01 June 2019
The landscape, as the poet says, is a great offering...and one not to waste.
We are in a wonderful country. We have so much beauty at our disposal that we are envied all over the world. The English and French have their capitals, the medieval wonders of Strasbourg and the Mediterranean locations of Nice and Marseille are fascinating. Here, in Italy, you can sigh in Venice, see Naples and die, Rome is of course ‘caput mundi’, visit Mantova, the pearl of the Renaissance, amaze at Siena, Florence too, and I could go on forever. The Norwegians have fjords, we have the Argentario, the Gulf of the Two Seas, the Blue Grotto. Easter Island's Moai protect the land and its inhabitants, but is God's true swimming pool in front of the beautiful Rabbit Island, or the Poetry Caves in Lecce, maybe even the Gulf of Trieste any less? The Geysers in Iceland are well exploited, but with us Pope Pius II visited the baths of Petriolo, and then those of San Filippo, the volcano baths in Sicily, and while we are at it, in England they are proud of the Roman baths of Bath, but with the Tettuccio in Montecatini, San Pellegrino, Levico Terme, the monumental bath of Bagno Vignoni the result is ten to one for us, and that is putting it on the low side. In the Fuji Islands there is a famous volcano, yet we have a list - including Stromboli, Vesuvius, Etna. Are the big American parks more beautiful than the bauxite quarry in Otranto, where that emerald green lake hides among the fiery red rocks? In Switzerland the cost of coffee is as high as their mountains, we have the Alps and we are the home of coffee. In Australia, the Ayers Rock, in California, El Capitan. We? The Dolomites. Enough said?
Shakespeare is certainly immense, but Verona is the city of love and tragic destiny of Romeo and Juliet. Goethe is of eternal value, but what about Leonardo, of the Supreme Poet? Everyone knows about Pinocchio, but what about his park? Glastonbury Tor in England, we Pompeii. Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands, Capri, The Gargano. And then Sicily, again Sicily: people pay to glean their eyes, or to rest. Those who travel are sick of curiosity, want to eat the tomatoes of Pachino and Castelmagno, one of the best cheeses in the world.
And while the Louvre collaborates with the United States and the United Arab Emirates, we find it hard to find the Veiled Christ of Sanmartino in Naples, and in Taranto the wonderful goldsmith art objects of Magna Graecia are badly presented.
Again: the bronzes of Riace, Pompeii. Tourists do not pay to be cheated, they do not spend their money because cars in the cities do not give priority to pedestrians, they do not pay to see the building abuses that have ruined the coasts. Beyond the beauties, desolation and abandonment make their way into our beautiful country. The many symbols of incivility deface men. Ugliness, unfortunately. Italy is the largest museum in the world, and tourists pay to satisfy a wish, they want to walk quietly in the most beautiful cities of art in the world, understand the signs and not see dirty sidewalks and cigarette butts that are happily thrown to the ground by residents while in Singapore if you do so, you are almost whipped.
In the world they welcome visitors willingly, whereas we give too little respect to what we have. The degradation disgusts the tourist and increasingly dehumanises those who live there. In more civilised countries, tourism is done as something that is also done for oneself. We are a desired, coveted, dreamed about country, filmed and described by Fellini, Boccaccio, Petrarca, Fellini, Rossellini. We still have high quality craftsmanship, from Cremona's master violin makers, coopers, Burano lace. We have the best food in the world but other nationalities imitate and do more business than we do. We have agritur activity that functions well, thousands of small businesses and families that are committed, large hotels and the San Pietro di Positano, the Pelican, Villa d'Este, are dreams, we are a creative people but we end up selling companies. Yet, the Made in Italy claim still has a great appeal and notwithstanding this, we stand and ask ourselves what to focus on for the future. Yes, we have excellence in abundance, so why do we lack that sense of belonging to the Bel Paese? I think we do not love each other well enough, we do not care enough about the territory, in short, we are beginners. We do not believe in it and politics does not believe in it either.
In an overcrowded Venice, with a South Tyrolean Südtirol of over 33 million overnight stays that affects territories and erases pieces of identity, we have a Molise, an example of total failure with miserable 40 thousand overnight stays. Sicily has 7 million overnight stays with over 1,600 km of coastline. The Canaries have a total of 70 million, and have fewer beaches, and are less beautiful.
All this beauty that we can so intensely enjoy, in the end it also scares me a little.
And so it ends up that Rome becomes kaputt, that those who have too much behave arrogantly, and while in Brussels there are bikes to use for free for the first half hour, in the capital they have stolen all of them. And guests go to Amsterdam, where cycling becomes a fashion. In China they rebuilt Hallstatt, in Las Vegas you go to visit San Marco, how about asking the Japanese to replicate the Palio di Siena in Tokyo? We could invite them to visit our cities. But first we should prepare for their arrival, know who they are, educate them not to wander around the city in slippers and shorts. No cappuccino take-away, because even the guest needs to be educated.
Yet we need not invent anything, we have everything, we are the result of two thousand years of history, a sum which deserves to be valued, communicated well and managed even better. It is a question of education and self-education to the awareness of the great Beauty, common good, which begins with us citizens. So, let us face up to it, let us roll up our sleeves and give our country the hospitality it deserves; "Welcome to Italy, welcome to the Bel Paese!"
*For this text I was inspired by the book Rifondare l'Italia sulla bellezza. Emilio Casalini.