Old Calabria By Norman Douglas


And yet San Giovanni is as dirty as can well be; it has the accumulated
filth of an Eastern town - Page 310
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And Yet San Giovanni Is As Dirty As Can Well Be; It Has The Accumulated Filth Of An Eastern Town, While Lacking All Its Glowing Tints Or Harmonious Outlines.

We are disposed to associate squalor with certain artistic effects, but it may be said of this and many other Calabrian places that they have solved the problem how to be ineffably squalid without becoming in the least picturesque.

Much of this sordid look is due to the smoke which issues out of all the windows and blackens the house walls, inside and out - the Calabrians persisting in a prehistoric fashion of cooking on the floor. The buildings themselves look crude and gaunt from their lack of plaster and their eyeless windows; black pigs wallowing at every doorstep contribute to this slovenly ensemble. The City Fathers have turned their backs upon civilization; I dare say the magnitude of the task before them has paralysed their initiative.

Nothing is done in the way of public hygiene, and one sees women washing linen in water which is nothing more or less than an open drain. There is no street-lighting whatever; a proposal on the part of a North Italian firm to draw electric power from the Neto was scornfully rejected; one single tawdry lamp, which was bought some years ago "as a sample" in a moment of municipal recklessness, was lighted three times in as many years, and on the very day when it was least necessary - to wit, on midsummer eve, which happens to be the festival of their patron saint (St. John). "It now hangs" - so I wrote some years ago - "at a dangerous angle, and I doubt whether it will survive till its services are requisitioned next June." Prophetic utterance!

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