You’ll see no Rome, Florence, Venice or Taormina in this diary. Instead, I’ll take you to small unknown places of rare beauty often harbouring next to territorial or industrial diseases, ‘ugliness’ of various kind that makes Italy the cradle of the best and the worst. I was taken to these places in the long hot Italian summer by chance or simply by getting lost, always the best way to travel for the non-‘holiday-package’ traveller.
This is not an itinerary, a tourist guide or a suggested tour. I just happen to be in those places and I want to share my sensations and the ideas they evoked in me with you. To make you feel these spots the way I felt them. Even in the frenzy of XXI century life, this is an attempt to recollect emotions in tranquillity through my inward eye.
An old-fashioned modern day Knight of Malta (July 2017)
The shop is small, basic and hot. Outside the hot wind is blowing strong and St. Paul’s Bay waters below us are dancing gaily reverberating the yellow rays of the sun. That’s where I swim almost every day, from the beach to the top of the bay and back, one hour in the warm clear waters, with my French and Spanish friends and colleagues Christian and Alex, opposite the comfortable Salini resort where we are lodging. We are here on business, but we take our time. Again, the feeling of freedom I felt in San Vito’s waters in Sicily last year has come back to me again here in Malta: the malfunctioning of the services, notwithstanding the British heritage, is reworded by the sun, the sea, the weather, the people. I have worked here in Malta for more than twenty years now and, one way or another, I regularly come back. This southernmost point in Europe, historically a crossroads of contrasting civilizations, is now a microcosm of the EU, like the resort we are staying at coordinating students and teachers of English from all over Europe. It is really a meeting place, a synergy of experiences, nationalities and different lives that come together here.
Down here, happiness comes to me unexpectedly and coincidentally, and it happened again two days ago, when I found myself swimming below ‘The Point’, the new hyper-modern shopping centre in Sliema, as I was waiting for the shopaholics to come out of the mall. There is always a place to go swimming in the island wherever you are, and that particular stretch is breath-taking. Azure water below, Valletta Renaissance skyline on the other side of the bay on an exceptionally bright dry windy day that made the landscape look like a 3D vision.
So the shop is small, basic and hot, vintage 50s, a mini-mini market run by an old thin man. We go there to buy drinking water, a precious item on the island. Last time we went I gave him 5 extra euros by mistakes and now I have just told him, even if with a certain perplexity and shame. He immediately smiles back and tells me that he has been in the business for forty years and that the client is always right. So he picks up a 5 euro note from his meagre income of the day and gives it back to me, smiling. I feel embarrassed and so I start a conversation that develops quickly into a friendly chat and ends up taking the picture you see here. And he gives me his mobile number too, just in case.
Also, this minor incident is part of the lifestyle of the Deep South, it tells the way we were, it is an old-fashion snapshot which adds value to my Maltese experience even more.