42. Criminals

One stereotype of Southern Italy is that it is a dangerous place. Whether from the higher rates of poverty and unemployment than the North’s, or because of its famous crime syndicates — the Mafia in Sicily, the Camorra in Napoli, the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria — one feels maybe one is taking a bit of a risk to travel there, as a “rich” American who is likely to have an iPhone and credit cards in her purse. The Autogrill parking lots south of Rome insistently warn you not to leave valuables visible in your car, even if you are just going in for a quick espresso. Even my father, who grew up in the South and deeply resented the snobbery of the North, warned me not to go to Naples on our honeymoon.

So here is my tale of the criminal nature of the South.

We were in Matera, famous for its sassi, caves where people lived until the 1950s. It is thought to be the oldest continually-inhabited city in the world. We decided to go for a hike, leaving our rental car, visibly crammed with our luggage, in a parking lot meant for tourists. Mindful of all those warning signs about not leaving valuables in the car, I insisted that Ben put all our important stuff — passports, wallets, iPad — in his backpack. And off we went.

When we returned to the car three hours later, the sign pictured below was on our windshield. Apparently, the backpack zipper hadn’t closed properly, and everything had fallen out, a few feet away from the car. We went to the nearby cafe, as directed, and everything was returned to us, intact.

I know you can’t generalize, good or bad, from one incident. Nonetheless, I am warmed by this little tale of goodness.

One thought on “42. Criminals

  1. We were hustled more than once during our visit to Sicilia… but we didn’t speak Italian either. But it’s very nice to see your positive experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s