Italians certainly like their islands: Capri, Sardinia, Sicilia, Bella and Garbage. That’s right, Garbage Island — just a little piece of heaven on the road to Benevento.
Garbage Island is both exactly what it sounds like and a great misnomer. Its actual moniker is Isola Ecologica — Ecological Island. It’s definitely ecological, but certainly not an island; instead it’s a sizeable piece of land on the outskirts of San Marco dei Cavoti en route to Benevento. It’s the spot that on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, the San Marchese drop of their trash and recycling.
There are bins for steel, bins for old clothes and a small corner for old electronics — a litter of TVs that aren’t unlike the boob tube that takes up a fair amount of space in my living room. There is a sezione per glass, paper, plastics and organics — just like back home, but a bit different.
Back home, a hard-working group of men and women come round to dispose trash, no matter how rural the location, but here, you have to load that stuff into your trunk and bring it to Garbage Island.
Living here is just like home, but a little bit different.
Toronto has a population of 2.615 million and counting. No one missed us when we left.
San Marco has a population of 4,322. Four thousand three hundred and twenty-two - plus two. When we rolled into town, the paesans noticed.
In smaller locales, where a change in population is immediately discernible, Italians make no bones about staring down newcomers.
I grew up in Vineland, Ontario where the population is no different from that of San Marco, but the social climate is poles apart.
Walking around town kind of feels like being in a Fellini film. I imagine, right in the centre of town, a tired clown resting his white pancaked makeup face upon the large bosom of a raven-haired, aging prostitute. As Sebastian and I walk by, they whisper, “Stranieri.” And then an old Fiat 500, filled with priests, whizzes by.
It’s been two weeks since we rolled into town and the staring has not yet relented. I often feel the urge to yell, “Just ask me who I am and I will fucking tell you.” In Italian, naturally. But I say nothing. The unknown is usually far more interesting than reality — especially in my case.
It can’t be a coincidence that the Italian word for foreigner, straniero, is an extension of the word strano, which means strange.
We may be strangers to the town today, even tomorrow, but surely by next week, Baz and I will be the Fellini-esque characters staring down out-of-towners.