There aren’t many original ideas to pop out of the Sicilian city of Palermo: At the same time the Vatican was being engulfed in an earthquake, dozens of nearby rock stars were celebrating a concert. And a young woman at the center of one of the island’s best-known mysteries (the killer 4,000-year-old remains of a martyr) had studied hotel management in London.
There is one idea that Palermo doesn’t think twice about: It’s time to build a course.
Making it happen will be a reminder of Palermo’s position as a crossroads of social and spiritual life. Build a golf course in Sicily.
A 4-year-old golf course, already inaugurated at the center of Palermo and running on stream, is now a private club where people from all walks of life can play. As Federico Alba, the 48-year-old Italian sports “golf master” who designed the course, tells us: “I hope that a club will rise up in the Palermo.”
About three-quarters of the committee of members that make up the club — or “parrieri,” as they say in Sicily — are from the city. And many of the club’s 45 staff members work for Palermo city government.
Alba has overseen everything from planning and construction to all of the administrative stuff.
His techniques? Alba says golf needs more fun — not more practicality.
“If you are going to serve the Masters in Augusta, you need something special,” he says of the site that will host the 2015 Masters. “You need to serve food and drink, the project and the presentation, the golf course, the animals. You need to do everything to make the Masters unique. We did it in Palermo,” he says with pride.
What Alba says fits with the city. He says golf should be about “finding pleasures,” something that can’t be done when everything is kept simple and gets by on “mere equipment.”
“I am not an elitist,” Alba says. “I never traveled. I never traveled outside Europe. I am not a great tailor.”
What he is is a master of discovering hidden beauty.
Not that he is in love with all of Sicily, in his view.
“Veneranda is a different attitude,” he says. “I don’t like her tendencies. I don’t like her relationship.”
Just after the murder of a Sicilian woman and her two children in a car in 1958, Federico Alba was hired to dig up the remains.
Some believed the woman had sacrificed herself for her brothers, while others suspected her of being murdered by her husband and his lover. At the time, it was an act of inexplicable bravery, and some applauded it.
The matter only came to a close when Liana del Castillo’s younger brother, Diego del Castillo, admitted to killing her. He was sentenced to death, but sentenced to life in prison in 1991. It was a life sentence that he would finally meet his release.
Alba realized that in his work in digging up the remains, “I was lucky.”
He says “I do work, the sicilians do work, the magistrates do work, we are all specialists in Sicilian life. We just have different interests. I am to the left. I have two daughters. I love our diversity.”
What a person says, and what he says have two very different meanings. He says he was searching for the “great truth.”
“I saw in the irreplaceable way those bodies were buried,” he says. “When you see bones, there’s certain deterioration of the body. And you think: We really don’t know what happened to these bones. What if they are part of a life after death?
“Is it good, or is it bad? Why don’t we leave this dark chapter of life behind us?