Saturday, August 29, 2009

Passa Parole

My local Italian bookseller who is very knowledgeable and runs a well-stocked shop, will hardly let go of 'Manuale del Perfetto Turista', once he has got it in his hands.

– Normally, Italian writers don’t write about Italy. We leave that to foreign authors such as Goethe, Byron and Henry James.Beppe Severgnini is a journalist, who has lived in England and the United States for many years, and everybody were laughing their heads off, when he published his book on the British. He is great fun. See what he writes about Lecce. I had completely forgotten, we had the book, says the bookseller, before he relunctantly lifts his eyes from the text and hands the book over the counter.

A few hours later I am sitting on the terrace, reading about Beppe Severgninis journey along the Italian coast in 1990. He is certainly entertaining and has some interesting points. One of them is about the Italian urge to organise events.

”Un viaggio lungo l’Italia affacciata sul mare è molto più complicate di un’inchiesta di Cina: là le cose bisogna scorprirle; qui bisogna evitarle. Le coste italiane, da metà luglio a metà agosto, pullulano infatti di avvenimenti. Non c’è amministrazione comunale, associazione culturale, fondazione o ente morale che se ne stia buono: tutti devono organizzare qualcosa” (Beppe Severgnini: Manuale del Perfetto Turista p 216)

And he is right. In July I more or less volutarily managed to avoid the sport games Giochi del Mediterraneo in Pescara, the Battiti Radio Norba Live concert in Bari, a Bellini concert in Catania, an outdoor performance of Madame Butterfly in Macerata and various art exhibitions, fashion shows, food and wine festivals, religious processions, historical pageants, a Palio race, dance performances and jazz festivals. Nevertheless, I did attend both theater, opera, jazz and folk concerts, plus a couple of performance and art exhibitions, and in contrast to Beppe Severgnini, I think an rich supply of free or almost free culture and entertainment helps to raise Italy's value as a holiday destination. The only problem is to find out what happens where and when, so you do not miss anything you would like to have experienced.

The Internet is not yet a big help in this respect, newspapers can not keep track of everything, and there is no TimeOut or central ticket service available. The only way to keep updated of current cultural offerings is to keep your eyes and ears open. Cultural advertising works through 'Passa Parola' as my friend explained when asked how she found out when there was a good concert in the area.

Since then I have made a habit of consulting the wall of public announcements every time I arrive in a new Italian city, and usually I find something interesting between the obituaries and political posters.

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