The Italy I knew, in the south, where did it go? I remember it taking my breath away as I drove the coastal rode to Sorrento for the first time; as I entered the doomed city of Pompeii; as I sailed into the iridescent Blue Grotto of Capri. Where did the romance of that journey end? In the rose-colored glasses and dream-filled visions of a younger me or in a country too poor or too disgusted to protect, nurture and restore its priceless treasures?
How do you put a price on 2,000-year-old marble steps that let me stroll where emperors walked in the 1st Century A.D.? How do you toss garbage from your boats into the azure waters of the Bay of Naples or leave empty gelato cups on its beaches? How do you not repair the walls and crumbling steps around you, walls that survived earthquakes and volcanic eruptions for two millennia? Modern Italy is destroying what the ancient world could not. Modern Italians and modern politicians as much as 21st Century tourists.
I heard the oohs and aahs of many first-timers gazing at the turquoise sea, as I watched still others toss candy wrappers into the streets. How do you not respect yourself and the world around you? Maybe Italy is a microcosm of the 21st Century? It’s still young. We have time to leave more than dead bodies and wrecked cities in our wake. What will be the art that we are known by since we seem to destroy and disrespect that left by others in the distant past?
Is it too late for the southern Italy of my dreams? One must believe that magic can rise from the ashes if the romance of life is to be restored before the global “we” suffocates. The idealist in me will continue to dream through her rose-colored glasses under the rain gray imbroglio that clouds modern life. Dreams of Italy’s ancient treasures are what nurture our soul so that we may realize la vita bella into the future.