Easter in the South of Italy


Well, it’s been a social whirlwind for the past week, which means no time to blog. But this is the first time I’ve experienced Easter here, and it’s interesting because it’s even bigger than Christmas. There must be some arcane religious reason why Catholics celebrate the resurrection more and C of E celebrates the nativity more, but who knows what it is? I ought to look it up, probably.

Gifts were exchanged with neighbours. Much in evidence was a cake made of ricotta and grains of wheat and egg and orange blossom water. It seemed to come in both sweet and savoury versions, and at the party for Pasquetta (little Easter) I went to last night, I was told that every village makes a  slightly different version of it. It’s nice, if a little heavy. This party was one of those ‘bring a  dish’ buffet dinners, and I’d brought breaded chicken drumsticks and potato wedges. I was reminded of the general Italian interest in food and local food in particular when people asked me if these were traditional British Easter delicacies. I was like, ‘Um, no.’. Now I wish I’d made hot cross buns instead. Not that you’d really want to eat those for dinner. I couldn’t think of any other British Easter dish except Simnel cake, and I wasn’t even really sure what that was, except that somehow it involved marzipan. Cadbury’s creme eggs?

Today we took guests over to Paestum to check out the temples, and found that typical Bank holiday behaviour also extends to Italy, with crowds of people descending on beauty spots. Bank holiday roads are bad enough in England but here we have the addition of insane, let me repeat, IN-FUGGIN-SANE driving on the SS18, known in local media as the ‘Autostrada of Death’. Which given that I was sitting in the middle of the back seat with no seat-belt and a great view of all the head-on traffic coming flat out towards us down the wrong side of the road before nipping in with metres to spare, was not conducive to bank holiday relaxation. I am not exaggerating at all. I have no doubt there’ll be deaths this weekend. And families will weep, and it will be entirely down to sucidally stupid driving, a wholly avoidable self-slaughter of ordinary, decent Italians. What makes them drive this way? I shall probably speculate in a later post.

The most interesting event of the Easter weekend, however, was probably the traditional reenactment of the events from the point at which Christ entered the Garden of Gethsemane leading up to the crucifixion. More about that later.

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Potenza: City of Cool Stuff

The longest escalator in Europe.

Well, I think this is pretty cool, anyway. It’s the longest escalator system in Europe. Note – escalator system, not escalator. That was a tad disappointing. I was hoping for an Endless Ride, but it’s actually loads of fairly long escalators broken up by landings. It makes sense; you wouldn’t want to fall down the longest escalator in Europe.

But it is still very cool to go to work by escalator. This stretches from the suburb in the distance to the city centre. Big wow!

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The Enigma of the Italian Breakfast

I do not understand the Italian Breakfast.

The Italian lunch, I get. It is a meal of well-defined parameters. You have your pasta, and everything else falls into place around it. Italian supper, too, is easily comprehensible. Lighter and later than an English dinner, it’s often eaten at 9 or 10 pm and may consist of leftovers or bits of pizza. But you know where you are with it. You know what to eat for supper in Italy.

I do not know what to eat for breakfast in Italy.

Some people start their breakfast by eating a cornetto stuffed with nutella or jam or crema (sort of custard) and drinking a cappucino. But you can’t have breakfast in the bar every single day. What do people have for breakfast at home, on an ordinary daily basis? There is no porridge, and the museli wouldn’t tempt a mouse.  (I have wondered if polenta could substitute for porridge, and would be glad of any advice on this topic) . Then my mind has been boggled by buying packets of biscuits, something I’d have with an afternoon cup of tea, to read on the back that ‘Six of these chocolate biscuits plus a fruit salad make an ideal breakfast’. NO THEY DON’T.  Chocolate biscuits do not make an ideal breakfast to anyone who is not a student.

There is bread. But it’s a solid and humourless kind of bread. I can’t imagine choosing to start my day with that. It’s good bread to go with soup, but it doesn’t toast. It would weigh on your spirits all morning.

There are cereals; Special K and the like. But they are sold in such small boxes and at such high prices that it is clear no-one expects them to be take seriously as breakfast. They’re breakfast for show, the kind of breakfast you buy when you expect to have to impress someone early in the morning; the kind of breakfast you find face-out on the display shelves in a high-end kitchens store.

