to collapsing balconies, I suspect even the hot-blodded Sicilian male does not slam the front door as he leaves the house in a huff. Love your blog.


    1. Glad you like the blog!
      You’re right, they treat balconies and doors with caution. Everything else too. That’s Sicilian craftsmanship – everything needs handling with great care in Sicily as otherwise it is likely to disintegrate in your hands!


  14. Jack Curtis says:

    Some of that wiring is indeed, shocking… Most of ours now is out of sight underground. Rather than electrocuting somebody, we prefer to bring down the power for say, a few hundred thousand homes and businesses in he dead of winter and freeze them to death wholesale…it’s more efficient!

    We’re not so much on balconies, unless you live in New Orleans where at appropriate times, you can swim off them. From your photos, Romeo would be very out-of-place today…and wasn’t he supposed to be Italian?

    We have an equivalent if less obvious situation in out water supply. The pipes rot underground out of sight and so are often neglected by the politicians to whom most water suppliers are beholden. A Congressional hearing some years back found most cities lost a third to a half of production underground. Some Eastern cities still used wood pipes installed in the 18th century. No photos underground, though. But lots of holes dug for repairs. Here in New Mexico, plastic pipes have been installed connecting users to the mains and we have crews replacing them with copper–more holes and overstaffed ‘work’ crews and expense… nothing colorful or scenic or even interestingly decadent, though.


  15. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for giving me the reason I always walk in the roads here in Sicily and not on the sidewalks as my husband tells me to… Love your writings and how true… Yesterday (day 5) had this young man over to work on the TV antenna and he got zapped several times (first time you would think to turn off the power but oh no… he did it at least 6 times before he blew that circuit) today he will be back (day 6) I laugh and my landlady/downstairs neighbor just cusses under her breath and keeps saying “so sorry” why it more entertaining that anything on RAI.


    1. Your story reminds me of the man who came to fix my gas boiler which was leaking gas – and chain smoked the entire time. I wonder if he detects leaks by blowing his head off?


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