Italy’s Christmas witch La Befana brewed a day of laughter and festivity in L’Aquila today, as their traditional Epiphany Market was held in preparation for her visit tonight. The streets absolutely thronged with friends & families, treading familiar steps that are still an uncommon daily occurrence after the earthquake, shopping for sweeties to be stuffed in stockings later for all the good children, as well as some bargains for themselves from the other stalls. The streets of Abruzzo’s capital were strewn with parked cars, left zig-zaggedly and haphazardly in the way that only Italy gets away with. It was wonderful to see, as the city is far too slowly repairing its streets, and houses & apartments remain empty.
This morning I read in the L’Espresso (Italy’s news magazine) a piece on the L’Aquila earthquake, how so many of the former intimate but closed meeting places, cafes, bars and cellars in L’Aquila, built to appeal to individual taste, have been replaced by the vacuous no-choice corral of the sprawling homogenous shopping complex that sits outside the city limits, like so many of its cousins worldwide.
With the majority of the city population and smaller villages still living everywhere but in their homes, many not even in the local area, their prefab temporary houses barely provide space for a family let alone guests. So where do you go that is warm for a coffee and a catch-up? A little ironic that in the middle of a recession your only place to catch-up should be a shopping centre…
In the article there were those reported who considered the earthquake fortunate, as a leveller of taste, and competition, a way to make money, how a common bond across classes had been formed. All I can say is I hope La Befana gets on her broom to visits L’Aquila every day to bring a little more magic; the idea of hanging in a supermarket complex is generally uncomfortable for anyone apart from a teenager and they soon get bored when pocket-money runs out. Commonality through disaster, replacing individual preference with a still severely limited choice is not una bella vita. The people of the L’Aquila earthquake still need our ongoing support and pressure on the Italian government to keep their individual future choices open, and of course have more than just a handful of thronging opportunities a year.