Ever since we took our young daughter to North America last summer, she has come to associate long car trips with two things: shopping malls and McDonalds.At this point, of course, your typical European culture snob would start to talk about barren lands devoid of history and culture. Everyone over here, from any part of the old continent, is always prepared to pontificate on how much more sophisticated Europeans (ie. the speaker) are than Americans and Canadians (ie. me). What a surprise then, as we took advantage of last week’s Italian Culture Week, to discover that even Southern Italy was now dominated by megamalls and the wondrous cuisine found under the golden arches.
On the two weekends with free admission to museums and archeological sites, our visit to the ancient monuments was punctuated by the discovery of how much globalisation and big box stores had entered into the Italian mainstream.In both the ancient cities of Agrigento and Syracuse, famed for their archaeological treasures, the main focus of interest among the locals was faux North American shopping and fast food. In Agrigento, the McDonald’s in Villaggio Mosé was filled with small children inside and would-be Fast and Furious types outside, showing off their souped up Fiat Puntos. The real glamour, however, came from the new megamall Le Vigne which opened outside the city at the end of last year.
When we looked in on Sunday, the place was packed – making forward movement and, indeed, shopping almost impossible. It seemed as though the entire traditional Sunday evening stroll (la passeggiata) had transferred indoors. Not only was everyone who anyone in the province of Agrigento there, but everyone was wearing their best clothes. Since an Italian’s best clothes are always something special, it was surreal to see such glitz and glamour amidst the aisles of a supermarket.
The temples were much more peaceful. We were the only ones speaking Italian.