The Allure of Italy – A Matter of Perception

PHOTO BY MARGIE MIKLAS nAPLES CASTEL SAN ELMOIn another part of the world, this might look like a rough section of a city, or even a ghetto.  But in Italy,  crumbling stone foundations and graffiti-laced walls exude a particular type of charm. The allure of Italy is sometimes a matter of perception.

on the streets of Naples photo by Margie Miklas

Above is a typical scene in one of the narrow alleys in Spaccanapoli, the heart of historic Naples. In Italy I expect things to look old and not be painted…it just wouldn’t be the same if they were.

Like these very old doors in Colle d’Anchise, the village of my paternal grandparents. If I saw these on a street in the US, I’d have a completely different perception about the situation. Isn’t that a sobering thought?

Very very very old doors in Colle d'Anchise Photo by Margie MiklasOf course this ancient stone structure is no longer  occupied, but it makes me wonder about the time someone did  live here, what  the people were like, and what the inside of their home looked like. From what I’ve seen in Italians’ homes I can assume this one  was probably spotless.

Staircase in Matera - Photo by Margie MiklasThese uneven steps in the Unesco World Heritage site of  Matera look like they were built by hand using a variety of construction materials. Lovely? Not  exactly, but they definitely emanate their own allure in being authentic and historic.

Ancient walls of RomeHere is part of the ancient Aurelian wall in Rome, built almost two thousand years ago. Do you think it would look better if it were pressure cleaned? The very suggestion seems ridiculous. Yet if this were in America someone would want it cleaned up.

When I visit Italy I don’t go to discover places or things  I can find at home. I go to experience a different culture with thousands of years of history and landmarks still intact.

How about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

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Grazie and Ciao


21 Responses

  1. apollard

    My first visit to Rome was with a tour group and the general reaction of my fellow group members was how dirty and unlooked after the city was. I was shocked, blind to what they saw. I just saw a city. It is amazing what different perspectives we have, none right or wrong, just all different.

    • imarancher

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If they want new and shiny I recommend any of the Disney Parks. Everything is bright and perfect and they will be happy.

  2. Tony

    Very good points, in the US this would be “blight” that is certainly not the case in Italy. Great pictures by the way! 🙂

  3. Giacomino Nicolazzo

    I have lived here in Bologna Italy for the last 5 years & travel this country extensively taking photographs and writing my novels. I can guarantee you that no one, especially the locals, find anything charming about graffiti! It is an epidemic that plagues shop owners & the purses of the comunes where these “artists” ply their trade. Graffiti is NOT an art form by any stretch of the imagination & juxtaposed against these beautiful & timeless ancient structures and works of art…it is an abomination!

    • margieinitaly

      Grazie Giacomio, for sharing your perspective as a local! That is exactly why the allure of Italy is a matter of perspective…I totally appreciate that a local will see life in Italy in a completely different way because you have to live with it all the time. Thank you again for sharing

    • Gracefully Global

      Hi Giacomino…I live in Bologna too. There is graffitti that I remember has been there since I arrived (also 5 years ago). I think it is crazy that home owners and shop owners haven’t painted their walls in so long. Do you know why this is or have an opinion on it? I have noticed that in some cities the way they manage graffiti problems is to paint immediately so the people that make the graffiti become discouraged. What do you think?

      • Giacomino

        Removing graffiti is an incredibly expensive & futile undertaking Grace! Those that spread the plague of graffiti here in Bologna and all of Italy are discouraged by nothing! After the home or shop owner spends thousands of euro to remove the graffiti, the bastards (forgive my language) with the spray cans simply see it as a blank canvas.

        • Gracefully Global

          Yes I can imagine what you are saying. To me it is crazy that the city has no plan to help manage graffiti. This also seems to affect shop owners, as I see them leaving the same graffiti on their walls for years. Maybe if the city was more willing to assist with this problem, they would be willing to invest in the risk of trying to remove the graffiti…

        • margieinitaly

          Thanks Giacomino…It is too bad that there is not a better solution. One has to be able to see beyond the graffiti to appreciate all that is Italy, the good and the bad. Don’t even get me started on the Italian post office!

  4. Gracefully Global

    Well said! When I first arrived in Bologna I was a bit off-put by the graffiti because my instinct told me that meant it was a bad neighborhood. Now I don’t even see the graffiti in Bologna anymore. I think the challenge, though, is for people to adjust expectations and developed instincts for short trips abroad.

    • margieinitaly

      Very well said, and like you mentioned, the perspective comes with experience. I like to be able to find something good when on first appearances it may seem unlikely. Grazie for leaving a comment!!

      • Gracefully Global

        That’s a good attitude! I need to work on that, as sometimes I think I expect/want things to be too ‘polished’ looking. But it is such a superficial measurement…

  5. Andrew Petcher

    This is all so true. I used to like Malta for the same reasons but they are busy tidying it all up. My favourites in Italy for this sort of sightseeing (for today at any rate) – Lecce, Palermo and Naples!

I'm always interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.