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The Cathedral of Siracusa
April 6, 2021
Siracusa 2030 – Rivoluzione/ Regenerazione
April 14, 2021
All photos © C.I.A.O.

C.I.A.O. - Intercultural Center for Assistance and Orientation

The very name C.I.A.O. - hello - makes you think of a cheerful place, full of colours and people who get together to discuss, study, work and share their experiences. In fact, this is exactly what C.I.A.O. is. The Intercultural Center for Assistance and Orientation, created in the Borgata quarter of Siracusa, is an intercultural space, primarily designed for young migrants who live here, but not only for them.

By trying to give concrete responses to the difficulties of the territory in which it works, C.I.A.O. has always had two passwords; hospitality and integration.

The centre was founded two years ago by the Marist Community of Siracusa which continues to run it, thanks to two religious brothers and two lay volunteers. The intercultural vocation of the centre springs from the experience of these people. “Four of us work here at the centre - Brother George of the Marist community explains - an Italian, a Venezuelan, a Spaniard and a Brazilian”. They share the desire to work for the suburbs, not just in them. At Siracusa, the Marist community discovered in their years of work and study before the opening of the C.I.A.O. centre, that the suburbs, the outskirts have a name; “The migrants, the young people we met in Borgata during our activities”. From the initial intention to become a reference point for the young migrants who arrive from across the Mediterranean, the objective has broadened, but continues to move in the original direction. By trying to give concrete responses to the difficulties of the territory in which it works, C.I.A.O. has always had two passwords; hospitality and integration.

This is demonstrated by the group of volunteers which has grown up around the centre over time and whose efforts mean that daily activities can be organised for young migrants and local people, from legal advice to orientation services, Italian language and computer courses, to photography, art and craft workshops and music courses. So this is what C.I.A.O. is for, to offer young people - whether local or migrant - a place for safe socialising, for academic, artistic and professional formation, capable of promoting opportunities for work that are appropriate for local needs and the aspirations of the young.

The road that leads to the creation of the centre starts a long way off. The Marist community has been working in the diocese of Siracusa since 2016, spending its first two years in the immigration centres, helping the personnel by accompanying the young migrants. The focus of the community was not only to organise Italian language courses, but above all to promote artistic and cultural activities. “The young people we met in the immigration centres were disoriented and frightened - says Rosa Schiaffino, a member of the Marist community - and our objective from the very beginning, was to help them to try to become part of the society that was hosting them”. Thanks to this preliminary experience, the congregation realised that there was something important missing in the system of hospitality in Siracusa. “There was no social club where these young people could meet - she explains - There was no social club where we could offer activities that couldn’t be found in the immigration centres”.


The congregation has opened its doors to young Italians too, because it discovered all the problems that young people in the outskirts have, especially in the Borgata area where it put down its roots. Borgata is so close to the streets that are the focus of tourism and yet so hidden from it. It’s a place that is a fundamental part of the urban, historic and cultural network of the city, but at the same time, it’s bypassed both by the locals and by occasional visitors. Unlike other areas of the town, it never even gets that seasonal attention - which is both an opportunity and an insult - which seems more of an attempt to sell something to the highest bidder. But for the people who live there, the Borgata is so much more. Rosa ends up talking about Borgata, the real one she knows. “For me, talking about Siracusa means talking about the Borgata, and this is the quarter in which my whole life exists. I’ve been here for many years, but I’m still fascinated by it, by the people who live here, the meeting of cultures, or old trades that meet young migrants. Here everything seems the same but it never is. It’s a place to lose yourself in”.
Marzo 2021


Vivo a Trento, mio malgrado, perché ci lavoro. Non sono facile ma amo le persone, soprattutto quelle difficili. Odio chi fischietta e chi canticchia. Mi piacciono i gatti, ma il più bello è il mio Martino. E mi piace il Sud. Incidentalmente sono anche sociologa, ma solo per vera passione.