March 17, 2010

The Dirty Side

So here's a view of Sicily that is not shown in many of the guidebooks....the mounds of garbage on otherwise picturesque country roads or the litter lining way too many quaint streets in villages and neighborhoods. It was hard to miss the garbage issue when we first arrived in Sicily, yet it didn't take very long for me to be distracted. I was able to push it out of view and focus on the amazing ruins, the striking landscape, and the lively Sicilians. But our recent trip to Germany brought that stinky issue back into very sharp focus. The lack of litter in Germany was one of the first things we noticed on our drive from Munich to Garmisch (in addition to the smooth and wide roads which are not nearly as plentiful in Sicily). I guess travel does that to you...forces you to compare and contrast.

And then last night as I was reading Rick Steve's Europe Through the Back Door my focus shifted again with this passage:

And the place (Sicily) must lead Europe in litter. But there's a workaday charm here. If you like Italy for its people, tempo, and joy of living--rather than for its Botticellis, Guccis, and touristic icons---you'll dig Sicily (p.442)


And yes, it's true, even with it's dirty side, we dig Sicily. It's a bit raw, sometimes rough (especially the potholes), and, yes, dirty around some edges, but it's also authentic, vibrant, wild, and wonderful. It's not a spot for those looking for pristine,neatly packaged, European postcard moments. It's a place for uncovering and savoring the many layers of history and culture that have been slathered onto one small island. So now you have been forewarned. If you are considering a trip to Sicily, there will be garbage, but there is so much more here, too.

14 comments:

Gemelli in Sicilia said...

I think that is what I love most about it. Once you get a few layers deep into what Sicily is all about, you no longer see the trash and your focus turns to all the wild wonders. What we noticed when we went to Garmisch too, especially in the summer when you are not driving around in snow is that no one EVER honks their horns in that town.

katy said...

hmmmm. what's the explanation for the garbage? limited land fills? spotty garbage pick-up? Very curious.

Juniper said...

Have been thinking of doing a similar post, it is very much the same here in Malta. Rustic charm I like to call it. Was faced with the same blunt reality when in November we returned from visiting Munich.
Especially sad in the case of Malta is that with the high density of population here and the high number of cars means that the exhaust is quickly destroying so many of the beautiful old houses and buildings. You find traffic jams every day wherever you go, the island was made with walking and horses in mind so there simply is not enough space for all the cars. Thus biking here is almost totally out of the question. I have found that in this second year living here I see what Malta is and not so much what it is not, as opposed to last year when I was far more critical of all its shortcomings.

In response to Katy's comment, in the case here people keep their houses and cars immaculate but the sense of public duty and responsibility for public spaces, cleanliness wise doesn't seem like such a strong sentiment.

Dana said...

KC very recently wrote 2 very poignant posts on this very topic. THe comments are rich as well.
You all should check it out. http://karenuccia.blogspot.com/2010/03/colpa-nostra.html (and then a follow-up post)
She's a smart woman with a perspective that does not include a connection to the military..

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

Looks like Sicily is not alone in the garbage department which actually makes it even more distressing to me. I haven't traveled enough in other parts of Italy (or Malta, yet) for any sort of comparison. I was chalking part of the issue up to the fact that Sicily has such serious financial problems as mentioned in this depressing blog post:

http://www.blogfromitaly.com/palermo-sicily-the-smouldering-rubbish-crisis/

But as KC's posts indicate (thanks for the link, Dana) there is probably a deeper cultural and behavioral issue at root.

http://karenuccia.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-not-giving-damn.html

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

And then there is this story about Sicilian donkeys and a town's attempt to deal with the garbage issue:

http://www.theworld.org/2010/03/09/donkeys-set-a-new-pace-in-italy/


I haven't seen any donkeys picking up garbage on this side of the island...yet.

Marie J. Shelton said...

That is what you call " the balance of life". Nothing is so perfect in this world, behind beauty is ugliness... Just hope that people will be responsible enough before mother nature ask for it's fair share.

KC said...

That photo is so sad. It's never that bad in and around the town I live in, though I have seen much worse than that on the way to Naples and in the city itself: heaps of trash so huge that they spill over into the streets and drivers need to maneuver their cars around them.

I'm an art historian, so I think I could argue that I've been trained to focus on the art, architecture and ruins here more than anything else...but I never stop noticing the trash. The huge disparity between creation and destruction is just too mind-blowing.

Anonymous said...

hmmmm...not sure what to think. Sad. Mad. Everyone do their part. interesting: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I think the thing that always struck me about going thru rural Va was how natural it was. Not so many billboards, nothing man did to ruin it. then we hit the big cities and there's very little to see but what man did.

I guess it's that way everywhere. Man has the ability to enhance/preserve the beauty but too many times we ruin it. Sadly we don't even see what we've done.

jan

Susan said...

Hmmmm....sounds like New Orleans, doesn't it?

Corinne said...

I think that no matter where we go, we have to deal with the good and the bad. And like you, I usually just try to find the good and beautiful and focus on that :)

Anonymous said...

I have not stopped thinking about this post and the trash...

In my case, I'm thinking about a different kind of garbage.

We live in a beautiful natural environment but there is human garbage -- politics, inconsiderate behavior, selfishness, arrogance, etc.

Sometimes it's hard to ignore, but it is important to focus on the positive, beautiful things in life. Whether it be art in Italy or green grass in Ireland.

I'm not saying we shouldn't try to make a difference and help clean up the trash (modelling behavior by taking the high road). I'm simply saying that I understand why it's also important to look for beauty in the world.

Di said...

I remember the litter from my visit to Sicily - driving from Palermo to Selinunte to go to a friend's wedding - I wasn't surprised though, as I remember being shocked by all the graffiti the first time I went to Milan....

Jocelyn said...

Consider me warned (it looks like Belize and Guatemala, in fact)--and still excited! You are giving me insights into Sicily that I can't find anywhere else, you know.

Thank you!