Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Italy - where beauty and heritage are treasured.

A recent trip to Italy (these are only a fraction of the images I took) brought home to me how much we have lost of Britain that was special. Yes, the Italians have ugly towns and cities too, but by and large they don't touch their heritage and build the ugly stuff on the outside of their historic centres or in new places altogether. Rather than bulldozing their narrow, often-mediaeval streets for modern convenience, they have adapted their lives to suit, whilst still installing all the mod cons anyone could possibly need. Scooters and small cars abound. The majority of parking in city centres is UNDER the beautiful buildings and not exposed in open or multi-storey concrete monoliths. Supermarkets and retail parks have not yet stolen the place of city centres. Nor has internet shopping. The Italians have smart phones but they prefer real life. Cafe/bar culture looms large and while it is not unusual to see a customer with a glass of wine in their hand at 10am, we didn't see a single drunk person all week, drinking being regarded as an accompaniment to life and often interspersed with rounds of coffee. There is no race to the bottle bottom to get drunk first or fashion for binge drinking in the Italian culture. Talking and passing the time of day and cultivating personal roots is what matters.

Children often play late at night in town squares on their bicycles. No one seems to mind and they are not overly noisy. Relaxed as their upbringing may be, they are expected to respect their neighbours and elders, and they do. With the exception of surprisingly copious amounts of graffiti in various corners and white knuckle moped rides around the narrow streets and hairpin bends, that is.

To return to heritage, whether it is simply reluctance to adopt corporate ideas of 'progress' or mafia rule that has resulted in so many well-preserved historic streets, it has paid off. The tourists LOVE it and spend lots of money - particularly Americans - who have waited decades for the dot of retirement to flock to the country in their droves. 'Doing Italy' is top of their bucket list according to the many we met, and they have never had sufficient holiday to do it while working (the US being mean with its paid leave). The locals exhibit great nostalgia for their towns and cities too and revel in their cultural identity. Another stark reminder of how civic pride and a sense of place and identity is now seldom seen in the towns and cities of Britain, albeit still a feature of smaller conurbations.


Ollie said...

Lovely images!

Bobbins said...

One of the places on my list of places to visit is Portmeirion, italian style village in wales which as the extra advantage of being the place the most excellent series The Prisioner was filmed.