More of my trip south from Naples Airport, during which my driver, a 40-ish local with no pretensions about his hometown, his country, or his government, continued his expatiation on his hometown, his country, and his government.
On Cultural History:
Italy has been conquered by others many times. For 200 years (I checked: 1504-1707 it was called the Spanish Kingdom of Naples) before 1861 the south of Italy was Spanish, so we are more Spanish than Italian. That is why we have the big meal at lunch. And the siesta from 1 to 5, everything is closed. The Italian some places, it sounds like Catalano. The conquerors leave their languages. Everywhere in Italy, I can tell what district someone comes from by the dialect.
We are, in the south of Italy, just an economy of tourism. Now, tourist season, everyone is employed 100%. November to March, no tourists, we get 83% unemployed.
On American Politics:
For five years, I drive people from America. Not one person likes Bush. Not one! How does he get elected president? I don’t like the computer voting. You put in the virus, and you win the election. When Italy helped Bush in Iraq, three soldati died, and everything in Italy stopped. People everywhere cried for the dead carabinieri. How can America have 2,000 dead and elect Bush? (I tell him the death total is now over 4,100. He punches out his lower lip and goes silent for over a minute.)
On the EU:
For some countries it was good, but for Italy, it made us poor. Italy was sixth in Europe. Now we are twentieth. Let me tell you how. When the euro began in 1999, for a long time we had two prices on everything: lira and euro. The exchange was 2,000 for one euro. People, if something costs 5,000 lira, they always forget the zeroes and say it costs 5. Then, in 2002, lira disappears completely and the prices are all in euros. And the stores keep the same price…5. But now it’s 5 euros. Suddenly the price on everything is double. But not salaries.
Berlusconi wins 51-49. Before that the communists win 51-49. They’re not real communists like the Soviet Union. So every time, everything changes, but one thing stays the same: the poor people get poorer. Both sides are full of Mafia. The government changes back and forth, back and forth. Who cares? Nothing will ever change for the people.
This driver has spent a lot of time in the American port cities where Princess Cruises docks. He reads and listens to the news. Interspersed with a running commentary of the passing sights (Sorrento, Capri, Positano…), one man’s opinion informed us until we disembarked in the little village of Praiano on the Amalfi Coast.
We left him a large tip.