Our Week of Culture: McDonalds and Shopping Malls

30 04 2009

 

McItaly

McItaly

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.

Dress up to shop

Dress up to shop

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.





Settimana della Cultura 2009

22 03 2009

 

Che risparmio!

Che risparmio!

After all the confusion surrounding the Italian week of culture last year, when it appeared in March without any prior warning, it looks like things are a bit clearer for 2009. According to the official site of the Italian cultural ministry, the XI Settimana della cultura will take place from April 18 to 26.

Spring is the best time of the year to travel around the peninsula and, given the high cost of admission to public museums and monuments, it is the only opportunity to sight see extensively in a large group without breaking the bank. Instead of paying €6 to 8 each to see one site, we can cover all of the beni culturali (”cultural assets” in official translator English) in an area in one fell swoop. Consistent with the much lamented exponential increases in the cost of living here, the main topic of discussion in both the national media and anxious personal conversations, many culturally minded families have started to plan their vacations around the initiative.