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From Italy with Love
Find out what's making headlines for tourists in Naples in the summer of 2008
by Francesca Di Meglio
JULY 6, 2008 – Readers of this column know that I am working from Ischia, Italy, home of my ancestors, while I plan my upcoming wedding to Antonio, a native who I got to know through my cousin Fausto. My main goal with "Our Paesani" is to bridge the gap between Italians and their fellow countrymen spread out in the rest of the world - from Argentina to Africa, from the United States to Australia. Now, that I am in Italy for a bit, I thought I would fill you in on what is going on in the motherland:
The garbage in Napoli stinks.
There are still mountains of garbage in Napoli, and the once beautiful smell of the ocean has been replaced by rancid, rotting food and diapers. The heat wave is only making the stench worse. The garbage is attracting animals including mice and snakes. However, I must admit that I never felt like I was in any danger, and there were areas that seemed clean. In Ischia, which is an island off the coast of Napoli and one of the city's provinces, much of the garbage is gone. Still, I locked myself in the car a few nights ago when we entered the Ischia town of Forio because the odour was so strong. For the most part, however, Ischia seems clean and safe and the problem seems to be getting resolved.
Italy is facing an economic crisis, too.
Money troubles are not just plaguing my home country, the United States. The Italians, especially those who rely on tourism to make a living, are suffering. This is especially true here in Ischia, where everything starts out costing double because it's an island and it costs more to get even basic necessities here from the mainland. Both the garbage and the fact that many families are struggling to make ends meet are keeping people from taking their summer vacations. Therefore, many of the hotels and night clubs are not making the money they need to during the summer, which is supposed to be the height of tourism. If they don't earn their keep in the summer, the winter is impossible.
It is really hot here.
Ischitani are drained by the heat wave. Many of them do not believe in air conditioning and fear fans cause a draft that could kill you. I am exaggerating a bit, but only a bit. Right now, I am in a room with the fan pointed away from me toward a wall, so I should not catch a chill. It feels like 100 degrees Fahrenheit here, so I think it would be safe, but my relatives staunchly disagree. As a result of this, people are constantly turning pamphlets and computer paper into fans and complaining that the heat is making it impossible to get anything done. I say if you are going to die anyway, at least go out with the air conditioning, so you feel comfortable in your final moments. Laugh out loud!
You can find good people everywhere but especially in southern Italy.
Just today, I was struggling to hold my computer and my purse and my bus tickets, and the bus driver helped me and gave me directions on which bus I needed to take to reach my final destination. I was relieved. Even though I speak Italian and I come here very often (my father was born here and we have been travelling to Ischia since I was two), I still do not know the ins and outs of the island. I am not a native, and I have to ask questions and rely on the kindness of relatives and strangers to get around. Thanks to the good-natured people, I usually do just fine.
Di Meglio is the guide to Newlyweds for About.com, where you can find advice on everything from overcoming jealousy to maintaining romance in your relationship.
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