Monday, May 26, 2008

What the Italians have # 1

A vibrant culture of popular sports

Last Sunday morning , town square, Monreale, near Palermo, Sicily. A 'triathalon' was advertised but all we saw were runners of various ages. From time to time a policeman on motorbike would race round the square yelling. After about an hour of running around the narrow alleyways nearly all participants received a cup from looking local sporting dignitaries from the Union for Popular Sports. Italians also seem to be fond of "aquatic circuses".

A long and vivid history

As exemplified by this Moorish-inspired detail from a column in the beautiful Norman Duomo of Monreale. There was evidence of the strong influence of Islamic and Norman art and architecture all over Sicily, especially in the churches.

This mural from the brothel at Pompei gave us a deeply penetrating insight into the daily life of the local Romans lived before they were buried in hot ash - Sodom and Gemorrah-like - by the eruption of nearby Vesuvius.

A relaxed attitude towards life

Or at least that's how it seemed while observing this couple in Salerno. Father and son perhaps, pop in red-hot pants, strolling down an alleway, morning papers in hand, discussing the garbage crisis in Naples? Or maybe checking out a real estate opportunity in what seemed to be an emerging market (260,000 euros for 50 square metres!)

A group of fish market workers in Rispoto, Sicily, arguing at 8 o'clock in the morning. "That's Italians for you," the vegetable vendor told us. "Ten men talking and one working!" Two nights previously the mafia had set off a bomb in the newly renovated indoor fish market. On the night of our visit, local elections seemed to be underway. We decided that a Mr. Facki , on Berlusconi's list, had the least smarmy smile and announced him the victor.

Three stylish gentlemen pausing for a morning chat in Salerno. The way they're standing reminds me of an Italian version of a Pink Floyd album.

Playing an early evening game of snooker (with local rules involving little skittles on the table) in Erice, a small village perched on a mountaintop in western Sicily. The older people we came across seemed to be active and often stylish. (Sorry these photos are all of men. I have a good photo of a stylish woman but she refuses to be uploaded by the likes of me)

more to come...

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