The problem of prejudice, that of the North looking down at the South, is still a roadblock, although I don’t see the younger generation wrestling with this issue as earlier generations have. I once was talking to a wine merchant, a Barone, from Tuscany. This was thirty years ago. He was concerned that the business the company I worked for was being diluted by too many importers. One especially, from the Marche/Abruzzo area, bothered him to the point that he mentioned it to me. “You know, Alfonso, it’s the problem of the South. The people, the way they go about their day, isn’t always so good for business.” I took it as a warning. I also felt the sting, as much of the DNA material that made me up came not only from the South, but from the Deep South. But I kept my hurt hidden, locked it up in a vault, to mull over for another day.
As well, in Calabria, on the back road to the Comune di Cirò, we almost couldn’t drive the car, for there was so much trash, broken concrete and potholes. Again, a place of beauty, once upon a time.
Sicily is not unblemished in this aspect. For years, I have witnessed minor and major transgressions against Mother Earth. On Etna, people systematically dump plastic bags filled with trash on the roads leading up to the mountain. And they extend reckless behavior in their driving habits – not wearing seatbelts, ignoring warning road signs, not stopping at intersections. As if the cornicello around the rear view mirror (or the neck of the driver) was all that was needed to stave off incidents.
So, how does this all fit into the original thought about the contention that Eastern Sicily is experiencing a moment of creative burst? The wines are already in America, in Australia, in the Scandinavian countries and Northern Europe. Even the British Isles (for now). Restaurants and wine consumers who are plugged into the worldwide web are on to these wines – for their wine lists and for their dining tables at home.
What Sicily needs to do is get their home in order. Fix those stop signs that have fallen down and have caused their share of needless accidents. Start a conscious campaign of getting people to slow down when they drive on small country roads, many of which have fallen into disrepair. Pick up your trash, for God’s sake. You’ve turned Paradise into a pig sty. And then think about the time and the investment you (and the EU) are making in Sicilian wine and getting them out to the world. We’re ready for your wines, have been for some time. But we’d also like you - and I’m speaking to all my Southern brothers and sisters, not just the converted – to take your blinders off and look at the world you are living in, both abroad and home. And make it right.
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