April 20, 2009


Xavier's friend Marco is half-Italian half-Belgian. He bought a little house in the small town where his mother was born and where much of his family still is (but he is not - Marco works in London). On our trip to Italy, we went to this town: Guardialfiera. It is on the opposite coast from Naples. We spent our first couple of days in Italy with Marco and his family there in that charming Italian, stone village (of about 1500 people).

Marco and his mother

During our stay, Marco kept telling us not to do certain things, like squeal the car's tires (Xavier) or wave and smile at people (me) because we were embarrassing him. He, apparently, knows everyone in the village and he is sort of like the king of the hill, because he bought a house at the very top of the village, directly next to the church and its crazy, loud bells. The bells are another story. Apparently in Italy, there was a decree from the Vatican stipulating how much the bells should be rung every day. A sensible decree, something like to mark the hour, the half-hour and maybe the quarter hours. However, the bells were psychotic and they rang for one hour. Even for Easter Sunday this seemed extreme and there was visible tension in the air between the town's people and that bell tower.


Easter indeed. We were lucky enough (I use that word, 'lucky', somewhat loosely) to be there for the holiday. Enzo, a great, charming, warm and handsome gent (Marco's mother's beau) made us an Easter feast. It was a feast many many many people the world over would thoroughly enjoy. But not me. It included four different parts of a lamb. Frightening parts. Other parts. (You see, it is impossible to be a vegetarian in France or in Europe for that matter, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will just have to relinquish that part of my dreams for the time-being. Xavier claims he had never even met a real-live vegetarian before meeting me. It is that extreme). Vegetarian or not, this was another level of meat eating. Maybe even brains. I tried my best to smile and not to choke or throw up. Easter celebration. But then there was great chocolate and to give Enzo credit, he made spectacular homemade pasta for us (also including parts of the lamb), but that pasta knocked my pink socks off. (I have to wonder if Enzo didn't slaughter the lambs himself).

And then we had the pleasure of watching some Italian TV. I couldn't believe my eyes. Berlusconi is a thug. Obviously. Everyone knows and accepts that. I didn't realize what a passion he had for women's (to be defined very precisely) legs and other body parts. Channel 5 (Berlusconi TV) seemed to be dedicated purely to displaying the greatest showpieces of Italy in their most seductive getups. Now, to be fair, beauty is wonderful. We all like it to a certain degree. But this was something unknown to me. Like a perpetual Miss America pageant enjoyed by the entire country, not just the country's obtuse truck-drivers or gay men. Nobody thought that it was a problem that these women had nothing to say (and they certainly weren't given the chance). I had to flee upstairs to take deep breaths to avoid berating my lovely hosts. (To read further about Berlusconi's impeccable taste, here is a link to the article, "Models for Parliament!". And if you are interested in another of Berlusconi's most offensive political gaffes, read this).

(This is a very conservative version of Channel 5. Astonishingly, these gals are wearing an inordinate amount of clothing and one of them is even holding a microphone, which indicates the rare possibility of a speech-act).


Anonymous said...

This is such a treat: seeing this all through your lens. My grandfather came here to the US when he was teenager. The family came from Palermo. The expressions he used! I only learned when visiting there as an adult how inappropriate some of them were. So many ways of referring to the same body parts!

Anyway, you show a beautiful old ampitheatre in the the second picture under the map of Taormina, Sicilia. Can you type about that? What is it?

Also, the men in Italy are a study in old world, eh? Can you discuss your take on their general demeaner (e.g., their treatment of women)?

Thanks again! Awesome pics.

Jill said...

Lamb parts and body parts? What an enjoyable Easter Sunday Em!

Michelle said...

Yet another corker of a post Madame Joly, I am crying with laughter. (I hope you don't object to comments from someone you don't know but I enjoy reading your posts). Clearly modern day Italy delights and appauls in equal measure. I have often pondered why Italians put up with Berlusconi!?

Emilie said...

oh no, michelle, i don't mind at all. very welcome. thanks for your laughter. so glad to hear it.

Emilie said...

Sugarmaker...maybe you would like a book I am currently reading called, The Leopard (by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa) since your grandfather is from Palermo. It is set in 1860 at the moment of Italy's unification - a historical novel. Beautifully written.

The Greek theater was built in the 3rd century BC and remodeled by the Romans, so the current structure is more Roman than Greek. Of course the views of the coast are stunning from the theater - making it a killer place.

And then the question of women in Italy. It is actually paradoxical, because women are revered. Clearly. They play a fundamental role in family and village life and have quite a bit of say. But then on the other hand, they are regarded and most praised (as in so many other places) as ornaments as well. Perhaps those two things go hand in hand. I'm not really sure.

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