Water – A precious resource in Southern Italy

4 01 2009

What do people do when water is scarce? They spend, spend, spend…

and meet lots of friendly plumbers.

Blue water tanks - an essential part of your home

Blue water tanks - an essential part of your Italian home

Everyone talks about how precious water is but, unless you’ve had to do without it, you don’t appreciate its significance. There’s nothing worse than having the taps run dry and not knowing when you will be able to flush the toilet, take a shower, wash the dishes, or even make a cup of tea again.

What I did over my Christmas holidays, or my brief visit to Gela

The province of Caltanissetta is not known for its plentiful choice of radio stations. On my infrequent trips to the area, most of my driving time has been spent listening to the broadcast recital of the rosary on the entertainment challenged frequencies of Radio Maria. I was pleased therefore to find more upbeat sounds as we passed through the petrochemical centre of Gela. Alas, taking advantage of the lack of competition, almost the entire output of the local radio station was devoted to annoying commercials for the standbys of Italian Christmas life: high fashion clothes and food. However, there was one business model that stood out from the more predictable concerns: private water suppliers. It seems as though there is a serious water crisis in Gela. A local news site is reporting that the erogation of water supplies has been blocked. In that case, as the advertising pointed out, the only possibility to get water is to pay for a tanker truck to come to your house and fill up the blue tank on your roof.

Dry, dry, dry

I know what they’re going through in Gela. During the first few years I lived in Palermo, there was a serious water shortage. The water would come at irregular intervals, at best providing the essential liquid two or three times a week. In such cases, you need to take care to preserve every drop of water when it does come. This meant that I ended up spending big money in the apartment I was renting for a water tank (placed over my hallway), a water pump at ground level (because the water pressure was so low it didn’t make it up to the 6th floor when it did come), and an autoclave to pump the water from my tank to the taps in the kitchen and bathroom. This was not a cost efficient solution. One pump or another constantly broke down – so that either the apartment was flooded with water or I missed the bi-weekly supply. Nonetheless, things have gotten better in recent years and we listened to the news from Gela with a certain amount of nostalgia.

Then we ran out of water yesterday afternoon.

A dry Saturday

It was our fault. We had become complacent. It was almost like living in Canada. As long we ran the pump a couple of times a week, we had all the water we wanted. However, we forgot to fill up the tank after we got back from our trip to Ragusa.

First the water started to spurt as we did the dishes, then the autoclave started to make knocking sounds, then the taps went dry. I ran to start up the pump to get more water – but, at the moment, our village does not supply water on Saturdays. We had to wait until Sunday morning.

Flushing your toilets with bottled mineral water is not a satisfactory solution.

Advertisements




Giro d’Italia in Palermo

11 05 2008

Team Barloworld in Action

Cofidis on their way to 18th place

On Saturday life in Palermo ground to a halt for the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia, as the main cross city arterial roads were closed to allow the team time trial to take place. It was a rare sight to see the city streets free from traffic and, as an avid cyclist, it was a pleasure for me to attend a top level competition in Sicily.





Messina: The Forgotten Home of Shakespeare

21 04 2008

Tourist trap

What does Verona have that Messina doesn’t?

A fake balcony and lots of tourists

What does Stratford Upon Avon have that Messina doesn’t?

A fake house and lots of tourists

When Kenneth Branagh filmed his film version of Much Ado About Nothing in a romanticized version of Tuscany, rather than the Messina chosen by Shakespeare, he deprived the Sicilian city of yet another chance for it to cash in on its association with the bard. Verona has long shown that Shakespeare can be a powerful stimulus for tourism – especially when it is associated with starcrossed lovers and the literary pretensions of would be visitors. The northern Italian city is the profitable home of the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house), complete with a photo opportunity balcony added in the 1930s. For although it is hard to match the romantic appeal of Romeo and Juliet in the Shakespeare canon, surely the much perkier Messinese story of Beatrice and Benedick must come close – and, to be certain, it is much more popular than The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

There are some balconies and houses in Messina just waiting for historical significance

Indeed, there is a theory that Shakespeare was actually from Messina. The story goes that young Sicilian nobleman Michelangelo Crollalanza (Italian for shake spear) emigrated from Messina, found his way into the emerging Elizabethan theatre, and secured an English outlet for his writing by marrying a brilliant translator by the name of Anne Hathaway. Apart from the Messina connection, it is appealing to think that Mrs Shakespeare may actually be responsible for the language of the plays.

A bit of initiative from the Messina city council and a random old looking building nominated as Shakespeare’s ancestral home could change the Bard tourism biz for ever. Why go to dingy Stratford Upon Avon and eat putrid bangers on mash, when you can bask in the Sicilian sun, enjoy great pizza and pasta, and see an equally authentic Shakespearean residence? The enterprising Veronesi and Stratfordians would have done it years ago.





Coming Soon

24 03 2008

As I await the release of my forthcoming book Shakespeare, Politics, and Italy: Intertextuality on the Jacobean Stage, I hope that this blog will become a space to discuss everything that interests me (and perhaps other people as well). While I may start to insert shameless promotional material as the publication date gets closer, I am enjoying a much deserved break from scholarly writing at the moment and would much rather discuss the complexities of Italian society and culture. One of the advantages of living in Italy is the opportunity to indulge in dietrologia, the quasi-science of attempting to interpret the underlying forces behind the ubiquitous disorder. Shakespeare seems much more innocuous by comparison.

The view from the Greek theatre at Segesta (TP). Note the S shaped viaduct typical of local highway design strategies.

The view from the Greek Theatre at Segesta (TP)