When I arrived in Catania it was everything I wanted Italy to be, sunshine, Baroque Duomos, and open air markets. But Catania is a very modern Italian city, in ways that may not be immediately apparent.
Catania is Italy’s tenth largest city, and its geographic location makes it a destination for migrant workers from Pakistan, Senegal, and Bucharest, all coming in on flights that are less than $50. The price is high for a greater standard of living than Eastern Europe, and that makes people resentful. It’s easy to spend 20 euro at the Pescherria, the beautiful open air market filled with fresh tomato varieties, fishes and meats, and native cheeses. Then abruptly at one o’clock the market shuts down and the vendors hose away the filth and grime until tomorrow. The Pescherria, I’d like to suggest, is representative of the city itself.
The magnificent Duomo and nearby fountain are masterpieces, designed by Vaccarini, built on lava rock, and representing an 18th century explosion of Sicilian culture. And yet just behind the Duomo are crumbling hovels, some abandoned and others full of migrant workers. Nearby are the Mafia neighborhoods, and other areas I’ve heard are downright dangerous to walk at night. All in the face of these achievements of the past. Where all the comforts of life, from the best espresso in the world at just 80 Euro cents a shot, to the sweet cherry tomatoes at 2 Euro a kilo, are readily available, greed and negativity and the worst of human nature are too. Almost in spite of the beauty, people come here to get one up on their fellow man.
Because it’s the Euro Zone. One of the strongest currencies in the world. They complain about there not being jobs here. They mark the division south of the capital at Rome. They gripe about all that could be better, yet they still have siestas, they still have exquisite food and beautiful scenery and elaborate statuary. And this makes it unpleasant.
I hear Naples is much the same, except on a grander scale, more beautiful, more dangerous. More extreme opposites of man’s nature. Which is why I’m going there next.