There is fruit. And this would probably be the best option. But the idea of eating fruit for breakfast is somehow ruined forever as soon as you remember that in this country, people eat chocolate biscuits for breakfast and think it normal. How can anyone be satisfied with fruit for breakfast after that? You will forever be thinking of your Italian neighbours, dunking their sixth chocolate biscuit in their cappucino as you pop grapes and try to pretend you like it. This is not an encouraging start to the morning.

I don’t think I will ever truly feel at home here until I have solved this dilemma.

This post should be illustrated with photographs, but computer says no.

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I apologise!

I have just realised that the comments don’t automatically approve themselves! SO SORRY those of you who were nice enough to comment. Also, sorry for not blogging for ages. This is bad of me. A couple of reasons: 1) illness in family here sort of threw me for a bit 2) I started to wonder if I was just coming over as really negative and ex-patty in the worst way about Italy. The trouble is, the interesting stuff, the stuff you want to blog about, is usually the stuff that is a problem of one kind or another. Tension = Interest, you see; it’s a writer thing.
So I’m going to make a conscious decision to blog one nice thing a week. Because it is lovely here, of course it is.

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The latest installment in the Epic Saga of the Bit of Land

An Italian wall. Not the one in question. (All walls have been changed to protect their identities).





Yesterday was a bit of a lost cause as far as work goes, not so much for me as for my husband, who had to spend the whole day dealing with it. We were woken by my father-in-law ringing the doorbell, and the noise of a jack-hammer under our balcony. Turns out our neighbour had decided to have our garden wall knocked down because it was in her way.

This is only the latest installment in an epic saga that goes back to before my husband bought the flat in Palazzo Sbaglio. I’m not completely up on the whole thing myself – to be honest, I’ve tried to keep out of it as much as possible – but I will try and explain. To cut a (very, very) long story short, the title deed to our flat includes a small section of ground underneath the balcony (where the knocked-down wall that is now a heap of bricks stood). We own this small piece of land, without question – it’s on the title deed and the courts have confirmed it.  However, our neighbour, who is a shrieking, muscular dynamo of an old woman, has been using it since before we moved in, as a kind of lumber yard. The previous owner, who happens to be her son-in-law, had already gone to court about the matter and received authorisation to put up a wall to stop he. It didn’t stop her, and when he sold up and moved to Genova, we got the neighbour problem along with the property. She just keeps on using it – she is building a house directly in front of it, and has hired two unsuspecting young men as builders who are using it as their yard. We are already in the middle of an on-going legal process to try and get her to stop. A couple of years ago my father-in-law called the carabinieri (the police) to witness the trespass; this ended with her shouting abuse at the carabinieri and attempting to attack my F-in-L with a frying pan. Frankly, if anyone is going to attack my F-in-L with a frying pan, I think it should be me. (JOKE, etc.)

So yesterday included: calling out the carabinieri and all the time that takes, getting a report filed with them, taking endless photos of the mess, going to the commune (town hall) to report it, going down to the carbinieri with further documentation, finding the carabinieri were on their lunch break, getting the photos printed, going back to the carabinieri with printed photos and finally contacting the builder to get a plan to re-build the wall and the boundary fence (also erected by previous owner and torn down a long time ago by neighbour). And by the end of it nothing had been done, but at least we could then go out for a pizza and some wild dancing with our musician friends. (We didn’t anticipate the wild dancing, but it was their friend’s pizzeria, and he got out the grappa and…)

By coincidence, on Friday my husband is a witness in a criminal case against the same neighbour, which arose indirectly from the Epic Saga of the Bit of Land. There was some kind of legal order served against her by the state which forbade her from being on the bit of land. This she has ignored, and therefore the state is bringing a case against her for ignoring it.

I don’t know how this will end. As far as I can see she has been using the land – which is what she wants – for the past 15 years, and ignoring everything from the police to court orders. So will she stop using it? I really don’t know. We will now have to pay for the wall to be re-erected and the boundary fence replaced, although she pulled it down and it belonged to us. She might well just pull the new one down too, who knows? There really is no dispute about the ownership of the bit of land, but this isn’t a nice situation to be in at all. Obviously we’d prefer to get on with our neighbours.

And now I must go, because Millenium is calling. More of that later.

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A quick pic

Getting a head in the Cilento (boom boom)

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a detail

I’ve seen the people upstairs from us in Palazzo Sbaglio take their shopping up on a rope before (there is a hook at the bottom, a neighbour fastens the bag on and they haul it up). It goes right past our kitchen window, and is very amusing when you first see the bag bobbing around outside. But today they have outdone themselves; they are taking up loads of firewood and I can hear the hum of an electric winch.

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