If you have ever been to southern Italy in the summer months, you will know that all the girls there are hot, literally. You would be too, with temperatures hitting around forty five degrees Celsius during the summer months!
On Tuesday evening I met up with two such hot Italian girls for an aperitif in Brera here in Milan, and to catch up with how their internships are going. These two ex- students, who feel slightly cooler now that they are in Milan, were part of my English language course group on the recently finished master in media relations at the business school where I work.
One of these lovely young ladies hails from Puglia, whereas the other is from Palermo in Sicily. Both are charming, and very bright cookies to boot, but they are quite different. One, Gaia, is heavily into technology and is doing an internship with a media agency here in Milan which has Panasonic as one of its major clients.
On the other hand, there was the talkative Ilaria, who studied journalism, and loves writing – in that she actually prefers to use a pen and paper. Very old hat, I know. Actually, Iliaria’s claim to fame is that for her degree thesis she actually managed to interview possibly the most famous living Italian writer, one Andrea Camilleri, who created the famous fictional Italian police commissioner from Sicily, Montalbano. Ilaria is doing an internship at Sky here in Milan, and judging from her diary, she is not short of things to do.
Actually, Ilaria would prefer to be a journalist, but since she does not have friends in the right places, and is not prepared to, er, do particular kinds of favours, she cannot find work in this area. A great shame, as I am sure bubbly Ilaria would make very good journalist.
However, the point of this is not so much the differences between the hot ladies, as where they come from in Italy. They gave me quite an insight into southern Italian mentality, and the differences between Trulli infested Puglia and, infamous for mafia, Sicily.
Illaria’s Progressive Puglia
Apparently in recent years, the Puglia region of Italy, which is stuck on the heel of Italy’s great boot, has come on in leaps and bounds, at least from a tourism point of view. Puglia has woken up to the fact that it can make a living from tourism, and, from what Ilaria told us, is doing very nicely, thank you.
With areas as beautiful as the Salento, the Gargano, and charming little towns such as Ostuni, it deserves to be quite a tourist magnet. And the population of Puglia, in general, welcomes those who want to holiday in this glorious region.
To most of those outside of Italy, Puglia seems to be somewhat unknown, which is a great pity.
Delightful, and extremely cheap seaside restaurants abound in Puglia according to Ilaria, and they often serve a wide variety of fish based starters, which flow in cornucopian abundance. Beware, when in Puglia, order a starter by all means, but avoid asking for first and second courses, until you understand how much capacity still remains in your, quite probably, stuffed stomach. Prices are low too. For the price of one single drink in a chic Milan bar, you can fill your tummy, and drink the local wine too.
If you are thinking of coming to Italy, and have done the usual Rome, Florence, and Venice rounds, then do think about booking a holiday in Puglia. Only try to avoid July and August, for the heat will probably be overpowering. Even northern Italians have been known to resort to the air conditioned interior of their cars to escape the intense heat in Puglia. And believe me, it is far from cool here in northern Italy in summer, writes he sweating over his keyboard in Milan in mid-May.
Here is a nice slide show of Puglia for you to feast your ideas on:
(Now where did I put that ‘book here’ link…!)
Whereas Puglia embraces those who wish to visit the region, this, is more than can be said of peculiar Palermo, and the rest to laid back to the point of falling over, Sicily, alas.
Tourist Detesting Sicily
Gaia, who comes from Palermo, Sicily’s splendidly dilapidated, yet stunningly beautiful capital, appeared to be a little embarrassed by stories of the strange mentality her island companions exhibit. More a little later on. But even she admitted that the citizens of Palermo seem to detest tourists!
It sounds as though Sicilians just do not appreciate the beauty of their surroundings, and really cannot understand why anyone in his or her right mind would want to visit their funny little island. If you ask me, which you probably will not, Sicilians need to be shipped of to places like Middlesbrough and Hartlepool in northern England for six months or so. I guarantee that they will return to sunny Sicily and understand, finally, that they live in a place which is not far short of paradise!
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
After hearing Gaia chatting about Palermo, and the rest of Sicily , I came away feeling that Sicilians have a distinctly odd mentality compared to the population of Puglia, and northern Italy, for that matter.
Sicilians, in the main it appears, seem to have a total and utter aversion to work. They hate it with a vengence. Work is an annoyance, something which gets in the way. Although it was not entirely clear just what work gets in the way of! Still, Sicilians will happily regale all and sundry with tales of just how difficult it is to find work on the island, whilst conveniently hiding the fact that they find the the idea of having to work really quite distasteful. Most odd.
To illustrate just how strong this objection to working for a daily crust can be, here are a couple of tales which Ilaria recounted of a trip to the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, I think it was. It is a story which shows that even when Sicilians do have jobs, they do not care for them.
Ilaria, a southern Italian herself, remember – the girl from Puglia, told us that one day, she wandered along to the local cake shop and made an innocent enough request for twenty cannoli – a sweet Sicilian cake. The shopkeeper, not sure if she was the owner, was absolutely flabbergasted at this request for oh so many cannoli. From the way Ilaria told this little story, you would imagine the lady in the cannoli shop had been asked to butcher a thousand cows, by hand, and with a needle, not make a plum order for lots of cakes. Incredible. Ilaria was told to wait outside the shop, while the cannoli maker begrudgingly went about making the blasted things. And no, it was not just before closing time, or anything like that, it was ten thirty in the morning!
The cannelloni did indeed arrive, eventually, and the cost amounted to over fifty Euros, but despite the profit, the cannelloni maker was decidedly discontent. Such, apparently, is the Sicilian attitude to work, and, it would seem, customer service, or rather, customer disservice!
In another incident, again on a Sicilian island, Ilaria’s friend, from work ethic dominated Bergamo in deepest darkest northern Italy, fell out with a whining waitress over decidedly second rate service.
From these stories, you can sort of understand why Umberto Bossi and his Northern League want to abandon places in southern Italy, like Sicily, to their own devices.
As a general rule, those Sicilians who actually want to work, and, though it might be difficult to believe, there are quite a few, like Gaia for instance, leave Sicily. More often than not, this career minded Sicilians head for northern Italy, in particular for places like work obsessed Milan.
Despite the differences between these two southern areas of Italy, there are some similarities. More of those in Part Two, which is coming soon (I’ve written it!) on Blog from Italy.
And that ends the first part of this account of Italy’s quirky south.
With great thanks to Ilaria and Gaia for having inspired this two part post! Part 2 is now online, it’s here: Hot Italian Girls From Puglia and Sicily – Part Two
Gulf of Palermo by night – photo by Gabriele Ferrazzi, June 2006
Ostuni, Puglia, by night – Riccardo Prudentino (Utente Wikiricky)
The Island of Pantelleria – Luca Conti on Flickr
Palantine Chapel, Palermo, Sicily – by Urban
Images sourced from Italian Wikipedia entries.