I love Italy. I love the people, I love the natural beauty, I love the history, I even love the quirky bureaucracy that drives everyone crazy. But there is an ugly side to Italy, one that I hate to acknowledge and yet one that is unavoidable, like a huge zit on the nose of a beautiful woman.
Italy is dirty. And too many Italians contribute to this blight. Not inside their homes. No! It is rare the Italian home that is not so clean one could eat off the floors. Italian housewives are obsessive with their cleanliness, scrubbing and bleaching, washing windows and dusting...all on a daily basis. In my world, window washing is a once a year event, if I'm lucky. Here, it's not unusual to see women washing down windows and walls every week. If a woman works or is too frail to do the chores herself, there is no shame in bringing in outside help for these jobs. Seriously, Italian homes are pristine!
But once you step outside your door, all bets are off. Here in the south particularly, litter and graffiti are blights on the landscape. Graffiti of the most inane kinds mar the walls of most public buildings, both inside and out. Schools, train stations, walls, even churches: nothing is immune to an idiot with a spray can.
Good graffiti doesn't bother me so much. Graffiti can be public art at its best. Driving into NYC, I always enjoy passing the trains with great graphics and original designs. But here, it is more in the nature of "Maria and Immo went to Naples on 6/12/12", or "Angela, you are my life!". Worse is the profanity, much of it American, I fear, with FU becoming part of the lingua franca here. So, we find lovely buildings, or even not so lovely ones, rendered ugly and marred with ridiculous and pointless phrases.
And then there is the litter and the garbage that have become an unfortunate part of just about every landscape. Everyone has seen the famous sights of piles of garbage accumulating on streets in Naples. This is an occasional and unfortunate occurrence that is due to a variety of factors, from lack of landfill areas to the Comorra organized crime families. That doesn't bother me so much. Naples is a huge, overcrowded city with hundreds of narrow streets, many too narrow for cars let alone a garbage truck. The act of collecting the refuse of these millions of people is difficult to say the least. They are getting it done, and this year there seems to be fewer issues with the garbage.
No, what makes me cry is the litter, the thoughtless dropping of papers, bottles and cigarette butts with nary a thought to finding a bin or waiting until you get home to dispose of the refuse. Here in Cervinara, there is a campaign to keep the town clean. Public announcements are placed around the city, reminding us that "If you love your town you will keep it clean". But they don't work! People who are our neighbors and friends will drop a wrapper or a paper napkin without a thought. And the litter stays on the street until the street sweepers come along once a week or so to clean up the mess. Worse is what is found in the fields and vacant lots. Street sweepers don't head into those areas, so plastic bottles and bags, papers and boxes all get blown into the grass and there they stay. When the big mowers come along every couple of months, they just chop the junk into little bits, making it even harder to collect.
We have garbage pick up on a daily basis, with recycling being done by about 75% of the population. Then why as we are driving along the road do we see bag after bag of garbage that someone has tossed out a car window? Why can't it be put out with the rest of the trash and be picked up as it should? And why are tires and mattresses and old appliances left out to blight the landscape when all it takes is a call to town hall to arrange for a pick up of bulky items?
This is not just a Cervinara problem. Oh no! Cervinara is pristine and spotless compared to some of the other areas we drive by. This entire region is known for its cavalier attitude towards public cleanliness and it has got to stop. It boggles my mind how the same people who maintain such spotless homes are willing to live with such filth outside.
OK, so I have spoken my mind. If I have offended those of you who love Italy, so be it. No one loves this country more than I do. She deserves more respect than what I see around me.