Monday, August 31, 2009

Tourists stop at Eboli too

If you have ever visited the small town of Aliano in Basilicata, you will never forget where Carlo Levi wrote his famous book "Cristo si è fermato a Eboli" - about how Christ and Christianity never penetrated il mezzogiorno south of the town Eboli.

Today Aliano has only 1000 inhabitants, but they are ever so proud of their claim on the fictional Gagliano that every house, every square, every wall and even some trees sport a small quote from the book. Midway between the old and the new town, a bronze bust of Levi on a pile of stones from observes town life and the scenery. And even the cemetery is geared for sightseeing.

We walk around between grave walls and wonder why Italians even in the after life prefer to live in high rises before we finally find Levi's grave between the two cypress trees, he describes in his book. On the grave is a pile of smaller stones.

- Levi was a Jew, and it is a Jewish custom to place stones on the grave, an elderly American couple explained. The four of us seemed to be the only tourists in town on this fine summer day in the high season.

The American had read the book and seen the movie so many times that he knew the story by heart, and he told us what the cemetery meant for Levi, who to the great disappointment of the villagers never returned to Basilicata after 1936, when he escaped from his exile. He was, nevertheless, buried in Aliano, where people have been expecting a boom in Levi tourism ever since.

They have built a large parking lot in the centre of the town that still hangs perilously on the edge of the abyss, but now they can at least accommodate large air-conditioned coaches that conquer the 28 hairpin bends of the only road to town. Still, the tourists are not exactly queuing to visit the place. Apart from the American couple we see no foreigners. Most tourists apparently follow Christ's example and stop at Eboli. In this sense Aliano has not changed over the last 70 years. As a Carlo Levi quote on a walls says:

“Gagliano a prima vista non sembrà un paese, ma un piccolo insieme di cassette, bianche, con una pretesa nella loro miseria”

1 comment:

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