Pave the Planet: San Suzie reports on Alberto Burri’s land art installation in Sicily.

Yes, this is real. (Photos by San Suzie.)

If there’s one thing that abounds in Sicily – more than orange groves and vineyards – it’s concrete. True to stereotype, there are cement plants all over this Mafia-riddled island. And its once-beautiful capital, Palermo, is rife with hideous concrete buildings that hover next to Baroque palazzi. (These soulless structures are often constructed using pilfered funds intended to restore buildings bombed in WWII). Amid all of these mind-numbing edifices, we found what is considered the largest work of land art in Europe. And guess what? It’s made of the same poor-quality concrete as the buildings in Palermo.

Only here, it works. Titled Grande Cretto, by postwar Italian artist Alberto Burri, the piece commemorates the destruction of the Western Sicilian town of Gibellina in a catastrophic 1968 earthquake. In 1980, roughly twelve years after residents rebuilt their town 18 km away, Burri covered the hillside town’s streets and ruined buildings– an area roughly 900 x 1200 feet and about 5′ in height, with white concrete.  The streets look like the crackle pattern on Burri’s fabled paintings, only you can walk through these.  Or skate through them. (Not to give anyone any ideas.) But if you were to, no one would know: it’s in the middle of nowhere, a two hour drive from Palermo – and just a short stop from Castellammare del Golfo (birthplace of Joe Bonanno and Frank Stallone, Sr., father of Sly), where you can go for a swim at one of the pristine beaches at the nearby Zingaro nature preserve and then feast on a plate of pasta with sardines, pine nuts and raisins.

Find more information on Burri’s installation here.

Click on images to supersize.

Even the mold and cracks are beautiful.

Standing on top, for the view.

No. it’s not the Mojave. It’s Western Sicily.

Way steeper than it looks.


  1. chrissie mayo

    From a distance this is reminicent of vast areas I have seen in places like the Canaries, that are covered in plastic sheeting for horticultural purposes. Like viewing a Christo I am both amazed and appalled at the same time, but then a Christo is not forever.
    I can’t help feeling that a considerable ammount of wild life and natural vegetation would have been destroyed in the making of Cretto, which goes against the grain of most artists thinking. I am sure this work would not have been allowed in the eco-friendly 21st century ! ?

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